By Jeanne Beker
Portrait Photography by Natasha Gerschon
Photography by Enzo Melana, Helicopix Inc.
Styled by Jenna Bitove-Naumovich
One starry night in June 2014, at a magical fundraiser for Kleinburg, Ont.’s McMichael Canadian Art Collection called “The Moonlight Gala,” I met a beautiful, bubbly young woman named Jennifer Lipkowitz. While we chatted, she pitched me on the idea of being featured in the glossy decor magazine she worked with at the time. I was impressed with her spunk and the chic publication. It wasn’t long before I’d happily opened my home up to them for a cover feature.
Fast-forward a few years. Th e publishing company where Jennifer had worked for a decade was acquired by new ownership, but she wasn’t done with the magazine world. In fact, she aspired to launch her own glamourous publication, though she knew it wouldn’t be easy. Still, the headstrong mom of two young kids was determined. It wasn’t long before she joined forces with a strapping, handsome guy named Anthony Sirianni (who had a young child of his own), who brought a wealth of management experience to the table. Together, Jennifer and Anthony were unstoppable: They were passion personified, and in late-2018, they proudly gave birth to the first issue of this marvellous magazine. Since their successful launch, the brand has grown by leaps and bounds. Eyepopping print issues aside, Jennifer and Anthony have mastered the art of the gala event, having staged a magnificent fundraiser dubbed City Couture to benefit Toronto’s renowned SickKids last fall, along with the Living Luxe Design Expo — an impressive exhibition that’s now slated to become an annual affair. I recently caught up with the power couple at Casa Loma’s swank BlueBlood Steakhouse to find out more about the drive, tenacity and vision that fuel their dreams.
Jeanne Beker: The success of Living Luxe has been phenomenal. You’ve created an amazing brand. How prepared were you to really launch a magazine on your own?
Jennifer Lipkowitz: It was easier because I had done it before. Plus, I had learned many roles in the company — I’m not a journalist or an art director, but I worked very closely with these professionals. And when you work in every department, including production, operations and editorial, you learn the business.
JB: You also had the chance to build so many relationships. That must have really helped.
JL: That was key when we started. If I hadn’t built relationships, I probably wouldn’t have done publishing and I wouldn’t have been as brave. But I had a track record of good relationships and that’s what gave me the energy and the drive to say that I could do this.
JB: And why did you think luxury was a great space to launch a new magazine in?
JL: I didn’t want to do the same thing I had done before. I really wanted something new, fresh and innovative. I wanted to do something that was niche, like high-end luxury. Everyone wants to live luxuriously — whatever that means to them — and everyone can have a dream. So why not create those aspirations for people?
JB: Now, enter the dashing Anthony. The first time I met him, I thought he was a hunk — but not from the magazine world. You were working in other industries and obviously had a lot of business savvy, but certainly not in terms of media.
Anthony Sirianni: Given my expertise in running corporations and creative infrastructure, I felt that I could add a lot of value to the magazine.
JB: How did that happen? You and Jennifer had previously met and started a relationship. How did you start the magazine with her?
AS: We were on holiday in Jamaica and Jennifer was talking about her dream of starting a magazine. There was this look in her eye, and I just thought, you know what? Let’s do it! And she said, “Yeah, in the future.” And I said, “No, no, let’s do it! This is your dream. Let’s do it right now.” So, I quit my job. And I told her I was in on one condition: I didn’t want a word like “house” or “home” in the title. I wanted lifestyle to be incorporated from the start.
JL: That’s when the name Living Luxe came about. We wanted to create something that wasn’t just about design and home decor, though that’s an important element. Anthony was adamant about having lifestyle, travel, fashion and all the different elements that contribute to luxurious living.
JB: It sounds like a scary thing, though, especially for you, Anthony, to just plunge into this kind of risky endeavour. After all, you hadn’t known Jennifer for that long
AS: No, I didn’t at the time, but I knew there was something there from the start. We had this amazing connection. I knew it when I found her. I hoped it would turn into a relationship. If it didn’t, at least I knew I’d found my best friend. I also knew that because I’d done so many different things workwise, I could always jump into something else if it didn’t work out. I really wanted to give it my full effort and ability.
JL: You can’t go into launching a business with fear or hesitation — that’s where a lot of things can go wrong. For us, it was important to be fearless. I told Anthony I wasn’t going to be scared and I wasn’t going to give credence to any opposition we received from people. Instead, I told Anthony to look at it like noise. I said we should stay in our lane, focus and launch this big idea.
JB: It’s fabulous that the two of you have each other to prop each other up. I’m sure the going gets tough sometimes. There must be times when you just want to pack it in.
AS: Yes, especially at the start. Back then it was just the two of us holding up the company. It’s not like that now.
JL: There are a lot of great people behind us now, but Anthony is right. A lot of times, we had to hold down the fort when things happened, like COVID. Things happened that no one could have predicted.
