Jeanne Beker is a renowned Canadian journalist, media personality, and fashion entrepreneur. Among multiple notable media roles, Jeanne was the host of internationally syndicated Fashion Television, which aired for 27 years and was broadcast in more than 130 countries.
Andreia McLean, our Pursuit:365 Podcast Host, had the pleasure of speaking with Jeanne in an interview that will air on our Pursuit:365 Podcast this month! Here is a sneak preview of that conversation:
Andreia: It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Jeanne. You are synonymous with Canadian fashion. I’m so interested to hear in your words what that means to you to be thought of as “an icon” in the fashion world, but specifically as a Canadian icon.
Jeanne: It’s a funny kind of question because it’s not the kind of thing that I think about too much or I want to think about too much. I mean, I think that whole word icon. What does that really mean? Someone who’s just been around for a long time, really established, really associated with a certain spirit or a certain movement, maybe a certain time. And for me, if people want to think of me as a “fashion icon,” I guess it’s just because I was emblematic of a certain time in fashion. Not that fashion doesn’t still go on now and I’m still closely associated with it for sure. But that was a very golden era, that era that I got to cover in Fashion that ran for over 25 years. We did the show from 1985 to 2012 – 27 years beamed in 130 different countries. So, I think people would get their fix of fashion every week via our show because there was nothing really available on the Internet and certainly very limited kind of stuff available in magazines. We took people behind the scenes. We really got up close and personal with the personality. So, I think it’s just kind of greatness by association that the people would think of me as some kind of icon. But I sure know that a lot of people, in this country anyway, grew up watching me, even from my early days reporting on the rock and roll scene with the new music and starting Much Music and all that, and that brings me a lot of joy. That’s really nice to be recognized in that way. But big lofty titles like “icon” or “legend,” I don’t know. I just seem to think it’s because I’ve been around for so long that the people start stowing those honorary titles on me. That’s so nice.
Andreia: I feel like “emblematic” is such a perfect word for really what you are to fashion and especially Canadian fashion. I think that it’s an inference of excellence and the energy that you put out there that people pick up. And I think that speaks to the longevity of your career, but also to why people want to use that word, and why people feel so excited to use the word “icon” to describe you – it’s really just because of the energy that you’ve given us throughout our coming up in the world and being interested in fashion and your consistency, but also genuinely just your knowledge and excellence and energy and enthusiasm. It feels like you love what you do, and that comes up absolutely.
Jeanne: Yes, that without question. And I’ve always really admired and appreciated people who put themselves out there and people with drive and talent and people who really want to share and give of themselves. And I strong believer in you get what you give so important to always be putting that energy out there and the good vibes and whether you can do good deeds, that too.
But it’s been a wonderful scene to report from the fashion landscape, especially in Canada, because it’s evolved so tremendously when I started in the mid-80s, there were precious few Canadian designers. There were some great ones, to be sure, but they really were up against a lot when it came to their competition in the US or their counterparts in Europe. I mean, it was just very tough for Canadians to make their voices heard, but things are happily changing now.
Obviously, we’ve got so many great Canadian designers. Sometimes I feel a little guilty that we created some kind of monster with fashion television because we made that world look so exciting and glamorous and fabulous, and so many people wanted to get into fashion. And it’s almost like there might be a little too much fashion around. And it’s very hard, of course, to sustain success in any business, let alone the fashion business that is just constantly changing. But it’s been a wonderful arena to report from. And these people have just been so wonderful to support because they’re so passionate about what they do. And there’s such a level of authenticity to what so many of them are doing. And very few have survived from those early days that I started covering the scene. But we’ve seen so many new ones and some that have managed to capture global attention, and you don’t have to rely on huge marketing budgets anymore to get your message out there. So, I think that’s really been good. The advent of the Internet and what that technology has done for the fashion industry is just astounding.
Andreia: Yes, even in the years that I’ve played in fashion. My first event job was Toronto Fashion Week, and it was already in David Pecaut Square, and I think it was Mastercard Fashion Week at the time. It was that era. And even since then, I’ve seen so much shift. So, seeing it retroactively before that, that actually segues really well into my next question, which is about collaborations.
You have seen so many iterations of the fashion world and worked with so many different people. Is there a collaboration or project that stands out in your memory as one that meant the most to you or something that’s particularly special for some reason that you can think of?
Jeanne: That’s the thing about having been around for so long, it’s a huge frame of reference that I really have to think long and hard about it. I think one collaboration – if you’re talking about the kind of creative collaboration that was very exciting for me to witness – was when Mark Jacobs did the collection for Louis Vuitton with Stephen Sprouse, who was just such an incredible artist. That graffiti collection; it was so irreverent, and those pieces now obviously are so iconic. But Mark Jacobs, I remember putting him on fashion television the first time he came to Toronto. He was like a kid. He was just out of Parsons. He just started this little fashion line. He was a guy with hair down to his elbows, and he was just this really cute, creative kid. And it has just been so brilliant to see how his career really blossom, how he developed as a creative talent. But when I think about the pairing of him and Stephen Sprouse, who had so much respect for really a lovely guy, I mean, rest in peace, he was just a truly legendary figure on the New York art scene. I thought that was really cool because I’ve always thought that the whole art fashion scene is very symbiotic, and there are so many synergies that go on in there. I mean, there’s some fashion and some fashion designers that have nothing to do with art, and I don’t consider them artists, but then there are those who really do see the world through that lens. Marc Jacobs, I think, is certainly one of them. And that’s why he’s always been so progressive and so incredibly creative. And the fact that he would team up with an artist, a talent like Stephen Sprouts, I thought that was very exciting.
Andreia: Is there a collaboration that you would want to participate in that or something you haven’t fulfilled yet for yourself?
Jeanne: There are a gazillion things that I haven’t fulfilled for myself. The minute that stops, I might as well just roll over and go to sleep. So I can’t really say, but no, I don’t really sit there thinking, oh, I’d like to do a project with so and so, or I would hope that maybe something that I eventually do would inspire someone to want to do a project with me, but I don’t really sit around and think of that. Maybe I should think more along those lines because so much of what goes on now is collaborative. But no, I haven’t. I’ve just really, thankfully been a little too busy working on stuff, making a living and doing my writing and the other projects that I’m committed to – to really sit back and say, now, who do I want to collaborate with?
My daughter Becky is a brilliant animator and a great illustrator, and we’ve been talking about doing a book together, a kid’s book, maybe, about sustainability when it comes to fashion, and I’d love for her to illustrate it. So maybe my daughter Becky, she’d be a great one to collaborate with do that 100% perfect.
Stay tuned for the rest of our chat with Jeanne on our podcast coming soon!