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Remembering André Leon Talley and his unique contributions to fashion


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: Andre Leon Talley, the towering former creative director and editor at large of "Vogue" magazine, has died. He had a front-row seat to fashion shows around the world, and provided his readers a lens into that world through his writing.

Jeffrey Brown has our appreciation of Talley as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Jeffrey Brown: At 6'6'', Andre Leon Talley cut a large figure, and wore it well. And he had a major impact on the world of fashion.

Robin Givhan, The Washington Post: He had tremendous clout and influence.

Jeffrey Brown: Robin Givhan, senior critic at large for The Washington Post, has long covered the fashion industry.

Robin Givhan: Andre Leon Talley was really a rare creature in the fashion industry because of the status that he had when he was at "Vogue." He was creative director. And that is a position that, in reality, no other Black person has held at American "Vogue."

Jeffrey Brown: Born in 1948, Talley was raised in North Carolina by his grandmother. He spoke of getting a first taste of style from her as they attended church.

Talley went on to study French literature at North Carolina Central University, before receiving a master's degree at Brown. He spoke in the 2018 documentary "The Gospel According to Andre."

Andre Leon Talley, "Vogue": I did not know who exactly I was. I was becoming. But I did get out of the Jim Crow South. Brown gave me a freedom, a liberation and propelled me into the world that I know.

Jeffrey Brown: An apprenticeship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Brought him to New York and first encounters with the fashion industry.

Andre Leon Talley: This is Andre Leon Talley reporting live from Paris.

Jeffrey Brown: He would go on to work at magazines, including "Interview" and "Women's Wear Daily," where he was Paris bureau chief, before serving as creative director at "Vogue" magazine.

He was a fixture on the fashion scene, a regular at runway shows. And he was also a rare Black editor in a largely white world.

Andre Leon Talley: You don't get up and say, look, I'm Black and I'm proud. You just do it, and, somehow, it impacts the culture.

Jeffrey Brown: He spoke out about the racism and anti-gay bigotry he faced along the way.

Andre Leon Talley: People have said many bad things about me. They used to call me Queen Kong. I was like an ape. I was a gay ape Queen Kong. But I had to move on. I had to get on with my career.

Jeffrey Brown: A student of fashion history, he was known for playing with that history, as in a reworking of "Gone With The Wind" in the pages of "Vanity Fair."

He was also known as an enthusiastic champion of designers he liked, here at the exhibition Black Fashion Designers in New York in 2016.

Andre Leon Talley: You have a plethora and a rainbow of success based on innate quality and innate technique. These people taught themselves. They had dreams, and they put their dreams in their fashion.

Robin Givhan: I honestly don't know that I have I have come across anyone who could be as effusive in their praise for something that they really admired or they really found -- took pride in.

He was someone who I think was in a really challenging position for a long time, which is, he was such a unique character, and he had -- he occupied such a high status, but, at the same time, he was only one person.

Jeffrey Brown: Today, tributes poured in that spoke to his influence as a role model.

Robin Givhan defines his legacy this way:

Robin Givhan: I think that, every time Andre took another step forward, he cleared the path a little bit more, he opened the door a little bit farther, so that a few more people could step through.

I mean, I think, every time he defied a stereotype, he made the fashion industry that much more inclusive.

Jeffrey Brown: Andre Leon Talley died yesterday in White Plains, New York. He was 73 years old.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.

Judy Woodruff: And all the more remarkable because he faced obstacles throughout his life, beginning with his childhood.

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