AS: It’s funny because a few years ago, around the time COVID hit, I made a list on a piece of paper, which I recently found. I’d written down all the things I hoped to achieve, different strategies for all the things we wanted to do. And we achieved everything on that list. It’s amazing.
JB: Well, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve been there since the magazine’s inception and saw some of the stuff you went through. I admit there were times when I didn’t know how you’d be able to keep it up. And then COVID came along, which was a real zinger. But somehow, you made it. What was it that you kept telling each other? What was it about your relationship that made you believe in yourselves?
JL: Anthony believed in me so much. He’d tell me everything would be okay and that I had a vision and I had him to lean on. I knew how committed he was, no matter what happened. When COVID hit, like a lot of business owners, we pivoted really hard. We knew we couldn’t stay stagnant, so we started doing these Instagram Live shows with guests on Thursday nights. It was fun! Things were so hard in the world, but sometimes you’ve got to take yourself as lightly as you can, because life is hard. Viewers really appreciated those Instagram Live shows. So many told us we helped them come out of a dark place, but it also took us out of a dark place because we were able to chat with our clients and help support their businesses.
” WE WANTED THE MAGAZINE TO COME TO LIFE WITH EXHIBITORS, FASHION AND DIFFERENT ELEMENTS GOING ON THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE SHOW.”
AS: It was interesting because our clients saw the successes of what we were achieving, and they started coming to us asking about marketing. So, every other Saturday, we devoted time to meet with clients on Zoom to give them custom marketing advice. We did that for a while, at no cost to them, because we wanted to help and we saw the need. We soon saw that their businesses were changing due to our advice, and we looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we start a marketing company?” That’s how the Living Luxe Media Group was born.
JB: So, the magazine is rolling merrily along and you start this new enterprise where you’re a consulting, marketing and brand-management agency?
JL: Yes, it was another big endeavour. Our media company does everything. We do clients’ creative because we have in-house creative. We also have in-house videography, which is an important component for social media. We have a creative director, graphic designers and writers — there are talented people who work on our team who create custom content for our clients.
JB: If that wasn’t enough, you also produced an amazing event last fall on the heels of the fabulous fashion gala you staged to raise money for SickKids. Your team created a three-day design exhibition in Toronto’s Distillery District. Some of the city’s top designers came out and you gave them a platform. Why did you decide that would be a good thing to do?
AS: In the first year of Living Luxe, I had this vision of doing an exhibition that hadn’t been done before. I wanted the magazine to come to life. I envisioned exhibitors, fashion and different elements going on throughout the whole show. But when I mentioned the idea to Jennifer three years ago…
JL: …I said, “No! I don’t want to hear that right now. We’re going through all these transitions. We’ve just launched the magazine. It’s too soon.” Then COVID happened six months after we launched. I told Anthony it was a great idea but not a great time. Later, after the lockdowns had lifted, he brought up the idea again and I said, “You know what? This could be amazing.” I appreciated his vision to mix fashion with design and lifestyle. We ended up having fashion shows in the middle of the exhibition. It was super interactive — visitors could go from booth to booth and really see the exhibitors’ work. And we had different spaces where people could walk up to the models, and we created different pods. It was cool!
JB: You got a lot of top people involved in this, which wasn’t tough to do because you had already built your cred on the magazine.
JL: We were very fortunate. Lots of media outlets covered our expo, and it was nice to see that everyone was so receptive. This year, we’re planning an exhibition that will be about four times the size of our first. We’re hoping to attract more visitors and there will be even more excitement. I never thought it would get so big so fast, but there you go.
JB: I guess we’ll all have to stay tuned for the details. Now let me ask you this: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about the media business?
JL: I’ve learned it costs nothing to be nice and to be a good person. I also think being able to have the opportunity to give back is important. Now that we have a magazine like this, we’re able to give back every issue and support different initiatives.
JB: What is the most important and valuable lesson you’ve learned about each other so far, through this incredible process of working together so closely?
AS: From Jennifer, I’ve learned perseverance. She also has a beautiful heart.
JL: From Anthony, I’d say I’ve learned loyalty. He’s loyal to everyone. He’s just so kind and dedicated. When he says he’s going to do something, he does it.
JB: It sounds like you two are cut from the same cloth — the same designer cloth!
JL: We’re also on the same page when it comes to what the business means to us — we want to leave a legacy for our children because family is so important to us. We’re very fortunate. We found each other and I needed him. I never would have launched a magazine without him.
JB: And Anthony, you never would have gotten into this crazy business without Jennifer.
AS: That’s right! I had no idea about this industry before this venture.
JB: Well, you’re both an inspiration in many ways and the work you’ve done and what you’ve brought to the city, through the vibrancy of the magazine and the Living Luxe brand, has been quite wonderful. I’m so proud to be part of it.