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André Leon Talley: Fashion icon died at the age of 73

Written by Sean Federico-O'Murchu, CNN

Contributors Chris Boyette, CNNOscar Holland, CNN

André Leon Talley, the former creative director of Vogue and a fashion icon himself, has died at the age of 73, according to a statement on his official Instagram account.

Talley was a pioneer in the fashion industry, a black man in an often isolated world dominated by white men and women.

In 2017, at an event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Talley outlined the challenges of promoting diversity on the glossy pages of fashion magazines.

"I worked behind the scenes. I did it in subdued tones, and I was persistent and persistent ... I always took on a very quiet role. I screamed and shouted and did not shout ... It was the best strategy, because it was the world I moved into. It was Vogue, honey, after all, "he told host Tamron Hall.

Talley was born in Washington DC, but at two months old his parents brought him to Durham, North Carolina, where he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Francis Davis, whom he called Mama.

In his 2020 memoir, "The Chiffon Trenches," he described his early joy at immersing himself in books at the city library in Durham. "My world became the glossy pages of Vogue, where I could read about Truman Capote's legendary ball, given at the Plaza, in honor of Katharine Graham," he wrote.

A characteristic moment in his youth was the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and the presence of his glamorous wife Jackie Kennedy, who described her as the "first influencer" of the modern world.

"I was obsessed with her pill box hat and her little piece of fur at the collar and her fur-edged boots, as well as the sleeve she wore to keep her hands warm during the freezing cold January day," Talley wrote.

Talley arrived in New York in 1974 and quickly found himself at the insane intersection of fashion and art, working and mingling with the likes of Halston, Karl Lagerfeld and Andy Warhol.

After a stay in Paris with Women's Wear Daily, Talley joined Vogue in 1983 as News Director. He was promoted to creative director in 1988 and later served as editor. Aside from a period with W magazine in Paris, he remained a fixture on Vogue for almost four decades.

At 6-foot-6 and with a booming voice, Talley was a towering figure in every sense. He was often seen sitting in the front row of elite fashion shows alongside editor-in-chief Anne Wintour, and his influence on fashion continued long after his departure from Vogue in 2013.

Talley appeared as a judge on "America's Next Top Model" and was the subject of a documentary The Gospel According to André, released in 2017, was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in honor of his contribution to the fashion industry .
On April 22, 2021, he described the French recognition as the "best day of my life" in an Instagram post.

"For being in Chevalier's tall and impeccable body: Diana Vreeland, Tina Turner, James Baldwin, Rudolph Nureyev and for a black man educated in public schools in Durham, North Carolina, I thank my French teacher, the late Cynthia P. Smith , which wrapped me in French: the language, the culture, the style, the history and the literature, "he wrote.

Talley's published works include "EVERYTHING: A Memoir" as well as illustrated books, including "Little Black Dress" and "Oscar de la Renta, His Legendary World of Style."

He received his MA in French Studies from Brown and sat on the board of Savannah College of Art and Design for 20 years.

Last year, Talley touched on the importance of Vogue's cover with poet Amanda Gorman for the black community and the wider fashion world, describing it "the first on so many levels."

"We continue to climb hills, hills of healing, hills of forgiveness, and climb hills and mountains to overcome all adversity, systemic racism and inequality," he wrote in an Instagram post.
Tribute to Talley began pouring in late Tuesday with writer Roxane Gay describes him on Twitter as "a beacon of style for so many." British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, meanwhile, thanked the late icon for "paving the way" and wrote on Instagram: "Without you there would be no me."
"Rest in peace @OfficialALT" tweeted fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. "We will miss you."
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