WHO IS JOEY O’NEIL?

“Just Joey.” That’s the answer I received when I asked the elusive Joey O’Neil, daughter of Canadian fashion icon, Jeanne Beker, to describe herself.
by JENNIFER FREES

It was a hot summer day when I sat down with 18-year-old Joey and her
mother at a coffee shop in downtown Toronto. Arriving fifteen minutes late—I mistakenly went to the wrong Starbucks (to be fair, there were three on the corner we had identified as our meeting place). Joey greeted my apologetic arrival by whipping out a massive rainbow-coloured lollipop (the kind your mother told you would certainly rot your teeth when you were a kid) and exclaiming: “Don’t worry! Here, we grabbed this for you at the candy store around the corner. The perfect summer accessory!”

Ten minutes into our coffee date I no longer found it hard to believe that Joey would deem a lollipop an accessory. Truly an original, Joey generally shuns big labels in favour of offbeat, vintage pieces and often wears items that most wouldn’t consider day-clothes at all. “For my prom, I custom designed my dress with [Canadian designer] Joeffer Caoc. It was perfect once I’d added some fairy wings to my back,” she adds. While she occasionally raids her mom’s enviable eight closets, which are full of the finest designs the fashion world has to offer, she counts among her favourite items a silver ring in the shape of a boom box from Montreal designer Roadkill (“Oh, they have the best silver stuff, with dead bunnies and skulls!”), Converse chucks which she labeled “right” and “left,” cowboy shirts and an old cheerleading uniform from the 1960s.

“For me, style isn’t about trends,” she says. “Trends and fashion are a business; style comes from within. I really embrace individuality when it comes to dressing.” Although she believes that clothes should be viewed as a function of life, Joey also thinks girls should be true to themselves, have fun and enjoy getting dressed in the morning. “If I feel like wearing a tutu to school, I’m going to wear a tutu to school.”

Joey’s enthusiasm for having fun with clothes is contagious. The morning after our meeting, I woke up and went to my closet. Spotting a crazy silver sequin bolero jacket from the tenth grade tossed in the corner, I thought about how fun it would be to wear it to my corporate office with skinny jeans and electric pink four-inch spike heels. So I did.

Photographed by Zoë Bridgman at 69 Vintage, 1100 Queen St. W., Toronto