Draping, gathers, ruching, ruffles, feathers, gold, silk, gemstones and metallics on
exaggerated lapels, A-line skirts, tailored jackets and whimsical dresses. Romance becomes edgy; simple means
an architectural masterpiece; and the words Chanel haute couture are cherished.
For most of us — even the more fashion-savvy — this can all be quite overwhelming. That’s why for the past 25 years, the majority of Canadians have religiously tuned in to FashionTelevision to catch Jeanne Beker breaking down all the runway shows, backstage madness and couture sensations across the globe.
In 1985 Beker debuted as the one and only host of FashionTelevision (FT for short), which would eventually become CTV’s most widely syndicated show, with over three million viewers a week across Canada and over 130 countries around the world.
Following the success of the show, in 2001 the FashionTelevisionChannel was launched, and today it remains as Canada’s first and only channel dedicated to fashion, beauty and design.
As host and segment producer of both FT and the FashionTelevisionChannel, Beker travels to the fashion capitals of the world to share with her audiences the latest fashion trends to hit the runways.
With two and a half decades of fashion coverage under her stylish belt, Beker still finds the whole experience exhilarating and often mesmerizing. “I think I’m so blessed to be able to see these incredible spectacles — the most creative, most elaborate, brilliant spectacles on the planet,” she says. “And I get the chance to see them sometimes from front row centre, and get the chance to go behind the scenes and pick the brains of these geniuses. It’s just a fantasy, it really is."
Beker has worked hard to get to where she’s at and it seems, like fashion itself, she never slows down. Fresh off the runways and off to the airport from 2010 Paris Fashion Week, Beker is madly driving in her car hoping to check items off her long list of to-dos. One of them is cough medicine. Even while under the weather, Beker is constantly on the go! She looks forward to this fashion week more than any other because of the diversity of the designers and the level of imagination.
This year especially, she was completely romanced by the artistry and creativity of the fashion. She explains that with the ready-to-wear spring and summer collections, “everyone’s doing these themes of costumn-ism, romance and femininity in their own particular way and that’s exciting to me — seeing that diversity. It’s just exhilarating because you never know what you’re going to see.”
As she looked forward to the Chanel and Stella McCartney runway shows, Rick Owens’ grand, architectural style as well as Marc Jacobs’ oriental-themed seventies collection took her by surprise.
Inspired by such a captivating fashion week in Paris and recently losing 20 pounds, Beker has been experimenting more with different styles, even though she describes her style for the most part as eclectic. “That’s the most important thing — many of us get lost within a certain image of ourselves and we’re sometimes afraid to step out of that,” she says. “And as we get older, the more comfortable we feel in our skin, we can afford to experiment a little more.”
But Beker says at the end of the day it’s about comfort. She essentially likes to keep it simple because, as she says, “I don’t want to be victimized by fashion. I like clothes that look effortless — I hate that contrived look.”
Her multi-dimensional and easy sense of style inspired her new clothing line that launched in September at the Bay. “I know the wardrobe dilemmas that women have — there’s so many choices coming our way and there’s so much out there and there’s people who look at me to see how I get through my life,” says Beker. “So I thought, how can I make my sense of style accessible to women?”
For the EDIT line, Beker worked with a Montreal manufacturer where she selected styles and fabrics and suggested changes to create 25 basic need-to-have pieces for women. The colours are mostly in black and grey with hints of camel and red and the designs are aimed to be timeless. “They won’t go out of style because they’re classic and necessary pieces that are meant to be worn for a long time,” says Beker.
While there are classic pieces like the little black dress, the boyfriend blazer, wide-leg dress pants and a cardigan, it is up to the wearer to update it by accessorizing the look. “Taking part in fashion resonates with so many people because it’s the one creative thing we can all take part in,” says Beker.
And over the years our fashion choices have created sometimes funny, sometimes nostalgic and sometimes regretful memories. Along with showing and helping women discover and embrace the latest fashion trends on FT, Beker took part in selected performances of the hit play Love, Loss and What I Wore in Toronto this past September.
The play is based on a popular book that focuses on using clothing and accessories and the memories they trigger to tell funny and often moving stories. Beker, who is not a stranger to the stage, says that when she was approached nine years ago, she immediately jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s exhilarating. To be on a stage in front of an audience of women with material that is so strong,” says Beker. “The stories really resonated with women because it presented them with such potent memories which really played such an integral role in our lives and helped define us along the way.”
However, when Beker looks back on all her accomplishments over the 2010 year — creating a new fashion line, writing a weekly column for the Globe and Mail, working on two books set out to be released in the new year, sharing a stage with talented women, and constantly rubbing shoulders with the most creative and artistic people in the fashion world — she says she is most proud of getting her honourary degree at Humber College.
She went to Humber for a year in the 1970s and never finished. But as determined and strong-willed as Beker is, she “graduated” this past year. She was part of the 1,500 at convocation and during the speech she gave, Beker reiterated the motto her father always said to her: “Don’t be afraid and never give up.”
And for over 25 years, she never has and doesn’t plan to. “To be able to share my experiences with the work is the greatest joy to me — I’m not slowing down any time soon.” •
Photos courtesy Hudsons Bay Company
EDIT’S TOP FIVE MUST-HAVE PIECES FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY
Every month there are around 20 new pieces added to the collection, but here are Beker’s picks to get you through the weeks of holiday festivities.
THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS
“You have to have a little black dress ($150) that you can dress up or you can dress down. This is a must in every woman’s wardrobe.” EDIT’s is chic, sleek and simple and can be personalized with bold accessories.
FAUX FUR JACKET
“The faux fur jackets ($150) have sort of a retro feel to them, but they’re also really romantic,” says Beker. “It comes in black or white and when it’s paired with skinny jeans or jeggings it’s great for cocktail hour.”
“The sequined vest is really great for the holiday because of the layering.” Put it on top of a simple and chic camisole, and you’ll be sparkling for all the celebrations.
“The black tunic with beaded shoulder pads ($85) is just a great and easy piece to wear. It’s great to wear to a dinner party or for at-home entertaining.”
BEKER'S DESIGNER PICKS FROM PARIS FASHINON WEEK'S SPRING/SUMMER 2011 COLLECTIONS
He brought striking floor-length gowns and draping silhouettes of leather and stark white fabrics to bring a sense of dark fantasy to the runway. “It was very avant garde, sculptural and architectural,” explains Beker.
About Marc Jacobs, Beker says, “You just never know what you’re going to see from him.” Jacobs was inspired by early Japanese designers and while his spring/summer ready-to-wear collection embraces the seventies, it also offers bright colours from high-waisted satin tuxedo pants, silk kimonos and sequenced obis.
“Karl Lagerfeld is in a league of his own. The vision for that house is incredible — he just understands what the Chanel brand is all about. His shows are so theatrical and the stage is so beautiful,” says Beker. The creative director stuck to an array of traditional Chanel tweed jackets as well as bursting floral prints and feathers, which were showcased on his extravagant runway resembling the gardens of Versailles.
“McCartney can do clothes that are modern and real and durable and can help you get through your life,” says Beker. “There’s an air of sensuality and femininity.” Sexy, smart and fruity is what the spring and summer collection is all about. The collection ranges from lighthearted orange and lemon prints to pearly neutrals and a black contrast that shines from sleek halter dresses, blazers and calf-length dresses and skirts with thigh-high slits.
“Smart and timeless,” says Beker about the Valentino collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. It featured dotted beige organza, evening gowns with layers of tulle and chiffon in ivory, cocoa and cinnamon, and casual pale blue denim.
Photos courtesy Hudsons Bay Company