Meet Tonne Goodman, the most stylish fashion editor in the world

Tonne Goodman and Stella McCartney
Tonne, pictured with Stella McCartney at the Vogue Forces of Fashion conference in 2017, wears her signature white jeans  Credit: Getty Images

By now, you’ll be familiar with some classic fashion editor style signatures. There’s Anna Wintour’s immaculate bob, of course. Suzy Menkes and her quiff. Carine Roitfeld’s French vamp stilettos and kohl-smudged eyes. They’re all looks synonymous with their creators but hardly the sort of thing we can all adopt as an instant way to look elegant in real life scenarios like a dash to the supermarket or dinner with friends (the daily commitment required for a Wintour-esque blowdry would be impossible for most mortals to achieve).

Which is why it’s high time that Tonne Goodman, long a front row style crush of fellow fashion editors, has her moment of appreciation. Goodman was American Vogue’s fashion director from 1999 until 2018 and now serves as a contributing editor at the magazine for which she has masterminded more than 150 covers over the years, creating images to define eras. From Christy Turlington ushering in the era of wellness by doing bow pose in diamonds and silk slip, to Michelle Obama more laidback than a First Lady had ever been seen before, to Melania Trump as the quintessential billionaire’s bride, these were all moments captured by Goodman. ‘Unique, forthright, determined’ is how she describes Wintour, her boss, by the way.

Tonne with model Lara Stone at a Calvin Klein Boutique in 2011 Credit: Getty Images

The look of Goodman’s shoots was once described by fellow stylist Paul Cavaco as ‘like everydayness turned into something covetable’; it’s an observation which works just as well for her personal style as her work. Her penchant for white jeans, for example, takes them about as far from Elizabeth Hurley St Tropez glam as they could possibly come. She wears hers (usually by J Brand) in a relaxed, straight fit, often paired with loafers and an immaculately cut blazer, shirt and/ or polo neck. ‘Do you know what, I have no idea how I landed on this look?’ she tells me over the phone from New York in the midst of promoting her new coffee table tome ‘Point of View’ about her life in fashion. “I think I just had a pair that I liked and then got another pair.”

She loves her white jeans because “they don’t read as blue jeans so you wear them for different occasions, you can even wear them for cocktails if you put on a pair of velvet slippers”. The ease of denim with the smartness imbued by bright white- it’s one of those solutions that seems so simple, it’s a wonder we’ve allowed white jeans to be vilified for so long. “I have a lot of pairs,” she adds, “because don’t forget you change in size- sometimes I have one size up, sometimes I have one size down. I have to be covered put it that way.”

Tonne Goodman walks in the Creatures of The Wind AW19 show Credit: Rex

Goodman, who cites Dries Van Noten as her favourite label, is a muse for acolytes of the immaculate minimalism school of style thought. You won’t be surprised to learn that she once worked for Calvin Klein. Naturally, she shrugs off any notion of putting together a uniform which would make hers a intentionally recognisable fashion editor look. “I was never really that aware of it, I almost felt that in a way it was cheating because there was no intent to it, so it wasn’t a form of ignoring what was going on in fashion, it was just a convenience for me,” she says.

Before white jeans and tailoring, her uniform was pencil skirts, fishnet stockings and kitten heels- “I went through a whole phase of that, it’s always been easy for me to say OK to styles and stick with them.” But she’s stuck to current look for years, mostly for convenience’s sake. “I just felt it worked and could take me into every kind of situation that I would run into in the course of a day and they could change rapidly - you could be on the set, then you’d have a cocktail and then put the kids to bed... it was just very versatile.”

Tonne Goodman, right, with American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour  Credit: Getty Images

Besides white jeans, silk scarves by French tailors Charvet are a Goodman hallmark. She was given her first one in 1973 by her great friend Nicky Vreeland. In strawberry red with a Cheerios print, she adored it and acquired more in every colour before it was discontinued. “When I came to Vogue, I was introduced to Mademoiselle Colban who’s the head of Charvet. I asked her if she would you ever consider reissuing the print and she did. They’re so beautiful, it’s so cosy to have it around your neck, it’s just the thing I love.”

If Goodman’s white jeans are pared-back and practical (she washes them with a little bleach to keep them pristine), then the scarves add flair. It’s not just Charvet silks which Goodman credits to the Vreeland family. It was one of Nicky’s grandmother Diana’s infamous memos which boosted her modelling career. They met in a lift when Goodman was on her way to meet another Vogue editor and Diana was so mesmerised that she instructed her staff: ‘Please do not fail with this girl- though she is not pretty- she pulls together perfect bones and proportion in an aristo-creative manner’.

Goodman was photographed by the greats of the Seventies, including Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. ‘I remember David Bailey directing me on set to “look fuckable”,’ she notes in the book. ‘I was dressed head-to-toe in winter clothes so it wasn’t lascivious at all, just his oblique way of attempting to wrestle a smile out of me’.

Tonne was a model before she became fashion director of American Vogue in 1999 Credit: Irving Penn foundation/ Condé Nast archive

But modelling, it turned out, wasn’t for her. “I was shy. I remember wearing a Saint Laurent dress for couture in Paris and being overwhelmed by how beautiful it was. But, I just couldn’t own it and wasn’t a good model.” At 66, Goodman (who credits pilates, healthy eating and plenty of time outdoors for her radiant complexion) recently made a modelling comeback, walking in the CDLM show at New York fashion week after some gentle persuasion from her Vogue colleagues and the label’s designers. “I thought the clothes looked amazing, so chic because everything was repurposed. Of course I was a little scared but it was fine and I was happy to do it because it was something that I wanted to support. I admire them for doing it [casting me, rather than a traditional model?] and think that they’re extremely talented.”

So does this mark a more permanent return to the catwalk? With designers more conscious than ever about casting women of all ages, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a striking new supermodel in her sixties to (re)emerge on the scene. “I don’t think so, I really do not,” she insists.     

Tonne Goodman: Point of View is out on 16th April (Abrams, £55)