André Leon Talley
Photo: Getty

André Leon Talley, the larger-than-life fashion editor who carved out a space for himself as a Black pioneer in an industry notoriously dominated by white elitism, is dead at 73, according to a statement posted to his Instagram account yesterday.

Raised by his grandmother, Talley grew up in North Carolina during the Jim Crow era. There, fashion loomed large in his mind, even from a young age. In his 2020 memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, he recalls witnessing the glamor of First Lady Jackie Kennedy during John F. Kennedy‘s 1961 inauguration: “I was obsessed with her pillbox hat, and her little snippet of fur at the collar, and her fur-edged boots, as well as the muff she carried to keep her hands warm during the freezing-cold January day.”

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Following his academic pursuits in French literature at the North Carolina Central University and Brown University, Talley went on to apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, working under the iconic Harper’s BAZAAR editor Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. Through Vreeland, “I learned to speak the language of style, fantasy, and literature,” he wrote in The Chiffon Trenches.

He quickly became a rising star in the scene, rubbing elbows with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Halston, Andy Warhol, and more. Over the decades, he held positions at publications like InterviewWomen’s Wear DailyThe New York Times, and Vogue. Talley also became a fixture in fashion, whether front row at couture shows or walking down the Met Gala red carpet–nearly always in his signature bespoke caftans.

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André Leon Talley
Photo: Getty

Up until the end of his life, Talley was known for nurturing the new frontier of fashion, even as he navigated the inner circles of top designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Marc JacobsDiane von Furstenberg, and Manolo Blahnik.

Of mentoring up-and-coming young designers, Talley told in 2020, “I have to give credit to my former mentors, the editors Diana Vreeland and Carrie Donovan. I had great role models. You just simply nurture through conversation or special opportunities, and encourage them to never give up.”

This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.

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