Vogue's Anna Wintour pays tribute to André Leon Talley, calling his loss 'immeasurable'

Published 19th January 2022
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14:  Andre Leon Talley and Anna Wintour attend the Donna Karan New York Fall 2011 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at 547 West 26th Street on February 14, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage)
Credit: Eugene Gologursky/WireImage/Getty Images
Vogue's Anna Wintour pays tribute to André Leon Talley, calling his loss 'immeasurable'
Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has called the loss of André Leon Talley "immeasurable," after the trailblazing fashion journalist and former Vogue creative director died Tuesday, at the age of 73.
The fashion icon, known for his billowing silhouettes, booming voice and candor, was the first Black man to ascend the ranks at Vogue, becoming one of the most influential figures in an industry where few Black creatives have held top roles. He had a longtime close relationship with Wintour that had seemingly fractured in recent years, and was the subject of debate when he released his memoir, "The Chiffon Trenches", last year.
"The loss of André is felt by so many of us today: the 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," Wintour said in Vogue's obituary.
"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," she added. "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."
Talley started his fashion career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute with an unpaid role under fashion editor Diana Vreeland, according to Vogue, who ushered in the Met Gala's heydey. He worked at Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, Women's Wear Daily and the New York Times before taking his first role at Vogue in 1983 as its fashion news director. Wintour promoted him to creative director five years later, and he helped helm the publication until 2013, aside from a three-year stint at W magazine in Paris.
"I worked behind the scenes," he told talk host Tamron Hall in 2017. "I did it in dulcet tones, and I was persistent and tenacious....I always assumed a very quiet role. I didn't scream and yell and shout....That was the best strategy, because that was the world I moved in. After all, it was Vogue, darling."

A relationship on ice

Talley and Wintour's relationship was the subject of speculation in recent years. His relationship with Wintour had hit "an iceberg," he told CBS's Gayle King in May 2020 while discussing his memoir. "This book will help unpeel the onion about her," he said. This is about a Black man's experience in a very insulated world."
A month later, in conversation with "Sandyland" host Sandra Bernhard, he was critical of the internal memo Wintour had sent to Vogue staff following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked global Black Lives Matter protests and calls for accountability across industries. In her note, which Condé Nast shared with CNN, Wintour said she took responsibility for the fact that Vogue had not done enough to elevate Black journalists and creatives and had published hurtful photos or stories in the past.
"This is about a Black man's experience in a very insulated world," Talley told Gayle King of his memoir released last year.
"This is about a Black man's experience in a very insulated world," Talley told Gayle King of his memoir released last year. Credit: Evan Agostini/AP
"Anna Wintour is a colonial broad; she's a colonial dame," Talley told Bernhard. "She comes from (Britain), she's part of an environment of colonialism. She is entitled. And I do not think she will ever let anything get in the way of her white privilege."
Though Vogue acknowledged Talley's passing and released an obituary the morning following the news, some pointed out that their social media channels remained quiet while memorials came in from around the world.
"When we talk about how your job will never love you no matter how much you give them, @vogue saying nothing about André Leon Talley's passing and just tweeting as normal is a case study," writer Roxane Gay wrote on Twitter hours after the news first broke. "Foul business."
Talley often emphasized his appreciation for his time at Vogue and Wintour, but he was clear that he credited his own upbringing and tenacity with his rise in the fashion world.
"In many ways, I owe to her my world of Vogue, I owe to her many many important segments of my life," he told Hall in 2020. "But first of all let me say, Anna Wintour did not make me, I made myself."