Stylist Wayne Scot Lukas on Janet Jackson’s most iconic wardrobe moments (and malfunctions)
This weekend, hundreds of costumes belonging to Janet Jackson will go on the chopping block at Julien’s Auctions. Dubbed “Iconic Treasures from the Legendary Life and Career of Janet Jackson,” the sale will take place around Jackson’s 55th birthday (a Taurus queen!), with proceeds going to child-advocacy charity Compassion International. Additionally, the auction catalogues will be sold in a hardcover boxed set, also for charity, which comes with a video produced in which she wears a number of the costumes and items for sale. Many of the costumes up for grabs are the work of Wayne Scot Lukas, a stylist that Jackson worked with throughout the 1990s and 2000s (fun fact, he was also the original host of What Not To Wear!). From “All Nite” to “What’s it Gonna Be?,” Lukas breaks down five of his favourite looks from the auction as well as spills the tea on Nipplegate and more.
How did you first get to know Janet and become her stylist?
I was a working stylist in New York City. Models back then had a “list.” This list was the stylist, hair and makeup they would work with. I started working with Revlon cosmetics and got on these lists. I was moved to the top of the lists because I was taught as an assistant to bring great clothes even to the worst jobs. I would bring couture like Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dior to a simple cosmetic photoshoot. Lauren Hutton brought me to Revlon and that is where I met Cindy Crawford, Kara Young, Claudia Schiffer and the “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day” girls. I was the go-to stylist in 1992 for these campaigns. I hadn’t really touched the music industry. Patrick Demarchelier was my main client. One day in 1993, I was being driven home through Times Square and my overpriced cellphone rang (back then a call cost you by the minute!). It was Patrick and my agent Marissa. Patrick just got a call to shoot Janet Jackson for her Design of a Decade album cover. Marissa asked if I’d like the job and I almost stuttered when I answered, “Yes.” Marissa said, “Excellent, she’s calling you in 5 minutes. Accept the next call from 310.”
I didn’t even know how to handle this. I was jumping out of my skin! The overpriced enormous cell phone rang and a tiny voice said, “Hello…” I said hello, this is Wayne Lukas who is this. “Hi, I’m Janet. Nice to meet you,” she whispered.
Suddenly it was all business. She wanted to recreate a Dorothy Dandridge vintage look for her upcoming career anniversary Design of a Decade shoot. She spoke matter of factly and I was quiet. “You know who she is,” she asked. “Yes of course I do, sounds great,” I lied. (I had absolutely no idea who this first black actress to be nominated for an Academy Award was!) Janet told me she would send me her personal paperback copy and she had some photos in it. I acted very cool. I told Janet this should would be great and I couldn’t wait to get started.
It is important to note that in 1993, Google was nothing like it is now. I had the driver screech around on 42nd Street and speed me to the New York Public Library to get me every book or photo they had of this iconic black academy award nominated star.
We met on the shoot and I had about 45 full racks of clothing. Vintage, couture, some things I made myself. We had so much I couldn’t fail. I asked Patrick if I did okay and in his French accent, he said Genial! Genial! I arrived very early to set up the studio and Janet arrived in a flurry of bodyguards and assistants. Her hair person Janet Zeiotun came with her and celebrity makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin was in tow.
Janet came out and walked over all tiny 5 ft 2 of her to my 6 ft 4 frame and said quietly, “Hello.”
We went through racks and racks of clothes to the point we were tired. She chose a bunch of amazing looks and we got to work. During our shoot, I cracked a typical Jackson family joke to break the ice. She told me years later she almost had me thrown out for the crack, but knew I was nervous so she gave me a chance to stay. We created amazing looks that day. These photos will go down in history as a decade of her career. The main cover outfit by Isaac Mizrahi is going up in the Juliens Celebrity auction. Following this shoot, we spent many years together as friends and clients. Janet called me out at her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony as someone who always made her feel beautiful even when she didn’t feel that way about herself. What a compliment! The only fashion stylist she mentioned from her storied career. I have about 60 items in the auction. I’m so proud. 28 years later Janet and I are still going strong and we have a kinship that never fades. We always pick right up where we left off and seeing her as a mom has melted my heart.
What was your working relationship like – how did she approach the concepts for her performances?
Janet is a hands-on artist, there is no pretence. She is part of every detail of her shows and even sits in on all her dancers’ fittings. She wants them to look and feel great first, and then we do her look. I will get a call and Janet as a friend will check on me and my family. She takes the time to see how things are going. Then it’s down to business. She will tell me what she is seeing in her mind as I will start sketching as she is talking. She tells me what she sees, and I make her dreams and thoughts become a reality. I may see a movie or a fashion show in Europe and collect some visual elements to show her how we could do something similar on stage etc. She would add to my ideas or she would approach me with hers and vice versa. I then shopped and created sketches which FedEx and fax back and forth and then fabric swatches are flying via airmail back and forth to both coasts.
