Q&A With Jeanne Beker & Jay Manuel

Q&A With Jeanne Beker & Jay Manuel

You can never get better advice than from those who have lived it first hand.  One of my absolute favourite parts of my job is the access I get to meeting and picking key influencers in the fashion world’s brains.  These are the people who can give first hand insight into the fashion industry, how it’s changing, and more ways those with experience and passion can get involved, and essentially evolved.

This past Festival Mode & Design, I was able to sit down with the irreplaceable Jeanne Beker, while Elle shot Mr. Jay Manuel a quick interview session backstage during his Attitude presentation.  I have transcribed the interview word for word – unedited.  Enjoy it raw.

Robyn Speaks Jeanne…

RC: Coming from Canada, do you think that’s something that has helped you, or held you back in your career (in the fashion industry)?

JB: “Well, it shouldn’t be the thing that holds you back, but it’s not necessarily a great springboard to the international world.  Although it can be a great place to hone your skills (to some degree) and get training, but if you really want a voice on the international world stage of fashion, you have to… I mean look at Dean and Dan, they were guys, they came from Toronto, they worked away, they worked upwards for awhile, did their own thing, and they left for Milan.  You have to take chances.  Sometimes I’m afraid that not all Canadians are necessarily as adventurous.  Were not as aggressive – were a gentle people (which is a beautiful thing), we don’t want to be in your face or pushy.  In fashion, you have to be – in anything really to some degree.  People really have to take a leap sometimes and explore the world outside.  Canada has some great things to offer, a wonderful place to hone your skills, but sometimes it can limit you.  I, on the other hand lived in Paris in the seventies, went to acting school in New York, but my career happened here, and I was very lucky that I got to travel all over the world for my career.  These days, I think that the nature of the business is changing, and I don’t think people are going to want to spend the money to send their people all over the world.  It’s easier to just communicate on Skype or something, where everyone stays in their own place and you all communicate in cyber space or somewhere.  You know it’s a very different kind of world, so my career was very enigmatic.  I get a lot of young women saying “oooh I want your job, I want your career”, but it’s over in that way.  I’m not saying I’m over, my career – I see it myself evolving into something else (which I’m really happy I’m prepared to embrace).  People have to start thinking about how are they going to take fashion coverage and fashion reporting to the next level.  I did a show for twenty seven years, we were the first people to do it, and it was time for it to now move into something else – which we are going to do (we are working on something else in the new year).  For now, this way of doing things – television has changed, the industry has changed.”

RC: Everybody has that New York City dream of going there and making it.  The perspectives and mentality there is completely different from here…

JB: “I think it’s good (if you’re serious), whether you’re a fashion writer, fashion event planner, certainly a fashion show producer or a designer… You know, going to rub shoulders with some of those people and start to make connections is a very good place.  That’s you know, a really good hub.  I think for Canada, this is pretty up there (Festival Mode & Design).  Montreal, Toronto, it’s a great place to be. If you’re really thinking it’s time to spread your wings, it might not be a bad idea to try to test the waters there – even just for the educational aspect.”

RC: What would you say, in the fashion industry, is something that is absolutely not tolerated (on any level)?

JB: “Well I can’t say bullshit, cause bullshit is tolerated all the time!  What’s not tolerated?  That’s a very, very, very good question.  I’ll say brutal honesty is not always tolerated (sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not).  If a critic is brutally honest, they could get banned from a show, and you know fashion access is everything.  So some people don’t want to know the truth, they don’t want to hear it… it’s a business that has a lot to do with artifice and superficiality unfortunately, and it has been a challenge sometimes.  You know we started this conversation off  and you were so kind to say to me that “I find you to be so honest”, and I try to be, but sometimes it’s not that easy.”

Elle Speaks Jay… (see his picture above for an outfit visual)

EJ: Who are you wearing?

JM: “I’m actually wearing a suit that I got a very long time ago, it’s a vintage Yves Saint Laurent suit.  I’m wearing it because A) it’s linen and it’s so hot, but to me this symbolizes one of the key silhouettes for my collection that I’ve done for the last three seasons.  The women’s collection is this strong silhouette in terms of fit and flare.  I think it’s one of the most universally flattering silhouettes on women, and because we feature the size range from zero to eighteen I’ve been getting letters from women who are like a size sixteen saying “I’ve never walked in and bought a suit off the rack, and I did, and I wore it to work, and I looked great”.  That to me, means we accomplished something.  That’s why I’m wearing this silhouette, because it reminds me of the collection.”

EJ: What’s your favourite thing to eat in Montreal?

JM: “Oh my gosh, in Montreal?  To be honest with you, I wouldn’t necessarily be having it tonight, but I’m definitely a poutine person.  Not every day – portion control… but when it’s time to have it, I go for it.”

Have a beautiful week!


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