Legendary editor Nonnie Moore, known for her energy and creativity in both women’s and men’s fashion, died early Thursday morning at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. She was 87.
The cause of death was complications from a choking accident, said her son Thomas.
This story first appeared in the February 20, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Moore retired in 1994 as the fashion director of GQ, where she had worked for a decade, after serving as fashion editor at Mademoiselle and Harper’s Bazaar. That year, she received a Council of Fashion Designers of America lifetime achievement award. GQ’s then-editor, the late Art Cooper, said upon her retirement, “I would have to say that she reinvented the way men’s fashion is covered. She has an infallible, unbelievable eye.”
“Nonnie was a brilliant fashion editor and always added something special to the stories she covered for GQ,” said Condé Nast chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr.
Designers reached Thursday also praised Moore. Donna Karan called her “a confidante” since the designer’s days at Anne Klein. “It was my first experience of working with fashion editors. She was so always up and very personable, passionate and somebody you wanted to hang with,” Karan said.
Ralph Lauren remembered Moore as “an incredibly talented and caring woman. She was very supportive of me and my business early on in my career.”
Added Tommy Hilfiger, “She was like a mother to a lot of us. She would speak very openly and honestly about not only my collection but she would show concern for us personally.”
Born in New York City, Moore graduated from Barnard College. She went to work at Mademoiselle in 1956, where she eventually became fashion editor under Edie Locke.
“She was never too tired to investigate anything she heard about, any inkling and gut reaction — she would follow through,” Locke said. “When we did the Paris collections together, we would limp home at the end of the day, but there was still something going on at night. I would fall into bed and Nonnie would change her clothes and go out. It was constant curiosity that always kept her going.”
One of the young photographers she encouraged was Bruce Weber, who remembered “this extremely tall and elegant woman who wore this beautiful jewelry, and it was very bohemian. She was just so warm and open and gave a young people a chance.” Later on, Moore’s husband, Thomas L. Moore, an architect who died in 1990, doubled as a Ralph Lauren model and was often photographed by Weber.
“I always used to joke with her that I thought she was the oldest living hippie,” said Calvin Klein, who began working with Moore in the Mademoiselle days. “She dressed fabulously but always eccentric and very hippielike. She was very artsy, creative, innovative, and extremely kind and generous — and supportive. Mademoiselle was wonderful in those days. And that was really because of Nonnie.”
“She had this amazing sense of humor,” said her friend Wendy Goodman, now an editor at New York magazine. “In a fashion world that can be really quirky and trendy and dumb, Nonnie was a beacon of wisdom. She really knew herself. She wasn’t susceptible to any of the silliness.”
Sandy Horvitz, who also worked with Moore at Mademoiselle, said, “Nonnie was just so young at heart. I was all of 20 and I couldn’t keep up with her, and I always used to say to her, ‘Nonnie, you’re younger than I am.’ She was the most positive, up, fun, exciting person I ever met.
“She was creative and an artist,” Horvitz added. “Once, the art director at Mademoiselle said, ‘When you go into the room and Nonnie is there, she is always speaking to the most interesting person in the room, because everyone wanted to know her.’”
Designer Carol Horn added, “She was the most generous, warm, full person in every sense. She was a very rounded, grounded and wonderful woman.”
In 1979, Moore became fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar. The magazine’s editor at that time, Anthony Mazzola, said of her, “She was a first-class fashion editor and a first-class lady. She brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the magazine while she was fashion editor and she had an unusual sense of art.”
When she joined GQ in the mid-Eighties, Moore didn’t have men’s fashion experience but quickly showed a talent for it. “She took the fashion pages from zero to 60,” said current GQ fashion director Jim Moore (no relation), who worked under her. “At that point she was probably in her 60s, but she thought like a 25-year-old. Designers would get so excited to be in her presence because she was such a nurturer of talent.”
In 1994, Moore described to The New York Times her decision to leave GQ to focus on painting: “I love my job totally, more than any job I have ever had. Fashion has been my whole life, but I have also always painted. I finally decided that if I don’t paint all the time, I will never give it the chance I want.”
In addition to her son Thomas, Moore is survived by another son, Peter, and two grandchildren. “She has a wonderful family,” Karan said. “Family meant so much to her, and she made you feel like a part of the fashion family and that was her core essence.”
A memorial service is expected to be held in the coming weeks.