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Fashion Remembers Trailblazing Editor André Leon Talley

The industry pays tribute to the towering personality and prodigious fashion editor, who died on Tuesday.
André Leon Talley
André Leon Talley has passed away. (Getty)

In the hours after André Leon Talley’s passing, tributes to the larger-than-life fashion editor began pouring in from notable figures across the fashion and entertainment industries.

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in North Carolina, Talley, who died after suffering a heart attack at the age of 73, touched many in the fashion industry over his decades-long career. He worked with Andy Warhol at Interview, Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute and served as Paris editor for WWD, as well as creative director and then editor-at-large alongside Anna Wintour at Vogue. Later, he went on to work as a judge on reality television show “America’s Next Top Model.” Throughout his career, he was also known for advancing the status of American designers internationally and bringing diversity to the exclusionary upper echelons of the industry. His accolades include receiving an honorary doctorate from The Savannah College of Art and Design, where he served as a board member, and being made a chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a recognition for contribution to the arts in France.

His enduring impact on fashion, art, media and the world at large was felt far and wide. Here, industry leaders including Diane von Furstenberg, Silvia Venturini Fendi and Tom Ford pay homage to Talley.

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, Vogue; global chief content officer, Condé Nast “The loss of André is felt by so many of us today: the designers he enthusiastically cheered on every season, and who loved him for it; the generations he inspired to work in the industry, seeing a figure who broke boundaries while never forgetting where he started from; those who knew fashion, and Vogue, simply because of him; and, not forgetting, the multitude of colleagues over the years who were consistently buoyed by every new discovery of André’s, which he would discuss loudly, and volubly — no one could make people more excited about the most seemingly insignificant fashion details than him. Even his stream of colorful faxes and emails were a highly anticipated event, something we all looked forward to.”

Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue

Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode “André Leon Talley was a phenomenal journalist who amazed you with his analysis of fashion and the whole history of fashion in general. Above all, he was the only person who dared to stand up to Karl Lagerfeld two days before a show. He didn’t let go and Karl listened to him... It’s a scene that has remained engraved in my memory.”

Diane von Furstenberg, designer and founder of Diane von Furstenberg “Goodbye darling André… no one saw the world in a more elegant and glamorous way than you did. No one was more soulful and grander than you were. The world will be less joyful now. I have loved you and laughed with you for 45 years. I will miss your loud screams and your loyal friendship… I love you so much.”

Paula Wallace, president and founder, Savannah College of Art and Design “André will live forever in my memory for his generosity, passion, commitment, and kindness. The world will never know another genius like André. He brought us all on a journey from Durham to a desk at Vogue to the studios of SCAD. In a world of changing tastes and styles, André Leon Talley was a classic. Mentor. Educator. Ingenue. Confidante. André shared his knowledge, passion, talent, and friendship with SCAD and with me for decades.”

Imran Amed, founder and CEO of The Business of Fashion “I only had the chance to meet André a few times, but they were oh so memorable. At Miu Miu Musings with Shala Monroque in 2011, André led the sprawling conversation and went from one topic to another with a speed and fluency that was something I had never seen before. I was so nervous to meet André for the first time, and even more nervous to ask him a question in front of all those people. I don’t think I said a word, but I listened attentively.

Another time in 2016, we were both on the Jury of the Woolmark Prize because of our mutual friend and BoF legend Colin McDowell, along with Tim Blanks. Three of the smartest and most knowledgable fashion writers in the world, and I got to help them choose the winner. I remember thinking, André is the real deal, I really liked him and respected his opinions.

A few years later, André wrote an Op-Ed for The Business of Fashion, recounting his experience working his first job at Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, as a receptionist at the Factory, but also as fashion editor interviewing people like Karl Lagerfeld and Carolina Herrera, making only $75 per week.

It’s not always true that the person you see in the media — in this case excitable, passionate, opinionated, human, vulnerable — is the same person you see in private. With André, it was true.”

Marc Jacobs, designer and founder, Marc Jacobs “I am in shock. You championed me and you have been my friend since my beginning. Our chats, the moments we shared….oh, my friend. You and your passions were larger than life. I love you and I will miss you, dear André. Rest In Peace.”

Pierre Alexandre M’Pelé, head of editorial content, GQ France

Tom Ford, designer and founder, Tom Ford “It is hard for me to truly grasp the fact that André is no longer in the world. The last emails that we exchanged were a few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve. We wrote to each other often. Usually at least once a week, in fact only yesterday I wondered why I had not heard from him in a while.

