Former Vogue creative director and fashion icon André Leon Talley died Tuesday at the age of 73, and the world of fashion is still mourning his loss. But a funny thing happens when someone as wise, outspoken, and influential as Talley was transitions—their words live on forever.
Talley was blessed with an eye for fashion, a mind for fashion journalism and a thunderous voice that refused to be stifled by America, the fashion industry, the overwhelmingly white world of journalism or the stronghold eurocenticity has on what is or isn’t considered beautiful.
Talley 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,” Vogue wrote in his obituary about their “Pharaoh of Fabulosity”, and he could have been content in being the first and one of the few.
You’d be surprised how many Black people have no problem getting one foot through the door and then using the other to kick down the ladder. Talley did his best to use both feet to stomp that door into splinters—which is to say he used his platform relentlessly to promote and push for diversity in his industry.
So to celebrate the man and his legacy, we have compiled 20 quotes from André Leon Talley that should still be remembered and honored long after his death—starting with that time he told America about its dusty-a** self.
1. “So far, it’s been a bleak streak over here in America! You know what? It’s a famine of beauty. The famine of beauty, honey! My eyes are starving for beauty!”
2. “If Marc Jacobs can wear a lace dress, I can wear a kaftan or anything else I want, at any time.”
3. “Wearing clothes should be a personal narrative of emotion. I always respond to fashion in an emotional way.”
4. “I don’t consider myself a slave to fashion, but a custodian and curatorial person of fashion.”
5. “People love fashion exhibits because they can fantasize. They can respond to a dress even if they can never wear a dress like that.”
6. “I do believe there’s a heaven. I do believe that God has given me the resilience and the survival skills to withstand the chiffon trenches.”
7. “You cannot live your life in the elitist world of fashion and not step out or you’re disconnected. You have to realize that fashion is not the endgame.”
8. “There is room in today’s world for men to wear dresses.”
9. “Beauty is health. Health is beauty.”
10. “People need to be edited; life needs to be edited. I need to be edited.”
11. “I have always admired stylishly confident women who dress with great authority. This lifelong love of elegance began with the humble wardrobe of my late grandmother Mrs. Bennie Frances Davis.”
12. “I like the idea of being warm and secure. That’s what home should be. That you have a sense of warmth, security, love, and you love the things around you and surround yourself with beauty.”
13. “I would have loved to have been at Vogue in the 60s when Mrs. Vreeland was there. But then I wouldn’t have been at Vogue in the 60s because they wouldn’t have had a black male editor at a fashion magazine the way they did in 1983.”
15. “You can be aristocratic without having been born into an aristocratic family.”
16. “Have knowledge of what you’re talking about. Read and be curious. Always listen. Be prepared when you’re doing something. That’s especially true in the fashion world.”
17. “When I have interns, I always say, ‘Handwritten thank-you notes can make a difference.’ People remember that – not an e-mail, a handwritten note in an envelope.”
18. “I love people—it is not the fashion, it is the people in fashion I love.”
19. “I’d like to be remembered as someone who made a difference in the lives of young people – that I nurtured someone and taught them to pursue their dreams and their careers, to leave a legacy.”
And you did, sir. You made a difference for young people and people of color across the world.
Rest well, André Leon Talley, your legacy will live on.