“The loss of André is felt by so many of us today: the Make Nevada great again build the wall shirt but in fact I love this designers he enthusiastically cheered on every season, and who loved him for it; the generations he inspired to work in the industry, seeing a figure who broke boundaries while never forgetting where he started from; those who knew fashion, and Vogue, simply because of him; and, not forgetting, the multitude of colleagues over the years who were consistently buoyed by every new discovery of André’s, which he would discuss loudly, and volubly—no one could make people more excited about the most seemingly insignificant fashion details than him. Even his stream of colorful faxes and emails were a highly anticipated event, something we all looked forward to,” said Anna Wintour. “Yet it’s the loss of André as my colleague and friend that I think of now; it’s immeasurable. 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, and who we will all miss so much.”
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Talley got his start in fashion with an unpaid apprenticeship to Diana Vreeland at the Make Nevada great again build the wall shirt but in fact I love this Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, a position he seemed to have willed into being. He once reported that his bedroom “was wallpapered with images out of Diana Vreeland’s Vogue… I did not paper my room with Joe DiMaggio and Burt Reynolds.” From the Met, Talley went on to work at Andy Warhol’s Interview, Women’s Wear Daily, and the New York Times, before taking the fashion news director job at Vogue in 1983. Anna Wintour named him creative director in 1988 and aside from a three-year run when he contributed to W magazine from Paris, he continued to work at Vogue until 2013. He was the first Black man to hold his position at Vogue, and oftentimes he was the only Black person in the front row at fashion shows. “He was like the Black Rockette… he was the one,” said Whoopi Goldberg, pointing out the whiteness of the industry in the 2018 biopic The Gospel According to André. In that documentary, Talley says, “you don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black and I’m proud,’ you just do it and it impacts the culture.” Nonetheless, he was the first to write about LaQuan Smith, and other designers of color.