DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — From Durham, North Carolina, to the front row of designer fashion shows in Paris, France, André Leon Talley broke down countless barriers in the fashion industry.
CBS 17 interviewed the North Carolina Central University graduate back in 2018 about his journey to becoming a fashion icon and how it started.
“When we went to church on Sundays, my grandmother was turned out! My grandmother had the best shoes she could afford, Naturalizer shoes. She had the best hats, which she bought from Joe Bells downtown. She had the best gloves, the best handbags. She had very few things, but she saved her money, and she would go buy the best things,” said Talley.
Talley said one of the most important women in his life was his grandmother. She cleaned dorms at Duke University and that’s where he picked up his first Vogue magazine. He would later become the creative director and editor-at-large for the fashion magazine, working with some of the biggest designers in the business.
“Black people did not, were not able to be exposed to fashion. Fashion was not really being made for black people. I wasn’t thinking I’m the first black man sitting here at Yves St. Laurent, but I knew there was something important because people told me,” said Talley.
You may have seen him on your TV before. He served as a judge on the show “America’s Next Top Model” and appeared on “Sex and the City.” Talley rubbed elbows with top celebrities, and he recognized he was responsible for the generation that would come next.
“It’s a moment of opportunity…open the door. It’s a moment of go forward and leap, go forth,” said Talley.
The Durham native graduated from Hillside High School and went on to graduate from N.C. Central, majoring in French. Talley was just honored with the state’s highest civilian honor – the North Carolina Award – last year.
Talley was 73 years old. Officials have not said how he died.