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In this file photo taken on June 5, 2008 Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley arrives at the Saint-Roch church in Paris, to attend the funeral mass for fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent


Rest in peace, André Leon Talley

André Leon Talley, the visionary former creative director of Vogue magazine, passed away yesterday. He was a giant in fashion, an LGBTQ icon, and a pioneer of all things ‘body positivity’. He was 73.

Von Riem Higazi

Whether you are familiar with his name or not, the role André Leon Talley played in the world of high fashion has had a profound effect on the notion of diversity within the powerful ranks of the fashion industry.

Talley began at Vogue in 1983, and in 1988 was named the fashion bible’s creative director, ultimately also serving as editor-at-large. Throughout his career, the just about two meter tall André, whose enormous presence sitting front-row of fashion shows was as iconic as his flowing robes, advocated for diversity in the fashion industry, encouraging top designers to include Black models in their shows as he helped to steer Vogue towards reflecting ALL of society. That he ended up at Vogue may have something to do with the fact that his cleaning lady grandma, who raised him in North Carolina in the segregated 1950s there, encouraged young André to read. And his preferred literature? Vogue Magazine.

André gravitated towards fashion greatness and he apprenticed, unpaid, for the legendary Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in 1974. From there, he went on to work for Andy Warhol and the then emerging and pop culturally pivotal Interview Magazine and the came the gig as Paris chief correspondent at Women’s Wear Daily. His road lead him eventually to Vogue Magazine and to a decades long love-hate relationship with its beyond fierce (as in: temperament) editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

Andre tells extremely juicy stories about all of this in his two published memoirs and in the 2018 film documentary „The Gospel According to André“ which is highly recommended whether you are into fashion or not. Andre’s life is a reflection of the pop culture zeitgeist plus proof that a poor black gay boy could join the ranks of the fashion elite and make a mark not just for colour diversity but body positivity. As he got older, he gained weight - a lot of weight. This did not compromise his style though and he refused to be side-lined because of supposed size restrictions within the fashion industry.

Size was not an issue when it came to looking fabulous for Mr. Leon Talley!

Some may say that an emphasis on looking fabulous is a superficial thing but André, in the extravagant flowing kaftans of his later years, was anything but - his authenticity and inner strength, his elegant authority and perseverance made him a pioneer of inclusivity whose legacy can be seen on the current British Vogue All African Cover, which spotlights 9 black women redefining what it is to be a model.

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