Fashion / Fashion Feature

A life lived in style: André Leon Talley’s most iconic outfits

On January 19, 2022, fashion lost one of the greats. At 73, André Leon Talley departed this world for another.

His legacy is immeasurable. He was a thought leader with an encyclopaedic knowledge of fashion and possessed a spirit as outsized as his six foot six stature. Raised by his grandmother in Durham, North Carolina, she nurtured his interest in fashion and the arts, having first encountered this foreign world in the glossy pages of Vogue. For him, the magazine was a portal not just into the world of fashion but into the world of culture, music, and art, where he found refuge as a queer Black teen living in the Jim Crow South.

At North Carolina Central University he studied French Literature, before furthering his education at Brown University where he obtained his Masters. His thesis centred on the influence of North African women on the works of Baudelaire and Delacroix. Once he had graduated, he immediately set his sights on New York City where he landed an internship with Diana Vreeland at The Met. Aside from his grandmother, he often cited Vreeland as his greatest mentor, both women united by their integrity.

Through Diana Vreeland he snagged a job working as Andy Warhol's assistant at The Factory, taking phone messages for Fran Lebowitz and eventually going on to write for Interview Magazine. His is a career woven through the illustrious golden age of fashion and magazines. From Interview, he took a job at Women's Wear Daily, then The New York Times before landing at Tina Brown's new era of Vanity Fair. It was here at Condé Nast that he met Anna Wintour, who would hire him formally as creative director, and unknowingly as her lifelong co-conspirator, when the time came to take over from Grace Mirabella.

Until Edward Enninful became editor-in-chief at British Vogue, Talley had held the highest role of any Black employee within the fashion publication. The man was there for it all. As a close confidante to Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and a witness to the roaring, hedonistic, and sometimes tragic world of fashion, he steadied himself by attending service every Sunday at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist ChurchHe was a stickler for tradition and beloved by all. A phenomenon that only increased with the release of his autobiographical documentary The Gospel According to André, and more recently with his memoir The Chiffon Trenches that plunges into his experience of child sexual abuse and the world of fashion.

As we celebrate the life of André Leon Talley and the indelible mark he left on the world of fashion, we're returning to his personal style. Always immaculate, his signature uniform comprised of impeccable tailoring and in his later years, a zest for UGG boots, resplendent kaftans and stately capes. Below, we revisit the remarkable life of André Leon Talley as he presented it through clothes.

A baby-faced André alongside his mentor, former Vogue Editor-In-Chief, Diana Vreeland.

 

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An intimate portrait of André captured by the inimitable Diane von Furstenberg.

 

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André Leon Talley arriving at Christie’s East in impeccable tailoring for a benefit in the late 70s.

 

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Where else but dancing at Studio 54 with the queen of disco herself, Diana Ross, in the late 1970s.

 

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Two icons in one place. André Leon Talley and the late legendary street photographer Bill Cunningham.

 

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André in an outfit to write home about, standing with Marina Schiano the then Creative Style Director at Vanity Fair.

 

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A supremely joyful photo of Grace Jones and the former Vogue Creative Director.

 

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, André Leon Talley and Andre Walker captured by Andy Warhol at the Factory in 1984.

 

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A formidable duo. André alongside Iman in the 80s.

 

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André looking stately in a suit and bow tie with custom Roger Vivier loafers.

 

Image credit: One & Two

A lifelong friendship in images. Naomi forever.

 

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John Galliano, São Schlumberger and André Leon Talley after Galliano's triumphant AW94 collection. André enlisted the help of Schlumberger to revive Galliano's career, who was overcome by poverty.

 

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Anna Wintour and André Leon Talley attend the Met Gala together. The first look in line with the 1997 theme 'Gianni Versace' and the second brocade and fur laden outfits from the 1999 'Rock Style' festivities.

 

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André walks the SS99 Yohji Yamamoto runway.

 

André with Alber Elbaz at the 2007 Met Gala.

 

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André attending the 2011 Met Gala honouring his late friend with the theme 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty'.

 

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André wearing a voluminous Blanket Coat from designer Norma Kamali in 2016.

 

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Images: One, Two