A Long Overdue Letter to Tim Blanks

BoF’s editor-in-chief Imran Amed salutes fellow Canadian Tim Blanks on the occasion of the Media Award in Honour of Eugenia Sheppard that Blanks is set to receive at the CFDA Awards on Monday evening.

Dear Tim,

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

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  1. Fashion File was shown in Hong Kong too. I remember the “Masters of Style”: Galliano, McQueen, Valentino, and don’t forget those of Michael Kors, and Dolce & Gabbana!!!

    Dominic lam from Tours, Centre, France
  2. Ohh my I know the feeling Imran! Before I knew his name, I knew his voice due to tapped (VHS Style) fashion specials that where Mr. Blanks was host, narrator, and interviewer, doing all three seamlessly. Overdue for an award for Mr.Blanks who is capable of making this cut-throat industry sound like a well-dressed fantasy for all to enjoy with his clever, sharp delivery of words and proper worldly accent.

    Kalyca Romeo from Brooklyn, NY, United States
  3. Incidentally, ‘Masters of Style’ is available for free on hulu.com. I recently watched the series for the first time, and it is indeed still an interesting and relevant viewing experience.

    Casey from Huntington Beach, CA, United States
  4. Dear Imran
    been subscribed and reading BoF for a year or so. Everything it’s always very interesting and deeply well treated information but I must say about this “overdue letter” my hands are down and can’t be more agree with you and the feeling of watching Tim Blanks in fashion file in the early 2000. Dreaming and learning at the same time. It was also my first approach to fashion.


    Sergio Cortés from Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  5. Bravo, Imran. I grew up in a relatively small town in North Queensland, Australia, and I love hearing about others’ similarly rural, yet fashion obsessed, childhood / teenage stories. I am now studying fashion design and business in a capital city, and I feel as though I am perhaps more educated and knowledge hungry in the economics and academia of fashion than most others around me.. Possibly because I’ve had to fight for any acquisition of knowledge or beautiful clothes. When you are not brought up around the best boutiques and fashion crowd, I believe you approach it differently. You have to want it more.
    Please keep sharing your thoughts and writing.

    Rachel from Australia
  6. I could not agree more. When I first met Tim as a cameraman in Fashion, he was helpful, encouraging, and incisive. Who’s friendly manner and can do attitude is only surpassed by his knowledge of the Industry.

    John Talamini from Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
  7. Wow! I feel the same, Imran. I was also a teenager in the 90′s, in Brazil and FashionFile was broadcasted on E! It opened my eyes to so many things… And Tim was so serious in his analysis, he made fashion a serious issue. It was great!

    Mirela from Rio De Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  8. Dear Imran
    Nice letter – and thank you for acknowledging Canada’s contribution to fashion. Just would like to add that Fashion File was after the groundbreaking Fashion Television hosted by Canadian fashion doyenne Jeanne Beker. It was THE pioneering show (1985) that set the stage and opened up the international fashion world to a world wide television audience. Lets hope the corporate owners of all these programmes will digitize then and put them on line for all to discover, learn from and enjoy.
    Alexandra Palmer, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada

    Alexandra Palmer from Toronto, ON, Canada
  9. Count me as another 90′s teen! I remember watching Fashion File on late night cable here in the US (VH-1, maybe?). I still love Tim Blanks and how he has a sense of humor and is so frank and honest about the industry. I used to watch Fashion File along with Fashion TV and Style with Elsa Klensch. Today’s fashion coverage on TV doesn’t even compare (Fashion Police…really?)

    Stacey from Philadelphia, PA, United States
  10. Tim Blanks was the third person in my marriage.Both my husband and i were dedicated viewers of Fashion File every week. From the theme music to Tims voice they were part of our househo
    ld. We would not miss an episode and his insight into the designers and fashion industry were invaluable to me, a young fashion design student at the time. Congratulations Tim. No one deserves it more.

    caron garvey from Saskatoon, SK, Canada
  11. Tim Blanks is actually a NEW ZEALANDER – not Canadian.

    charlotte from Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  12. Tim Blanks and Fashion File was my everything growing up.
    I still find it hard to put in words how much it really and truly affected me and my current love of fashion and it’s ever changing world.

    Kiwi from Etobicoke, ON, Canada