Summary by: Jeanne Beker
Date Published: April 13, 2012
Certain days will be etched on our hearts and minds forever.
One of the most memorable for me was the day I walked through the doors of the old Citytv building on Queen St. E., 27 years ago, and saw dozens of models hanging around the lobby.
They were there for a casting call for a new show about fashion. Citytv wanted a fashion veejay to host the pilot of a fashion video show-there were to be no talking-head designers, esoteric profiles or analysis of collections, just a program about the sexiness of style and the beat of this intriguing scene that was wildly underexposed.
Looking for the next big thing, I made my case to the station manager, pleading with him to allow me, a six-year veteran of TV's music and entertainment scene, to host.
I had interviewed countless rock stars, and understood the theatricality of style and entertainment value of the larger-than-life personalities in the fashion world. There was potential here. We could take fashion TV beyond slick, superficial voyeurism and instead explore characters and creative processes.
It took a bit of fast talking, but I got the green light, and in 1985, together with executive Marcia Martin and the talented producer Jay Levine, we launched Fashion Television. It would be the most colourful ride of my life.
It's difficult to fathom, now that fashion has become a media circus, but in those first years, we were one of just two camera crews backstage at runway shows.
The other, CNN's Style with Elsa Klensch, was a no-nonsense production that ran from 1980 to 2000. It took fashion very seriously, asking questions like "Why beige?" Fashion Television's approach was much more irreverent.
We were in that world but not of it, strangers in a strange land, never too esoteric. We were delighted to call our program "fashion for the uninitiated" and I took great pleasure in being a tour guide for viewers. It was also our mandate to report on design, photography, art and architecture-all subjects that are visually stimulating and intellectually fascinating.
Before long, Fashion Television got tongues wagging.
The weekly series went into wide international syndication, appearing in more than 130 countries. It was a hit, and as our credibility increased, so did our access.
For me, it was a brilliant entrée into the world of the most creative visionaries on the planet. With my FT microphone and natural chutzpah, I could push through any scrum to get the coveted sound bites that make great TV. But I also gained the trust of designers, which led to exclusive interviews with the crème de la crème. Our conversations were fantastic. They discussed hopes and fears and dreams and drive - much more than hemlines and silhouettes.
The greatest lesson is that these so-called geniuses are as human and vulnerable as the rest of us.
Our show became a habit for many viewers. Age didn't matter; our subject had cross-generational appeal. Mothers and daughters and fathers and sons all watched together. Maybe it's because FT was about people first and foremost: who they were, the way they saw the world and the way they moved through it.
I can't tell you how many times people-people now working in fashion's trenches, including some of the world's hottest talents-told me Fashion Television inspired them to make their dreams come true.
But one of the most exhilarating things for me is that the series was produced right here in Toronto, my own backyard.
We travelled the world, but always came home to tell our stories. The sanity of living in this magnificent country, in this fantastic city, grounded me, humbled me and allowed us to see the forest for the trees.
Producer Howard Brull's brilliant music choices, editor Luke McCarty's masterful cuts, the best shooters in the business and clever segment producers made Fashion Television a joy to work on and watch.
The passion of our creative team was unmatched. We lived and breathed FT. And in the early years, before extended maternity leave, I prayed my baby daughters would understand why I took only a few weeks off after they were born. There were collections to be covered, trails to be blazed. It seemed like important work at the time and I had to be a part of it.
Now, almost a half a lifetime later, I know I made the right decision. In the process, I built a strong bond with viewers and a personal brand all my own.
I lost my beloved dog Beau earlier this year. He had been with me for 13 years, teaching me about love, devotion and humanity, as all our cherished pets do. I was devastated. But the survivor in me went out, got a beautiful new puppy - Gus - and fell in love all over again.
The whole experience seems like a metaphor now, and it brought this message home: Life is about moving on.
As Karl Lagerfeld, one of my most revered style mentors, always says, "Never look back."
We have to focus on the new, the next, the future. It's time to dream new dreams, to take style coverage to new heights.
There's a new generation to inspire and a new era to celebrate.
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