As the host of Fashion Television (FT), Jeanne Beker has spent the last 27 years as a indispensable arbiter of fashion for those who wouldn’t otherwise enjoy access to the once-mysterious world of exquisite clothing. While it now may seem impossible to escape the glamourous images of models sauntering down the Parisian runways in the latest designer garments, in a pre-internet context, Beker’s work was truly revolutionary.
The consummate philanthropist, we recently had the opportunity to meet the TV personality, writer, and designer at an afternoon tea party to benefit Dress for Success Toronto, a non-profit organization which provides economic independence and professional attire to disadvantaged women. Beker, in partnership with her clothing line EDIT for the Hudson’s Bay Company, was able to raise $50,000 for the organization. Following the cheque presentation, we spoke with the industry icon about her charity work, her legacy, and the future of FT.
Beker makes no pretences about the inherent frivolity of her chosen industry. However, the host’s experiences seem to have contributed to her penchant for charity work. “For so many of us it’s like an embarrassment of riches,” Beker reflects with a grin. “I never thought that fashion was brain surgery, or anything that was necessarily gonna save the world,” she continues, “but you certainly can empower people through fashion and it has some great transformational qualities and it’s great to see them at play here.”
We really like that Dress for Success focuses on empowerment rather than distributing handouts, a sentiment which Beker apparently seems to share. “You see these gals come in here and just really be transformed through the power of fashion” explains Beker, “to get out there in the workforce and really feel good about themselves, and rebuild their broken lives. It really it a great thing.”
After receiving word that Fashion Television would cease production in 2012 after 27 years, there was a collective sense of devastation among Beker’s loyal coterie of fans (ourselves included). However, Beker insists the end of Fashion Television is really the beginning of exciting changes in the way she plans on documenting fashion on television.
“The new phase of fashion on television, for me at Bell Media is actually on the drawing boards now, so we will be coming back at you with something pretty fabulous probably in the new year,” she says, with an almost intentional air of secrecy. When pressed for details, the host elaborates, slightly, offering that, “it’ll be something very multimedia, let’s say, very multi-platform.” Beyond that, it seems as though we will have to endure the painfully long wait until 2012 to see what Beker has up her chic sleeve.
On of the things we really love about Beker is her astounding ability to stay grounded despite regularly rubbing fashionable shoulders with virtually every industry heavyweight, from Karl Lagerfeld, to the late Alexander McQueen. On her legacy, the host comes across thankful more than anything else. “It’s just been an absolute joy and a privilege to have been able to turn so many people on to the wonders of fashion, and to have been able to open a window onto that glamorous world at a time when nobody really knew much about it,” says Beker. “In those days, when we started, we were just sort of getting our foot in the door, and I think we really did end up turning a whole generation of kids onto just how fabulous fashion truly can be.”
- James Lavapie
(event images courtesy Brill Communications / Jeanne Beker image courtesy Fashion Television)