TIFF SPECIAL: Dressing daggers, part 2

Story by Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour and Glowerers for The Style Notebook during TIFF. Today: Celebrating the inimitable Jeanne Beker.

As of today, our televisions are peopled by a shiny perky army of celebrity presenters, chirpily presenting celebrities. I often can’t tell them apart, so pleasant, nondescript—well, nice looking—and even of tone are they.

They all follow in the footsteps of, and don’t hold a candle to, the woman who is our real cultural ambassador, the woman who introduces us to famous people and us to them: Jeanne Beker. Who is darn well tremendous looking, just not in that talking head kind of a way.

And though I’m a newbie to this spontaneous medium, I hope there is room between the ventilating and the fanning for some old-fashioned earnest appreciation. For I have tremendous admiration of and respect for Jeanne Beker, the hardest working woman in the business. She has been on-air since 1985, first at New Music where she belied the mold of bubbleheaded VJ with her feisty personality and gravitas. Yes, I said gravitas. Call her questions air-balls, call her fawning and you would be missing the target by a mile.

Jeanne has helmed FT for a quarter decade, along with innumerable newspaper, magazine and radio gigs, a relentless schedule of hosting duties at charitable events where she is unfailingly gracious no matter how tired a (divorced) single mum she ever was. Then there are the TV specials, shifts filling in on the anchor desk, and a stint filing for MovieTelevision—not to mention her tireless support of the Canadian fashion industry. Others dazzled by the lights of Milan and New York have forgotten their homeland; never Jeanne.

The great thing about Jeanne is that her voice—the pitch, the sway, how she does voice-over—is how she talks and how she writes. It is why she clicks: There is a through-and-through authenticity to her style. Watch other hosts, they follow a time-honoured formula of erasing their own personality. Their goal is to make it look easy.

Jeanne’s art is that you see the brass tacks. She hustles, she pushes her way through the throng. That is fashion! She fits!

And what she does is damned hard: Even as the senior vet among the television crews of the world, even beloved by all the players, she phones nothing in. Look, I’ve interviewed Karl Lagerfeld, to use the most extreme example in the business, and he makes you sweat blood. The famously taciturn Tuton breaks into a beam with Ms. Beker.

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TIFF SPECIAL: Dressing daggers, part 1

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Welcome Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour (and Glowerers) for The Style Notebook during TIFF. First post: On last night’s FashionTelevision anniversary party.

Jeanne Beker ascended the glass podium and there were audible gasps from the fashion/journalism veterans around me. She. Looks. Fan. Tastic.

She does: All shimmering in a black sequin dress showing off toned and well—why beat around the bush—gorgeously thin gams and arms. Model thin.
”Herbal Magic, I heard she did Herbal Magic,” said a fashion director beside me. “No way, the Elizabeth Manley thing? She doesn’t look like that!” Said the retail titan.

It was Jeanne’s party and she rocked it. Tuesday night’s 25th anniversary bash for FashionTelevision launched the season, and the unofficial start of TIFF for the city’s media and fashion set.
Yes, it was the first day of school (or the night before the first day for private school mums), but the schedule is competing with not only New York Fashion Week, but Rosh Hashanah and, of course, the elephant in the city, TIFF.

And people dressed quite decadently, considering the 7 to 10 call time. The standout for me was the reigning social queen Catherine Nugent who wore an haute couture Hanae Mori custom cream silk tuxedo. Ballsy as hell in a room with red wine on trays. “That’s life,” was her response as a pair of young men in some leiderhosen-like arrangements lurched by sloshing their grape juice.

Flare editrix Lisa Tant also surpassed in a grand-shouldered Greta Constantine black satin cloaklet.
I personally grooved on Hermès PR director Kate Chartrand in her customary towering heels and crisp cropped grey pants with a tough-ass set of chains on the pocket.
Suzanne Boyd was regal in embroidered leather, and retired to the patio for air in the dense throng.
Bernadette Morra wore a sleek blue sheath and her new role as official FASHION mag editor very well.

This crowd for me was a trippy reunion.

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SOME LOOKS WE LIKED: At the Thompson Hotel opening

Shenae Grimes, 90210 star (and Degrassi alum), at Thursday night’s opening of the Thompson Hotel. We’ll have party analysis for you soon, but in the meantime, click through for our favourite looks of the night. All photography courtesy of George Pimentel.

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Critical conversations: Robin Givhan & Jeanne Beker

Robin Givhan, the fashion writer for The Washington Post, and the only style journalist to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

When power journalists Robin Givhan and Jeanne Beker gathered for “a conversation” as part of the new Hot Docs Critical Mass speaker series, no one was quite sure what to expect. Since it was part of a documentary festival, I secretly hoped we’d discuss the underlying themes of The September Issue and its spawning of a creative director turned vedette, the lovable Valentino and his personal relationships in The Last Emperor, and the cultural significance of Isaac Mizrahi’s Unzipped documentary (there is some, I promise).

Side by side, the two industry vets sat talking shop about everything from bloggers (“God bless the bloggers,” praised Givhan) to their shared love of McQueen (“His shows were always, always a highlight,” said Beker). Instantly, you could tell that the two aren’t rivals, but rather foils to one another. In one corner, you’ve got brassy Beker with her scene-stealing smile and an impressive number of years in the biz, and, in the other, you’ve got gracious Givhan, a soft-spoken, unassuming fashion reporter; the rare breed that’s less “Wear this with that” and more “What does this actually say about that?”

“I’ve always kept fashion at arm’s length,” noted Givhan when asked how and why she got into the industry.  In fact, one of the first things she said to her fashion followers was, “I remind people I work in journalism, not fashion.” A woman after my own heart, it’s instantly evident that she has the X factor.

But does she have the “It” factor?

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CONTEST!

Robin Givhan, the fashion editor for The Washington Post, is one of the most interesting style writers in the world. (She’s also the only journalist to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fashion criticism.) This Friday, May 7, Robin will be in conversation with Jeanne Beker, as part of Hot Docs’s new Critical Mass speaker series.

The Style Notebook has four tickets to give away! (The news made us feel as giddy as Robin Tatt and Suzy Parker, above, in Richard Avedon’s iconic photo.)

To enter, send an email with the subject “Fashion Talk” to contests@torontoist.com by 3 p.m. tomorrow. More details on the talk are here; read Robin Givhan’s column “Size of the Model vs. Size of the Customer” here. And good luck!