Following the singer’s giant archive auction, longtime friend and celebrity stylist Wayne Scot Lukas reflects on his unforgettable career dressing the legend
ON FIRST MEETING JANET JACKSON
“I was so lucky. I was driving through Times Square and back then in 1993 we all had those big cell phones that cost $15 a minute. I’d been working in fashion with people like Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Kara Young. I get a phone call that two stylists had cancelled and couldn’t do this Janet Jackson Design of a Decade album cover. I used to dance in my basement with my friend Stacy Thompson to “Pleasure Principle” so when the call came through I said absolutely yes.
Janet called me and told me she wanted to look like Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award. I had absolutely no idea but I lied and told her it was going to be great and iconic. I was trying to act fabulous, but I was actually scared to death. I took a cab straight to the New York Public Library because there was no Google then, you couldn’t just type in Janet Jackson and see photos. I started digging through files and that’s how I found out about Dorothy Dandridge. I was so scared because it’s Janet Jackson. I’d been in circles with models, but I had not been in circles with musicians and she was my first huge one. Music and fashion are totally different games.”
ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FASHION AND MUSIC
“In fashion, you’re trying to sell a product, but we’re trying to sell a person. You’re constantly paying attention to marketing, who’s going to buy the album, how to make things aspirational but not too expensive. When we did the “All For You” video, I put Janet in that half jacket that everybody talks about and the coolest thing was that six months later, every man marching in the Pride parade in New York had on that half leather motorcycle jacket.
When I was dressing models, it didn’t matter if they liked the clothes or not, but when you dress a celebrity, they’re so meticulous about their image. So, you’re trying to please theirs and your aesthetic, their publicist, their manager, and the record company all at the same time. I had to learn very quickly how to play that game. I also learned that what was very important was that they had to be able to move in the clothes. If Janet couldn’t move in something on a photoshoot, she wouldn’t be able to move in a similar outfit on stage.”
ON COLLABORATING WITH A LEGEND
“I would get a phone call in New York and it’d be Janet and she’d ask about my family and all the pleasantries of friendship, which I liked. Then, we would really get into it. She would say, ‘Lukas, I’ve been looking at…’. When we did “What’s It Gonna Be” with Busta Rhymes, they wanted Janet to look like Catwoman and I said it needs to be the year 2000 because we thought that was futuristic. They said she needed weapons, so I said her hair is going to be the whip. We would talk and I would sketch and then I’d get off the phone and fax it. All those big videos were done by fax back then.
She would tell me a movie she saw or something she referenced. I would go look that up and then sketch and she would send stuff back. Then, I would run to the fabric store and buy swatches and the guy who was my tailor would start making things. Every time Janet called me, she would have some exciting idea and I would take it to the next level with her. She always has strong concepts and ideas and if I wouldn’t agree, she would say, ‘I don’t care Lukas, I just want it’.”
ON HIS ALL TIME FAVOURITE LOOKS
“Every single thing was iconic wasn’t it? Every single thing made a statement. Her Design of a Decade album cover, I loved the pictures and she’s in an Isaac Mizrahi dress. I loved what we did for “What’s It Gonna Be” because nobody had done those sex dominatrix outfits before – I used 750 real cock rings from a sex shop in downtown New York.
Of course, the Super Bowl. If you watch the whole performance and don’t focus on 1/16 of a second, it was a huge moment. She had multiple outfit changes and so did her 25 or 30 dancers, but nobody sees that. We had balloon walls, marching bands, P Diddy, but that was all forgotten.”
ON RELIVING HIS DAYS WITH JANET JACKSON
“I had no idea she was doing an auction which is the weirdest thing because we’re still friends and talk often. I called her a couple of weeks ago and I said ‘Why didn’t you ask me to help on the auction?’. Almost 60 outfits are mine and the funny thing is, when I first looked at the auction I noticed that some of the pants aren’t with the right top or the right shoes – as a stylist, you never forget what you put together.
I realised I was looking at my whole life on the screen. As I sat there, I remembered who I was and where I was doing the fittings. Where I found the perfect bra for the “All For You” video. It made me tear up because it was a huge chunk of my life and almost 20 years of friendship. I’d remember I was sad when I did that, or that we lost that hat in customs, or that’s the jewellery that Janet bought when she broke up with that guy. It made me melancholy but I was so proud to have worked on it. It’s really history.”
ON STAYING HUMBLE
“I never believed my own shit. I became very close friends with Kevyn Aucoin when he was alive and I wanted to be him, I wanted $10,000 a day, I wanted to be a star, but I’ve come full circle. There’s this Jim Carrey quote where he says everybody should be famous to know it’s not what it’s cracked up to be and I would also say that. Why would anybody not be as valuable as my story? There are things way bigger than my wardrobe malfunction or my last iconic music video.”
ON MAKING A CAREER AS A CELEBRITY STYLIST
“It’s not an easy industry to work in, I know that intimately. I always say to my assistants: ‘Shut up, show up, and do good work.’ If you do those three things when you’re an assistant, people will recognise it. Don’t talk about how wonderful you are, show up on time and have taste. You don’t have to have money, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with style, kindness, knowing trends and what is coming. You may not know how to sketch or draw, but you know that red is coming next season and it might just be a feeling.
I always say the worst part about fashion editors is that they stopped getting the subway and bus. They became Patsy and Edina and think they’re fabulous in their car services, but they forgot what real people look like. How can you make clothes for real people if you’ve never seen one and all you see is the back of your driver’s head?”
ON JANET JACKSON’S UNWAVERING KINDNESS
“What I’ve learned about Janet is that she has an eagle eye, she sees everything, she hears everything, she watches everything. She is always kind, always smart, constantly a professional. She always makes sure her dancers are dressed before she is. She would sit in on fittings with 15 dancers, rehearsing and say, ‘Change that necklace’, it was meticulous. Or she might even say: ‘A fan sent me this bracelet, put it on and don’t say anything’.
The best thing to know about Janet is that she’s your best girlfriend, mom, sister, cousin, auntie, friend, and that’s just who she is. If you love her correctly and you’re kind to her, the kindness comes back a thousandfold.”