In a business that prides itself on changing every three seconds, it’s a little difficult for young rung climbers like us to believe that there are people in the fashion industry who have been loved and respected longer than we’ve been alive. And Jeanne Beker (Canada’s way cooler answer to Elsa Klensch), who started Fashion Television in 1985, has been in the game — and has been running the game — for 25 years.
This Sunday she’ll celebrate that august anniversary with “an hour-long, no-lowlights special” that will air on CTV, and we wish we could watch it.
If you do not enjoy the distinct pleasure of being a Canadian citizen, perhaps Beker’s significance is lost on you. What she started as a show has grown into a television network that’s watched around the world, and it serves as a platform for some of the best fashion journalism television has to offer.
And along the way, Beker has had some interesting moments with the industry’s heavy hitters. A few select highlights from her interview with Eye Weekly:
1986: Beker meets some kid named Marc Jacobs. “I got this call from my friend who had started a little PR company here, with Barbara Atkin [of Holt Renfrew]. She said, ‘Jeanne, you’ve got to come down and meet this kid Marc Jacobs.’ He had hair down to his elbows. Really, a baby. He’d just come out of fashion school and he came to Toronto… He was not MARC JACOBS as we know him today, but he was very adorable and I thought, ‘wow.’”
2006: Alexander McQueen (RIP) receives an honoury degree in San Francisco, and Beker — first a supporter of his, then a friend — is there. “We had a great dinner in San Francisco that had nothing to do with cameras. Just people. I’d been watching his career from the beginning, so we knew each other pretty well. He was a brilliant intellectual statesman. A beautiful man. And we had birthdays two days apart, so we always had that bond. We were both Pisces, fishes swimming in two different directions, kind of confused but sensitive souls.”
2009: At Paris Fashion Week, Beker “risks her life” to get the first backstage interview with… LiLo? “So Lindsay Lohan had that little episode with Ungaro [she was creative director for one ugly season], and the media hype backstage was insane. I was the first one to get her because I risked my life through a mad crowd of people. At that moment, you know, I loved her! In retrospect, though, what a disaster. Really not a great time for the industry.”
2009: FT airs an exclusive interview with one of Beker’s all-time favourite subjects, Karl Lagerfeld. “Lagerfeld is funny — he’s brilliant, he’s like a philosopher. He’s always giving advice. ‘Never be bored with yourself,’ he says. Keep looking for the next big thing. And I still feel like I’m doing that.”
Twenty five years and still going strong, with no sign of stopping any time soon. Her FT profile says she’s working on two books to be released next year. We’re going to see if we can’t get our hands on that program after all, to see if we can’t figure out how to stay in fashion for so long.