Singer-songwriter icon Janet Jackson has been a trendsetter in music and fashion for decades. But what many might not know is that she’s been a friend of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore Editor-In-Chief Kenneth Goh for many years, as well. Below, Kenneth speaks with Janet about her recent trip to Doha for its cultural exhibition Qatar Creates, her thoughts on Doha’s Forever Valentino exhibition, Sarah Burton’s stint at Alexander McQueen, and more.

Janet Jackson styled by Kenneth Goh for Qatar Creates.
Janet Jackson is styled by Kenneth Goh in a feather-trimmed coat by Valentino for Qatar Creates. Hair by Ricky Fraser. Makeup by Preston Meneses. Photo: Preston Meneses

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Why did you want to come to Doha for Qatar Creates?
I think it’s important to learn about different cultures and especially the Qatari culture. I think it’s absolutely beautiful that the people are very warm and welcoming – to learn about their art, their history. The city, the country is growing so fast. The fashion, to learn about Middle Eastern fashion. They brought a lot of African fashion onto the scene as well. And it’s nice to learn and see what it is they’re doing and what they’re creating, where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they’re striving to go.

What’s your relationship with fashion? Why do you think it’s important for you?
My relationship with fashion, I think it’s important. I’ve always had fun with it. I’ve always tried to have my own individual style, and the one thing I don’t like is a cookie cutter. You might see there’s something that is the trend and it might be beautiful, it might be great. It might not look great on me. So it’s always important for me to do my own thing and just have my personality show in the way that I dress. There are moments when I feel a little bit more feminine. I’m still a tomboy, so I love wearing a lot of pants and boots and jeans and baggy things. But it depends on the mood that I’m in.

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Janet Jackson styled by Kenneth Goh for the January 2007 cover of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.

What do you love about Alexander McQueen and what creative director Sarah Burton is doing?
You know, McQueen has always been one of the few designers that has fit me right off the rack. I don’t have a very long waist. I’m not very tall, and it’s one of the designers that I can just grab something from the store and put it on. And for the most part, it actually fits. Sarah taking over from Alexander. I mean, she’s done such an incredible job assisting him for all those years. She hasn’t missed a beat, and I love what she’s creating with it. She’s still getting this sense and a feel for the classic McQueen, but also adding her touch with different pieces here and there, yet still not losing his aesthetic. And on top of that, it doesn’t hurt that Sarah is such a cool girl. She’s so sweet and so easy. Just a gem, really.

Janet Jackson styled by Kenneth Goh for Qatar Creates.
Janet Jackson styled by Kenneth Goh for Qatar Creates, next to Paula Abdul. Hair by Ricky Fraser. Makeup by Preston Meneses. Photo: Courtesy of Janet Jackson

Related article: Searching For Humanity At Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2023

What do you love about Valentino?
You look and feel elegant in Valentino. To me, they never fail. But what I love so much about Valentino, it’s so classy, beautiful, timeless. They know the feminine body. They understand the female form and you know we’re all shapes and all sizes, and they can make you look fabulous no matter what shape or size you are. Very classy, very elegant, very chic.

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EIC Kenneth Goh and Janet Jackson at the Louis Vuitton SS23 show. Photo: Kenneth Goh

What was your favourite moment from the Valentino exhibition?
My favourite moment from the exhibit – all of it, honestly, all of it, from beginning to end. I thought it was just absolutely incredible. And it’s the journey, not just the past and the present, but also where they’re going. I love the Spanish steps. I love the black and white room – that took my breath away. And just seeing all these different creations, also all the celebrities they’ve dressed from past to now.

How did your relationship with Kenneth start again? Why did you decide this is the right time to start working together again, 14 years after the Discipline album?
I ran into Kenneth in Paris and we talked about working again. And we’ve always kept in touch all this time, never stopped reaching out to each other from here and there. And then Princess Sheikha and Naomi Campbell invited me to Doha for Qatar Creates and I needed someone to style me, and I called him up and he said yes. I love the way we work. It’s so easy, we both put everything, our ideas on the table. It’s a real team effort. To me, it’s the way people should work. It’s very easy, very smooth, no pressure, no stress, and we always make it happen at the end of the day. And there’s always give and take on both sides.

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Janet Jackson is styled by Kenneth Goh in a Valentino silk plissé jumpsuit with train for Qatar Creates. Jewellery by Hairaat. Hair by Ricky Fraser. Makeup by Preston Meneses. Photo: Preston Meneses

What does Kenneth bring to you in terms of his styling vision?
Kenneth just has an eye. He has an eye for fashion. I love the way he styles and he can do anything, he truly can. Whether you want a little bit more classy, sporty, edgy, serious edge, he can do it all. And that takes a really special talent, a really great eye for fashion to do that. Or if you want to do something that is just completely left-field and off the cuff and you look at him and say, oh my god, that’s just incredible and so different-looking. He just has that eye when it comes to styling.

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It’s not about just taking a garment off the rack and putting it on and saying, okay, go. I think anyone can do that. But it’s about taking a garment and adding things to it and creating and building, and making it something of your own. And he does that. Kenneth does that. And that’s what makes it special. Making it you, so you don’t feel out of place, so you don’t feel uncomfortable. And I love the way we work together.

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson is styled by Kenneth Goh in a feather-trimmed coat by Valentino for Qatar Creates. Hair by Ricky Fraser. Makeup by Preston Meneses. Photo: Preston Meneses

What’s your fashion principles and philosophy?
It’s about comfort to me. I think that’s what it is, especially having a six-year-old running around. And at this stage in my life, it’s still about having your own style and having your personality shine through how you dress. But comfort is a must. It’s a must.

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.