The Life of Andre Leon Talley


“Wearing clothes should be a personal narrative of emotion. I always respond to fashion in an emotional way.” – Andre Leon Talley

Andre Leon Talley is an American fashion journalist, who is the former American Editor-at-large of Vogue magazine. Talley was born on October 16, 1949, in Washington, DC. He came from humble beginnings as his father drove a taxi for a living, and he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, whom he later wrote about extensively in his memoir. In 1970, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Literature from North Carolina Central University. He later earned a scholarship to Brown University, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in French Literature in 1972. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Savannah College of Art and Design since 1995.

Talley eventually became a protégé of Diana Vreeland, the legendary Editor-in-Chief of Vogue from 1962 to 1971. Vreeland hired him to serve as her assistant in her role as Director of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for which she staged lavish, trendsetting exhibitions. Talley encountered Andy Warhol in October of 1974 when walking down the street carrying a portfolio of clippings from his reports on the Rhode Island School of Design’s social scene. By December of 1974, he had a job at Warhol’s Factory, under the recommendation of Vreeland.

Talley went on to work for Interview, the New York Times, and other publications before finally landing at Vogue as its Fashion News Director in 1983. Five years later, he was named its Creative Director. With that title, he managed to use his position to champion the work of up-and-coming African-American designers, including Stephen Burrows and Patrick Robinson, and also reminded designers that they could stand to add more black models in their runway shows and advertising campaigns.

Talley left Vogue in 1995 for W, a competitor, to serve as its Paris Fashion Editor and then Bureau Chief in the city. He returned to Vogue in 1998 with the title of Editor-at-large, and began writing a well-received column called “Stylefax,” which was eventually replaced by the “Life with André” monthly feature. He had been working on his memoir for some time by then, after the deaths of both his grandmother and Vreeland in 1989. A.L.T. was published by Villard Books in 2003, and earned good reviews for its honest tone regarding the fashion industry.

A documentary about Talley was released on April 27, 2018. The Gospel According to Andre puts Talley’s entire life as a fashion icon on display and includes appearances from fashion royalty such as Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Bethann Hardison, Valentino, and Manolo Blahnik. Directed by Kate Novack, the documentary puts a spotlight on his journey to securing a spot in Vogue history.