FASHION & THE PANDEMIC: CAN IT MAKE A GLAMOUROUS COMEBACK? WF SPEAKS TO THE ‘OG FASHION INFLUENCER JEANNE BEKER.
Who doesn’t love fashion? Whether your inspiration comes from the catwalks of Milan or the cool streets of London, there has been a definitive shift in everyone’s love affair with fashion during this pandemic. For many, the value of those sought after luxury items disappeared overnight in exchange for stylish sweats and loungewear.
A fashion icon in her own right, Jeanne Beker has spent decades interviewing fashion giants from Calvin Klein to Karl Lagerfeld. She’s reliving and sharing these incredible anecdotes from her storied career in a new podcast entitled, BEYOND Style Matters, with Jeanne Beker. The nostalgia is real! WF was lucky enough to chat with Beker about all things fashion in the era of COVID-19.
WF: You really are the ‘original fashion influencer,’ and spent decades reporting and bringing the most glamourous catwalk experiences into everyone’s home before it became a cool industry that’s blown up on social media. What changes and shifts have you noticed in the world of fashion?
JB: The great players, the iconic larger than life players, are still creating but things have changed so much and lost its luster for me a little. That’s why it’s so wonderful to reminisce on the podcast and reflect back on an era where fashion was just exploding. Now, it feels like a lot of the magic has dissipated.
WF: The pandemic shifted my personal relationship with fashion in an unexpected way, and I’m not sure that my love affair will ever resume. Do you think we’ll get back there?
JB: There’s no way this hasn’t changed who we are to some degree. That being said, I do believe in the power of fashion to make us feel good about ourselves, to transform ourselves, as a form of communication. I don’t think we are ever going to shun it, but rather, understand that less is more and we don’t need as much. I think we can again appreciate the artistry of fashion, the artisanal work, that it’s so precious.
WF: Pre-COVID, there was a sense that fashion, especially through the lens of social media was becoming gluttonous. Growing up, the ultimate fashion goal always seemed to get that Chanel bag or the evasive Birkin. In the last few years, it’s felt more about how many can you accumulate, rather than making the dream a reality. Is that a product of technology and do you think COVID will revert us to a simpler time?
JB: We live in a time, especially in this socio-economic climate, and in light of the environmental state of the climate, where it has become a kind of scene, one of excess. In a way, this kind of had to happen. It couldn’t have gone on forever. But, I do believe the cream does rise to the top and the really great stuff will survive. We don’t have many places to go, but we still want to look good. You know, hope springs eternal that we will get back to social situations.
WF: How we shop was already evolving, but the pandemic feels like we hit fast forward.
JB: What’s happening in retail, it’s true. The pandemic has been a nail in the coffin for the brick and mortar business. People don’t want to be out shopping and cruising racks of clothes. I think it was destined to go online and that has just exploded.
WF: You recently chatted with Kim Cattrall on your podcast. You both talk about prioritizing your life and only doing things that are meaningful to you in this new phase of your life, and more importantly, you proudly share your age (68) with your listeners. Was that a hard thing to do?
JB: Anyone who isn’t proud to share their age is guilty of ageism. It’s mean spirited and an unhealthy societal ill that needs to be addressed and worked on. We really have to get over it!
WF: Agreed! You’ve raised two incredibly independent and artistic daughters, what advice do you give them?
JB: I rarely give them advice! I didn’t always listen to my parents advice either. It’s more about how I’ve raised them which is to be fearless and tenacious. I learned that from my parents, who were holocaust survivors. They taught me to have an open heart and an open mind, to be resilient and get over yourself. And the number one piece of advice I received from them and would share right now, is to BE KIND! I remember asking Paul McCartney once what the most important lesson he could teach his kids, and he said kindness. Years later, when I asked Stella (McCartney) the greatest lesson her parents ever taught her, she said kindness. Kindness and compassion is the most basic thing. We just have to preach it and practice it!
WF: We couldn’t agree more Jeanne! Cheers to kindness and compassion sisters!
Having started her professional show biz career at the age of 16, Jeanne Beker studied acting in New York and mime in Paris before moving to St. John’s Newfoundland in 1975 to cover arts for CBC radio. Three years later, she landed a job at Toronto’s CHUM radio, and in 1979, ...helped launch the ground-breaking series, The New Music, on CITY TV, which she co-hosted for 6 years. A founding member of MuchMusic, Jeanne continued to trail blaze and in 1985, launched the legendary Fashion Television, which she presented in over 130 countries for 27 years. A seasoned newspaper columnist and features writer, Jeanne was editor-in-chief of FQ and SIR magazines from 2003 to 2008, has authored five books and is a frequent keynote speaker and guest on myriad lifestyle shows. She’s been at the creative helm of numerous fashion lines under her own eponymous label, and since 2015, has been Style Editor for The Shopping Channel, where she currently hosts the series “Style Matters”. Active with several charitable organizations, she has received honorary doctorates from St. Mary’s University and OCAD University, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Special Achievement Award from the Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television and a Crystal Award from Toronto Women in Film and Television. Jeanne was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Hall of Legends in 2015 and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2016. In 2014, she was named to the Order of Canada.