His notes were truly works of art. His giant persona sometimes overshadowed the fact that he was a brilliant journalist and an incredible writer. Often his emails were not even sentences but just a series of words. But they were the right words. Or they could be a stream of consciousness rant about something he loved or something he loathed as there was never an in-between. His letters were expressive, powerful, and large in every way. The type blown up to a giant point size, and more recently punctuated with emojis, they could sometimes be several pages long if one were to print them. And print them I did, as they were often so truly brilliant that I wanted to have an actual paper copy of them.

He could be hysterically funny. Absurd and really genius at the same time. Just when he would say something so completely shocking and worthy of Marie Antoinette he would then counter it with a statement so sharp and right on that it reminded you of just why he was able to have come so far in the world.

As a designer, I felt that I often wanted to show off for him. He could look at one of my collections and basically recite all of the things that would have been on my mood board that season. He saw things or rather he ‘intuited’ them like no other editor I have ever known. A rave from him meant so much to me. I adored him. And I will miss him.”

Lindsay Peoples Wagner, editor-in-chief, The Cut

Steven Kolb, chief executive, CFDA “André's world was one where even the smallest detail was grand, and everything he said was as if he was typing in all-caps. To know him was a privilege, and to be in his presence was exciting. Sitting with him at fashion shows, I saw more than usual in the collections by just listening to his witty and precise banter. He was a true renaissance man whose journey to the top of the industry was fearless and an inspiration for many others to follow.”

Michael Kors, designer and founder, Michael Kors “I am knocked out by the passing of my friend André Leon Talley. He was a remarkable human being full of strength, style, smarts and humour. André was the memory of fashion. He was an inspiration and friend to me and so many others. RIP, the one and only A.L.T.”

Carolina Herrera, designer and founder, Carolina Herrera

Kerry Washington, actor and director “Oh, André! Heaven is not ready for you darling!!!!!! The whole afterlife is going to be just too fabulous now. Ugh! You blessed us! Sir! You blessed us with your charm and wit and your taste for the exceptional. You will shine so brightly from the heavens that we will know what true stardom looks like. And we will gaze up at you always. In awe. And with gratitude. Rest In Peace”

Stephen Galloway, dancer and costume designer “Literally sitting on a plane to Paris in between nods of sleeping and listening to Leontyne in Forza I get the news of your passing… So wonderfully grand and extremely complex… I shall always remember how kind you were to me and announced me as “STEPHEN FROM THE BALLET… LOUDLY‼”

Rick Owens, designer and founder, Rick Owens

Milla Jovovich, actor and model “I can’t believe what a force of nature has left us today. André Leon Talley was such an incredible artist, but he was also one of the most genuinely wonderful humans I’ve ever met. Always there with the most beautiful smile and open arms, he was so sweet and kind, always so gracious and I imagine the term ‘fierce’ was coined after meeting him. I feel so lucky to have been embraced in his warm glow so many times in my career because good people are few and far between in this business and you’re much more likely to meet a scowl when going places than his ever-present, all-encompassing loveliness. I send you so much love André. It was an honor and a privilege.”

Arianne Phillips, costume designer “André Leon Talley. Trailblazer, dapper gentleman, fashion editor, writer, journalist with a singular voice, his witty repartée, larger than life icon. Always so kind and funny, his contribution to fashion and culture is one for the history books. Such sad news to hear of his passing. Rest In Power, André. Ms Vreeland no doubt will be waiting for you at the pearly gates.”

Silvia Venturini Fendi, creative director, Fendi

Tyra Banks, model and television personality “I had never experienced such a prolific person serving up a rare mix of fashion ‘fabulousness’ and real down-home southern comfort love until I met [André Leon Talley]. Being in his presence was so magical. He made me smile, laugh and was a masterful teacher — a generous, genius historian. Scholar, colleague, effervescent spirit, legend…you are resting now, Dearest André. But your spirit, your ‘je ne sais quoi’, your voice — your laugh, your screams of effervescent, delightful joy…I hear it now. And will forever. We all will.”

Kim Jones, artistic director, Fendi womenswear and couture, Dior Men’s “Rest in peace [André Leon Talley] who taught us all what luxury could be.”

Further Reading

André Leon Talley, the American fashion veteran who worked as Vogue creative director and editor-at-large for decades, has died, according to media reports.

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