Twenty-five years ago, “That’s the Way Love Goes,” the first single from Janet Jackson’s fifth studio album, Janet, kicked off an eight-week run on the Billboard Hot 100. The album would go on to generate six more number-one singles, with the R&B singer embarking on world tours and donning statement-making concert attire (canes, hats, and androgynous tailored suits) that would become the stuff of legend. Her elaborate stage shows, fusing elements of hip-hop, dance pop, and R&B, would incorporate heavily choreographed routines and intricate clothing that would cement Jackson as a cultural and style icon for years to come.
Now on her eighth concert tour, the international “State of the World” Tour to promote her 11th album, Unbreakable, Jackson’s involvement in her shows span from her dancers’ outfits and shoes to the clothing she wears for any specific song. On the singer’s 52nd birthday, CR caught up with costume designer Robert Behar, who has worked with Jackson for over 13 years, to talk inspiration behind her latest concert looks.
How did you first meet Janet?
Her makeup artist at the time Fran Cooper introduced me to her. It was when she was receiving a GLAAD Award and we did her performance for the Bahamas right after that. For me, what was amazing is to work with her, and the focus is really, really intense. You get into this creative bubble and she’s there with you and she holds your hand and she’s personable and kind but also her vision is very clear. She makes it incredibly easy. Plus, she’s a very beautiful woman so you just kind of float with that. I’m incredibly lucky to be working with her.
What vibe did you want for the clothing for this tour?
We always try to be innovative and 100-percent Janet. I wanted to make it a reflection of her. Her looks are always modern, always forward-thinking, so that’s what we start on and then we developed from there. I create sketches of ideas, do mood boards, and we dissect until we get to the diamond, so to speak.
Do you ever look back on old concert pictures for inspiration?
Once the tour’s done, it’s done. We don’t go back to those things. The only time we went back was for the BET Awards when she was given the Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual Award. I did an interpretation of the clothes for Ciara, Jason Derulo, and Tinashe, which was almost literal, but still a bit more modern. That was it, but when it comes to her tour, it’s always forward. I try to never look back. We want it to be different and something she hasn’t done before.
With this tour, there has been a lot of black-and-white as well as uses of different types of leather. What was the costume design process like?
I do research, which is inspired by the words “sensual,” “effortless,” “futuristic,” “new,” and “modern.” I start searching image after image and I do an edit of those images to create a mood board. When we worked on this tour, it was about creating a vibe with the dancers. We call them the “kids.” It’s inspired by both fashion and the street, and with a futuristic element. We like different textures, so even though they’re not wearing the same outfit, there’s a theme to it. We did a black-and-white theme, where they wear a different outfit from the same collection. With Janet, we were very inspired by two designers she loves: Haider Ackermann and Rick Owens.
What does she like about those designers in particular?
With Haider Ackermann, it’s an understated sexiness. With Rick Owens, there’s more of a dramatic, futuristic sexiness without being in your face. There’s the comfort as well.
What was Janet’s input on the clothing?
Janet is one of those artists who is involved in every little detail of the show, from the costumes to the music. We look at pictures, we like certain details and emotions, and we start designing the clothes. I’ll send her sketches and once we adjust them to what feels comfortable to us, then we’ll start making the clothes. She’s involved in the fittings, the hair, the makeup, and the wardrobe. Everything is shown to her one by one on each dancer, and everything is adjusted for the final result.
What’s your favorite costume for this tour?
I like the opening costume: the short-sleeve coat with the cane and leather gloves. You can see the costume underneath, but not all of it. It’s the first one in my head and it’s the one we had the most time to work on. It’s a different attitude for her. It’s a very strong opening moment. I like the deconstructed look, but it’s also very chic and very Janet.
How do you change up the looks for Janet with each concert?
We’ll experiment with different looks, but I like to see her wearing clothes in which she looks effortless. You still see Janet—you don’t see just the clothes. She’s chic and elegant, and she has an incredible eye for fashion, art, and music.
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createdAt:Tue, 15 May 2018 15:00:59 +0000
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