The Repurposing of a Vogue Editor

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Tonne Goodman has a mantra for when things start to get a little messy: “This is happening for a reason.” She is known for saying it on fashion sets when a model calls in sick or a runway look is stuck in customs.

And also when far more serious situations arise, like when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44. She finds it reassuring because, as she explained, whatever then happens is some kind of fate, and in that lies mystery and curiosity. Often, it leads you on a better path.

Certainly, Ms. Goodman whispered the mantra aloud last summer when it was decided, by the powers that be, that she would surrender her role as fashion director of Vogue, where she had worked for nearly 20 years, and become a contributing editor — a growing trend, these days, in the struggling magazine industry. Without a doubt, she has found herself on a curious new path.

“My overriding feeling is this is exciting,” she said, seated on a white slipcovered couch in her Greenwich Village apartment, where she has lived for two decades. But her “inner feeling,” she said, is something like fear.

Dressed in her crisp, unwavering wardrobe of white Levi’s, Italian driving loafers and a silk Charvet scarf wrapped precisely around her neck, Ms. Goodman cuts a rather cool figure. From afar, she is the reserved, aloof foil to the colorful Grace Coddington, another Vogue editor. In practice, though, she is “the nicest” of the magazine’s editors, as many of those who have worked with her attest.

Ms. Goodman’s memoir, “Point of View.”

While at Vogue she is known for styling her subjects in a classic, clean-cut manner — “the practical woman,” as she put it — Ms. Goodman said that she loves “to do crazy things.”

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who assisted Ms. Goodman for four years at Vogue before becoming the style director of Garage magazine, said: “She’s quiet and not bombastic and wears a uniform every day, but Tonne changed this industry and the way Americans look at fashion. Tonne is rad. She is the definition of radical.” And in this new phase of her life, Ms. Goodman, 66, seems eager to reveal as much.

Cue her forthcoming book, “Point of View,” which features, on an opening page, a full-frontal of Ms. Goodman, from her modeling days.

Sam Shahid, the book’s art director and a longtime friend, sneaked the nude in, and for a while tried to hide it from her, but Ms. Goodman loved the idea. “One assumes this is just another fashion editor’s book, and it’s not,” she said.

Granted, it is filled with one gorgeous and iconic image after another, stretching from her early days as a fashion reporter for The New York Times through her seminal stints as vice president for advertising at Calvin Klein and fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar, to her tenure at Vogue, during which she styled more than 150 covers.

It is also quite personal, revealing pictures and anecdotes from her days growing up on the Upper East Side, the daughter of an artist and a surgeon, both of whom — not surprisingly — were attractive and stylish. Her mother wore a floor-length circle skirt for dinner every night, paired with cashmere and pearls. Her father would change into a green velvet smoking jacket. According to family lore, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt proclaimed them the handsomest couple in New York.

There are also striking photos of Maarten, a Dutch sailor with whom Ms. Goodman ran off to sea for four months at the age of 17; and Rob, a troubled waiter she fell madly for and followed to the desert.

She does not include images of Bailey Gimbel, the man she married and with whom she had two children, though she does mention their split. In fact, she touches, sparingly, on several searing aspects of her life, among them her bout with cancer, which coincided with the end of her marriage; and the time she feared she was having a miscarriage while in Paris for the collections.

The photographer Mario Testino, whom she didn’t know well at the time, drove her in his Fiat Cinquecento to the hospital, where they learned that her son, Cole, now 25, was alive and well. Mr. Testino became his godfather.

“It’s all part of my fabric,” she said of including such intimate details. “The reason any photo shows up is because of what I experienced.” She recalled one particularly emotional picture, shot by Peter Lindbergh during her Harper’s Bazaar days. It features Amber Valletta running through the city wearing a set of wings.

“I was pregnant with Cole at the time,” said Ms. Goodman, who also has a daughter named Evie. “This was my angel.”

When it came to the book’s cover, Evie, an artist, balked at the idea of using the very classic and minimalist David Sims image of Daria Werbowy in a Calvin Klein gown. “She thought it was too obvious,” Ms. Goodman said. “That it didn’t reflect all of me.” Alas, Evie’s racier pick, a Steven Klein photo of Ms. Valletta looking like a 1960s housewife who is up to no good, was nixed.

“It’s actually one of my favorite pictures,” Ms Goodman said. “But it didn’t look like me.”

If Ms. Goodman’s creative output is, in part, a reflection of her life, it appears that she is having a ball these days. With Ms. Karefa-Johnson, she styled a rollicking evening wear story called “Black Cotillion” for Garage magazine.

“We had these divine girls and a brilliant hair and makeup team,” Ms. Goodman said. “It was just a blast.”

She also stepped in front of the lens — something she was never comfortable doing, even as a model — for the spring fashion issue of New York magazine. In it, she posed alongside Ms. Karefa-Johnson, whom she recently referred to on Instagram as her best friend, each of them charmingly wearing clothes that the other had chosen.

Then, during this past fashion week, Ms. Goodman popped up on the runway for the first time since the summer after her sophomore year in high school, taking a turn for CDLM, the buzzy new label from Chris Peters, one half of the Creatures of the Wind twosome. She wore a blanket scarf and cowboy boots, which had a higher heel than what she prefers to wear. Still, she was happy to be there.

“I wanted to support them,” she said of the label, all of it made from repurposed material, whether recycled or dead stock. “And the collection was so chic.”

Ms. Karefa-Johnson believes this is just the beginning. “It’s kind of like how Stella got her groove back,” she said. “Everyone wants a piece of Tonne, and she holds the power of entering the fashion scene in a whole new way.”

As for what’s next, Ms. Goodman is tossing around a host of ideas. Among them, a second book, called “Killed,” with all the fabulous shots that never made it into Vogue; and a sustainable capsule collection for Calvin Klein.

“I feel there is a huge opportunity for a large brand to embrace sustainability in a way that is uncompromising,” she said. “And Calvin is the definition of American fashion. Period. The end.”

And, she added, with a smile, “I think it would be really fun.”

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