As the fashion world mourns the former Vogue creative director, we look back on a life well lived.

‘Mr. Talley was the larger-than-life, long-time creative director at Vogue during its rise to dominance as the world’s fashion bible,’ said his representatives as they announced his death on his Instagram page on Tuesday January 18.

‘Over the past five decades as an international icon, he was a close confidant of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, Diane von Furstenberg, Bethann Hardison and Manolo Blahnik and he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers.

‘His recent memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, became a New York Times Best Seller. Mr. Talley was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Republic in 2020 and the North Carolina Governor’s award for literature in 2021.’

He was the first Black man to hold his position at Vogue. He owned over 50 pieces of Louis Vuitton hand luggage. He was a practising Christian and a learned man. He was roundly adored. Since his death, aged 73, tributes have poured in from the great and the good of the fashion industry.

Anna Wintour, with whom he famously fell out, says: ‘He was magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny – mercurial too.

‘Like many decades-long relationships, there were complicated moments, but all I want to remember today, all I care about, is the brilliant and compassionate man who was a generous and loving friend to me and to my family for many, many years.’

His story is astonishing.

He told Vogue: ‘I loved my home and my family. I went to school and to church and I did what I was told and I didn’t talk much. But I knew life was bigger than that. I wanted to meet Diana Vreeland and Andy Warhol and Naomi Sims and Pat Cleveland and Edie Sedgwick and Loulou de la Falaise. And I did. And I never looked back.’

Here, we celebrate his greatest moments.

Main image: David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Gospel According To André

Talley was the subject of this 2018 documentary. Featuring Fran Lebowitz, Marc Jacobs, Anna Wintour, and Isabella Rossellini, it is a riotous look at the journey of the barrier-breaking star. ‘He’s the Nelson Mandela of couture, the Kofi Annan of what you got on,’ declares, which says it all, really. Watch it here.

At The Oxford Union

In 2013, Talley gave a speech to the Oxford Union about his life in fashion. In it, he recalls his happy days spent as an only child, living with his grandmother, who was a maid at a university. She embodied style for him and taught him – among other things – the luxury of freshly laundered white sheets. In this charming, relaxed speech we learn also that Talley started reading Vogue aged nine, while his contemporaries were out ‘shooting hoops’. You get a crystal-clear sense here of just how unique he was. Watch it here.

On The Wendy Williams Show

Talley pitched up for this 2016 TV interview in backless gold Gucci loafers (size 17) and a voluminous Tom Ford coat. Fun fact of the show? He loved Golden Girl repeats. The touching story about how he used to dress as a student at Brown University would melt the coldest heart. He describes how he created his signature look out of vintage-store finds, tassels from the curtain shop and tuxedo shirts with ruffles. People would bully and threaten to beat him up, but he says: ‘I just kept on walking.’ Watch it here.

Talley Towards The End

In what we believe to be his final public speaking engagement, Talley shares his memories of his friend and mentor, Oscar de la Renta here. Hosted at the DeLorenzo Gallery in New York, Talley was swathed in purple and orange silk for this appearance. Keep your eyes peeled for gripping early photographs of the great man. Watch it here.

A Cameo In Sex And The City Movie

Spot a suited and booted Talley in this clip, playing himself as he styles Carrie for her Vogue wedding dress shoot. Remembering the cameo, Paper magazine fashion editor Mario Abad said: ‘He even coached SJP on how to pose authentically for this bridal shoot. RIP to the absolute blueprint.’ Watch it here.

With Rihanna On The Red Carpet At The Met Gala 2015

We are in New York on the evening of 2015’s Met Gala. Talley is lying in wait, resplendent in a red gown over his black tie, for the beautifully dressed stars to arrive. He is excitable, he is talkative, he is brimming with enthusiasm. It feels as though, in the few minutes of this video, we get the measure of the man. Watch it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
January 2022

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.