A treasure of the fashion world, André Leon Talley was impossible to ignore
You couldn't miss André Leon Talley.
Six foot six. Bedecked in splendid capes and caftans, classic bespoke suits, fur coats and record-album-sized sunglasses. The legendary fashion editor died suddenly and unexpected at age 73, reportedly of a heart attack.
"André was hard to ignore," says Karen Grigsby Bates, of NPR's Codeswitch podcast . "He was tall and large with a big voice."
That voice rang out with fashion authority from a very young age. Raised by his grandmother in Durham, N.C. during the 1950s, Talley escaped the era's vicious racial politics in part by immersing himself in copies of Vogue at the local public library. He attended Brown University on scholarship, majored in French literature and immediately afterwards, apprenticed with former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland at the Met's Costume Institute in 1974.
From there, Talley spring boarded into the white hot center of the fashion universe: working at Interview Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, and of course Vogue, where he was a star editorial mainstay for decades, starting in 1983. But being the lone Black person on mastheads and the front row of shows took a psychic toll, which he wrote about in his two memoirs, the last of which came out in 2017.
"Fashion does not take care of its people," Talley told the New York Times in 2018. "No one is going to take care of me, except I am going to take care of myself."
But Talley did take care of other people. As a judge on America's Next Top Model, he was sharp and insightful, never cruel. He agitated for more Black and diverse representation in fashion, from the celebrities gracing Vogue's covers to the designers who dressed its models.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.