Janet always surrounds herself with friends she trust who are loyal to her like her choreographer turned creative director Gil Duldulao. We all have an unspoken loyalty to each other and Janet. We do the best we can do and push ourselves for her image.
What does it feel like to see it all up for auction now?
I was crestfallen that I wasn’t involved until I saw the auction book! There was my life on every page. Suddenly I was melancholy looking at the history of my life and my career in the pages of those books. It is deeply personal as I remember the private personal fittings with Janet. I thought about the ups the downs and the feeling of elation at another successful show as you see your friend and her dancers succeed! I remember who I was when I made that Jacket. I remembered where I was when that skirt got lost in customs. I was so grateful when I saw that Janet had given me exclusive credit on many of my outfits. Her auction is a memoir of my life. That night looking the book I was moved to tears.
With almost 20 year hindsight, the media is reflecting back on that moment with new eyes. Justin has been raked by the coals specifically for the fact that he suffered no mistreatment, while Janet ie. the woman in the scenario took the blame – what do you think about this?
It’s been 17 years since the Superbowl, and I get calls every single year to talk about it. I have stayed quiet and protective of Janet as my friend and my client. There is an unwritten privacy that you give to your clients and friends. I respect my connection to Janet more than I ever needed to clarify a story that I was a work for hire for. She was treated horribly by Justin, Michael Powell the then head of the FCC and Les Moonves.
Justin walked off the stage and immediately called it a wardobe malfunction. “We like to give you guys something to talk about,” he said. Janet and I were fired that next weekend from the Grammy awards and Justin was able to attend and made a weird joking apology and then went on to sell two successful albums. I have nothing against Justin. In person he is a star in every sense of the word. I was so moved by his energy at our first meeting I thought. This guy has it this is why he’s a star. I did his Justified world tour and we were written up as Justin being the best dressed in London. We were friendly. I was quiet until a few things happened. FCC head Michael Powel Collin Powell’s son (who Janet is friendly with), apologized publicly. And Les Moonves, head of Fox, was exposed for trying to ruin Janet’s career after the incident.
Janet and I suffered for Michael Powell’s political gain. Janet suffered for Les Moonves anger. Justin then comes out and makes and apology to Britney after the Free Britney fans demanded he do so. The Janet fans went on attack and asked Justin for Janet’s apology. He did and Janet took the high road and didn’t respond. Imagine if we had the social media in 2004 that we have today. This would have taken a whole different turn.
Are you still friendly with Janet?
Janet Is a wonderful doting mom, a well-loved sister, Auntie, daughter and friend to many. I am lucky to be in her life and to have her sprinkle some of her Jackson magic dust on me. I love catching up with her and hearing all she’s doing as she raises a boy we’d all like to get to know someday. Any child of Janet’s may change the world. She teaches kindness compassion, true love acceptance and hope. Lucky kid, lucky mom and I am a lucky friend. She is in my soul and will always have a special space in my heart. She is funny and available to those she loves. I’m a lucky man.
Here, Wayne Scot Lukas breaks down five iconic Janet looks.
Janet’s “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” ensemble (2004)
We shot this video in a filthy dusty building overnight in downtown L.A. All staff and talent had to wear gas masks or dust masks during the shoot. There is a coded message in the shirt I will go to my grave knowing! Janet wanted the simple feeling of “pleasure principal” outfit, so I created this. I love the soccer cleats and love the wrappings I did on the shoes to match the outfit. I love the little details.
Janet’s “All For You” ensemble (2001)
I saw this Jean Paul Gaultier half jacket look in Paris and I recreated it for Janet and all her dancers. The big moment was seeing all the guys at gay pride in New York wearing their half leather jackets inspired by the video! I bought the metal coin bra at a sex shop in Hollywood.
Janet’s ensemble from the “What’s It Gonna Be” with Busta Rhymes (1998)
The most amazing Janet Jackson outfit as a year 2000 catchment. The Guinness Book of World Records called this video one of the most expensive video ever made.* The outfit was made with real sex shop cock rings about 750 of them on its long train
*A list that is topped by Michael and Jacket Jackson’s video for “Scream” from 1999.
Janet’s “exposed” ensemble for the cover of Blender Magazine (2004)
This outfit custom designed by me and made by Arjan Khiani of Body Worship. It got so much attention after the Superbowl. Janet’s publicist insisted we remove the red star on the breast and I glued on the red crotch the last minute. The removed the red crotch for publication but we were able to sneak the red star in there.
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