Cover André Leon Talley (Photo: Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage)

The fashion editor was eons ahead of his time on the diversity front, using his influence in the industry to support international designers including Jason Wu and Issey Miyake

André Leon Talley’s unexpected passing on Tuesday came as a shock to many in the fashion industry, and the outpouring of love and reminiscing of shared memories demonstrates how much of a force he was for fellow fashion editors, designers, creative directors, models and many others.

When he was working at Vogue under then editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella, he wanted to bring a fresh perspective to the American publication and push for diversity. Throughout Talley’s career, he’s spoken openly about moments of discrimination he faced as one of the few Black figures in fashion during the ’70s and ’80s, however he never let it stop him from excelling. 

See more: Former Vogue Editor, André Leon Talley, Passes Away at 73

Talley brought an immense knowledge of fashion history and an understanding of style on par with his European counterparts, and that led to mentorship from influential figures such as Diana Vreeland and Karl Lagerfeld, which left a lasting impression on both his personality and career. 

Having experienced success from his legendary fashion friends opening the gateway for him, he’s generously done the same for others—notably championing international designers by making introductions or including them in publications, and these are five Asian designers and brands he’s passed the baton to over the years:

1. Comme des Garçons

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Défilé Comme des garçons collection Prêt-à-Porter Automne-Hiver 1994-1995 en mars 1994 à Paris, France. (Photo by Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Above Comme des Garçons autumn-winter 1995 (Photo: Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Rei Kawakubo established Comme des Garçons in Paris in 1973, around the time Talley was there starting his fashion journalism career, and he took notes. Talley was responsible for including more Japanese designers in the pages of Vogue in the ’90s, especially after witnessing the boom of debuts he saw in Paris.

Commes des Garçons was recognised for the distressed and “bag-lady” chic look during the ’80s, and acknowledged by publications like Women's Wear Daily, it wasn’t until their inclusion in Vogue that Commes was adopted into the American mainstream and would become more than a cult name in fashion.

2. Yohji Yamamoto

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Above André Leon Talley walking the runway at Yohji Yamamoto spring-summer 1999 (Photo: Yohji Yamamoto)

Another Japanese designer that Talley pushed for in Vogue was Yohji Yamamoto. He debuted in Tokyo in 1977, Paris in 1981 and New York in 1982, showing collections that focused on neutral colours, draping and androgynous silhouettes. These elements are still core to the brand’s identity today.

This style was one that Talley himself adored and often wore in his later years, and Yamamoto’s unique approach to fashion was why he felt strongly about including him in Vogue. It would eventually spark a working friendship strong enough that Talley even made a cameo on the catwalk during Yamamoto's spring-summer 1999 collection. 

3. Issey Miyake

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Le top model Irina Pantaeva lors du défilé Issey Miyake, collection Prêt-à-Porter Printemps-Eté 1995 en octobre 1994 à Paris, France. (Photo by Alexis DUCLOS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Above Issey Miyake spring-summer 1995 (Photo: Alexis DUCLOS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Issey Miyake made a name for himself by cleverly incorporating technology in his designs. He’s best known for his immediately recognisable Pleats Please fabric, but he also drew interest from the tech crowd, specifically Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who’s uniform included Miyake’s black turtleneck. 

At the helm of creative direction at Vogue, Talley sought to feature innovative fashions, and Miyake more than fit the bill with his structured yet feminine silhouettes. Being supported by Talley in the ’90s ensured that the Japanese designer would become an international household name, even today.

4. Kansai Yamamoto

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David Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust, in his 'woodland creatures' costume designed by Kansai Yamamoto, at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1973. (Photo by Debi Doss/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Above David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust wearing Kansai Yamamoto in 1973 (Photo: Debi Doss/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Kansai Yamamoto, famed for his excessive and maximalist style, was at his height of his fashion game during the ’70s and ’80s—Talley was on the rise during this time, and was definitely aware of Yamamoto’s work.

Having famously collaborated with David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane characters, Yamamoto created some of the most avant-garde costumes and looks at the time, which included knitted playsuits, fringed sleeves and sculptural trousers. Talley, who was a fan of Bowie's daring style and felt he was a “master in collaborating with genius fashion giants”, would, of course, want to continue championing Yamamoto’s wild creativity.

5. Jason Wu

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WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive at the Obama Homes States Ball, one of ten official inaugural balls January 20, 2009 in Washington DC.  Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States today, becoming the first African-American to be elected to the presidency.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Above Jason Wu's white inaugural dress for then First Lady Michelle Obama (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The rapid interest surrounding Jason Wu in 2008 was largely due to Talley—although the Taiwanese designer interned at Narciso Rodriguez in 2005, ambitiously started his own line the year after, and was already selling clothes by 2007, it was Talley introducing Wu to Michelle Obama which kept his brand firmly in the spotlight.

Wu and Obama collaborated on a number of looks, and she’d worn many of his dresses prior to the Presidential election. It was her one-shoulder inaugural gown that left a lasting impression on the public, and Talley’s hand in their meeting ensured that Wu would be influencing American designs for the next decade.

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