Andre Leon Talley, former Vogue editor who grew up in North Carolina, dies

André Leon Talley, who grew up with his grandmother in Jim Crow-era Durham and rose to the top of the international fashion world, has died, according to multiple media reports.

TMZ was first to report his death Tuesday night. His literary agent confirmed his death to USA Today and Rolling Stone.

Talley was 73 years old. The cause of his death has not been reported.

Talley was a force in the fashion industry, both for her extravagant flair and her commanding figure. Reports put him at a height of at least 6ft 6in, and his voluminous caftans and capes have become his signature style.

He is perhaps best known as creative director of Vogue from 1988 to 1995, then as editor-in-chief until he left the magazine in 2014. But his influence went beyond the pages of fashion magazines and the red carpet. from the Met Gala. He has used his platform to push for more representation in fashion, calling for more black models to walk the runway, according to the Museum of Durham History.

He grew up in the segregated South and encountered his fair share of racism in the fashion industry. He was often the only black person in the front row of fashion shows, he told the Guardian in May 2020. Much of his life story is explored in two memoirs, “ALT: A Memoir” in 2003 and “The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir” in 2020 as well as the 2018 documentary, “The Gospel According to Andrew”.

“I can only write this book based on who I am and where I come from, this very humble beginning in a tobacco town of Durham, North Carolina,” he told Essence magazine during of the publication of “The Chiffon Trenches”.

He was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, who was a housekeeper at Duke University, and graduated from Hillside High School in 1966 and NC Central University in 1970.

“My mother figure to this day is my grandmother. She gave me unconditional love and her home, her values, were my arc of safety,” he told the Guardian in May 2020, when publication of ‘The Chiffon Trenches.’ Davis died in 1989, reports The Guardian.

He told The Charlotte Observer in 2018 that he picked up copies of Vogue on his way to Duke, shiny graves that inspired his love of fashion. They also served as a refuge from the difficulties he faced on a daily basis, including bullying and sexual abuse, he told the Guardian.

He kept them “stacked on the back porch in an old wooden dresser that had been saved for washing or something,” he told The Observer.

He spoke to The Observer during a visit to Charlotte’s Mint Museum for the opening of a retrospective on designer Oscar de la Renta, an exhibition he curated on his friend.

841Black Fashion Designers.JPEG
Former Vogue magazine editor Andre Leon Talley speaks to a reporter at the opening of the ‘Black Fashion Designers’ exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Seth Wenig AP Photo

North Carolina Ties

While his career has taken him all over the world, from international runways to Studio 54 with Andy Warhol to judging America’s Next Top Model, Talley’s roots in North Carolina have remained strong.

In 2017, he attended a fashion show and participated in a fashion discussion at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh as part of the exhibition “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair”.

More recently, he was honored in November with the North Carolina Award, which recognizes “significant contributions to the state and the nation in the fields of fine art, literature, public service and science.” He was recognized for his role in literature. He majored in French literature at NC Central before working for Women’s Wear Daily in Paris and with Warhol at Interview magazine. He was not present at the black tie awards ceremony.

In 2018, he told The Observer he credited his grandmother and her “better upbringing” for instilling in him the values ​​that carried him into adulthood.

“I’ve always had faith in myself,” Talley told The Observer. “I had a fierce confidence because I had unconditional love and was an only child, so all the attention was on me. Dress-wise, I’ve always been comfortable with my choices I was always confident presenting myself to the world.

The September issue
Anna Wintour with Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley at work in a scene from ‘The September Issue’.

This story was originally published January 19, 2022 12:05 a.m.

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Jessica Banov is the editor-in-chief of news and features. She is the Midday Breaking News Editor for the Southeast McClatchy region. She oversees entertainment, arts, food and restaurant coverage for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. She is News & Observer’s internal program coordinator.

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