I’ve wanted to write to you for a very long time. Sorry it’s taken so long. Things have been busy. But on the occasion of the Media Award in Honour of Eugenia Sheppard that you are to be awarded at the CFDA Awards on Monday, it felt like the perfect time.
The other day, fellow Canadian Tommy Ton was posting episodes of your Canadian TV show Fashion File on his Facebook page. “God I miss Fashion File,” he wrote. “This show was everything to me growing up.” A friend of Tommy’s responded, saying Tim Blanks was his “teen idol besides Dylan McKay,” the heartthrob from 1990s mega-show 90210.
But they weren’t your biggest fans — that was me!
Growing up, I obsessively tracked a number of creative industries. I would go into the record store on weekends and read the latest issue of Billboard magazine to learn which of my favourite artists had hit number one on the Hot 100 — and how many records they had sold to get there. I was equally obsessed with Nielsen television ratings too. I wanted to track NBC’s domination of Thursday nights with its “Must See TV” line up that, over the years, included “The Cosby Show,” “Seinfeld,” “ER,” “Family Ties,” “Cheers,” “Friends,” and “Will & Grace.”
For a young kid growing up far away from the world’s fashion capitals, there was no Nielsen or Billboard for fashion. But there was you! When Fashion File — produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from 1989 to 2006 — came on, it brought your energy and smart analysis from the epicentres of London, Paris and New York straight to my living room, far from the runways, in Calgary, Canada.
There you were, talking to me about the Spring 1991 collection by rising Italian designer Gianni Versace who focused on “hard edgy sex with colours and shapes that assaulted the eye, and left little to the imagination” because he didn’t have the time for the “mundane monotony of good taste,” or speaking to then new model Liya Kebede, challenging the image of Ethiopia that, for my generation, was sadly defined by the famine crises of the 1980s.
My favourite Fashion File episodes were called ‘Masters of Style’ — in-depth conversations with designers like Alexander McQueen and Valentino that enabled viewers to see behind the surface of the fashion industry and learn what made these creative geniuses tick. Today, those documentaries are as interesting and insightful as ever.
Each year, I show the John Galliano episode to my students at Central Saint Martins, and each year the looks on their faces afterwards remind me of what it was like to be a Canadian kid transported to a fascinating, far away world that you opened up to me and thousands of other young people yearning to learn about the fashion industry in over 100 countries around the world.
Today, if BoF offers a perspective on the fashion business that goes beyond gossip and glamour, it’s partly because my first window into the world of fashion came from you. You set a very high standard for telling the amazing stories that emanate from this marvellous global industry.
We salute you Tim and congratulate you on this long overdue recognition of your impact on fashion, media and young people everywhere.
Your biggest fan, Imran