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Thursday, March 27, 2014

FAB Exclusive: Interview with Fashion Television's Jeanne Beker

jeanne beker shoe

She is an international fashion icon, but Jeanne Beker was special to me being a hometown girl in Toronto.  My high school years were spent watching Fashion Television on Saturday night.   Since I left Toronto 20 years ago, Jeanne has turned Fashion Television into a 24/7 television channel, writes in depth fashion editorials for the Toronto Star, created her own clothing line and now launched an exclusive footwear collection with The Shoe Company over Toronto fashion week.

Jeanne Beker's program inspired me to enter the fashion industry. (My parents were nice enough to tape the show on VHS and mail the tapes to me at Parsons.  It was a treat to have a chance to chat about shoe design, shopping and a cause that really matters to her:

Ms. Fabulous: Having interviewed the most accomplished fashion icons over the years, what were the most valuable tips you learned from them when it came time to build fashion ventures of your own?

Jeanne Beker: I learned about the importance of having a distinctive point of view, and a strong consideration for the customer.  Most of the people I interviewed during my years on Fashion Television were designers, of course. But very few  seemed overly concerned all with the business of the business.  That's because the most successful ones were aligned with sharp business managers, and therefore  didn't have to worry about those particular nuts and bolts. So, in a sense, I guess you could say that I learned how important it is to  really stick to what you know. I'm an editor, and a creative director, but certainly not a designer. In building my own fashion brand, I try to make sure that I'm surrounded by people who really respect and understand what my brand stands for.  I make sure I have the right design talent to work with, and the right business partners who can share my vision and help me materialize my dreams. It's all a very symbiotic relationship, and at the end of the day, success depends on the right synergies. 

Ms. F: Who are your personal favorites of shoe designers?  Did they inspire you in this collaboration?

J. B.: I adore theatrics, and dramatic fashion. And of course, I love Christian Louboutin, Gianvito Rossi, and Rupert Sanderson.... I've also indulged in my fair share of Jimmy Choos and those from Alexander McQueen!  And I  appreciate the charm and whimsy of Charlotte Olympia. In the past, I've lusted over shoes from   Prada's, Tom Ford's, and YSL's  collections. But for this collaboration, I had to keep some of those passions and the extravagance in check and think about what my customer would really want--shoes that would not only appeal, but be practical for her. I wanted to present her with a kind of capsule collection of a variety of shoe styles that would really take her though the different paces of her life throughout the season--a shoe for every occasion.  We came up with nine disparate styles. 

Ms. F: How much involvement did you have in the actual design process?  

J. B.: I acted as an editor, as I do with my apparel line (EDIT by Jeanne Beker). We had conversations about the kinds of shoes I wanted in the collection, and then a variety of style samples were presented to me.  I tweaked them, and together, we worked on coming up with great shoes that we felt would have mass appeal--but only shoes that I myself would want to wear, of course!

jeanne beker shoes
Ms. F: How were the styles in this collection chosen?  Did they represent specific lifestyle needs or outfits to be paired with?

J. B.: I thought about going on a week-long trip, with a variety of occasions to dress for, both work and pleasure.  And I thought about the different outfits I'd want to take, and the different sorts of shoes I'd need to carry me through my time away!  These are the shoes I'd pack in my suitcase.... 

Ms. F: How was Dress for Success chosen as the organization to benefit from the red pump?  Why is it important for people to support them?

J. B.: When it comes to  supporting a cause, especially through my fashion and shoe lines, Dress for Success is a natural for me: The organization is about empowerment through fashion, about putting one's best foot forward, and about fashion's ability to transform.  It's such a good feeling to know that by purchasing a particular pair of shoes, less fortunate women will be helped to get back on track, and make something of their lives. Dress for Success stands for the spirit of sisterhood, and I think it's wonderful that fashion can not only bring women together, but actually be a conduit for enabling them to help each other.  

Ms. F: Thank you Jeanne!

Jeanne Beker's collection for The Shoe Company is available across stores all over Canada.  
Photos by David TW Leung

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