Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour was planned to take place in London, between 2009 and 2010. Some of the greatest figures from the world of fashion collaborated with The King of Pop on this tour - known today as "the greatest concerts that never happened".
One of those greatest few to work with Michael was Serbian born, New York based Rushka Bergman, creative director and stylist for the tour. As a Contributing Fashion Editor to Italian L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Italia during Franca Sozzani time, Rushka visualized style covers for the likes of Steven Spielberg, Robert De Niro, Mickey Rourke, John Malkovich, Tim Burton, Hugh Jackman and many more.
Bergman received her degree in Economics from the University of Belgrade and moved to Ghana, shortly after, where she continued her studies in Fine Art.
Rushka walks into our NYC studio looking brilliantly Rushka-like. She is wearing above the knee white dress, heels and pair of dark shades. She's got her signature sleek long hair down, she is a class act with the subtle swagger of a rock star. "My apologies for being late." Rushka is passionate for any form of creative expression and it was clearly visible from the moment she arrived on set which she owned. A genuine artist, a visionary, timeless, fearless tastemaker, this Diva knows what she wants and how she want it.
It was fascinating to listen to Bergman talking about the sweep of her life and super hyphenate career. From her work with Franca Sozzani, how she met Michael Jackson, her work with Kardashians and opinion on influencers today. These are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Giulia: When did your interest in fashion begin?
Rushka: When I was six years old I began to design skirts and styled myself for special events. I remember the clothes that I loved from that time – my school uniform was a pleated, black and white, plaid collar dress with black patent leather shoes.
Giulia: How did you go about getting into styling?
Rushka: When I was younger my gift for art and fashion emerged. I was living in West Africa in Ghana, I worked on an international fashion show with Edward Enninful, Ozwald Boateng, Pat McGrath and Joe Casey Hayford. This was when I started to express myself through fashion.
Giulia: What challenges did you face getting started?
Rushka: When I started styling, there were not that many people like me working in fashion. It was very different at that time. I believed in my vision and myself, and I never competed with other people. I was confident that my gift would shine through. Early on, I participated in the Giorgio Armani exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and was lucky to have Giorgio Armani choose my styling images for the cover of the Exhibition book.
Giulia: How did you start building that celebrity clientele?
Rushka: When I was working for L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani, the Editor in Chief at the time, asked me to work with celebrities for the magazines. I wrote all of the letters to the most famous people in the world that inspired me. At first, I did not know who would agree, but they responded and we got to work with Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Michael Jackson, and many others.
Giulia: What was it like styling Michael Jackson and This Is It tour?
Rushka: Michael Jackson was a genius, an innovator a creator, so he always wanted something new and forward. He challenged me to create unseen designs that no one had done before. He was always ahead of his time. My goal was to reassert his status as a fashion icon back. Michael was loyal, a true friend of mine, and he believed in my style. He had so much light, positive energy and a creative aura. His charisma pushed me to bring him new creative ideas. It was easy for me to work with The King of POP . Michael especially loved Balmain jackets with their sculpted pagoda shoulders. He liked the red leather "Thriller" motorcycle jacket with crystal-studded shoulders, seen during the rehearsals for "Thriller" in "This is it," as well as the black satin tuxedo style with a Swarovski-studded, white satin lapel. I miss and I love my friend Michael Jackson!
Giulia: In my opinion, you are a fashion editor and stylist with a strong, sharp and sophisticated vision. How would you say that you differentiate your work from other celebrity stylists?
Rushka: I am an artist with a strong and unique sense of style – sharp, modern, yet timeless. I AM NOT TRENDY, I AM FOREVER! I am an academic, who studied fine arts and economics for many years. It is truly about education, who you are, your vision, putting the clothes together, and developing your own creative identity. The role of a fashion stylist in the industry is to be a cultural gatekeeper, storyteller, talent spotter and curator of ideas. "ONLY GREAT MINDS CAN AFFORD A SIMPLE STYLE."
Giulia: You worked with some of the biggest names and styled seventy-nine Vogue covers? How do you choose who you want to work with?
Rushka: L’uomo Vogue is all about the news, like which celebrities are shaping culture and the future. We always approached the best in their industries. We were featuring actors who had released the latest movies, musicians who had released the latest albums and singles, and artists who were of the moment doing the most interesting work.
Giulia: What do you think has been your greatest achievement so far?
Rushka: Michael Jackson "This Is It" unseen haute couture clothes that we designed together with the likes of Hedi Slimane, John Galliano, Christophe Decarin for Balmain, Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, and Kris Van Assche. I hope that one day the world will see the beauty and power of these last works of art Michael touched.
Giulia: How have you been able to build those relationships with designers?
Rushka: It is all about creativity and chemistry between people. When you are an artist on a certain level, it's easy to collaborate and build these relationships.
Giulia: What do you think is the best part of your job?
Rushka: Being a freelance artist, freedom is everything. The best part of this job is to dream big and to see the culmination of your creativity. I also direct short films now and I love it. Every second of our lives is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be repeated. FASHION is found in the sky, street, gallery, library, museum and cinema. It is our way of living, of thinking and of feeling.
Giulia: What advice would you give someone starting out looking to be a celebrity stylist?
Rushka: Work hard, have a point of view, and if it happens, it happens. To be a celebrity stylist you have to be flexible, educated and cultured, so that you can communicate with your client and command their respect.
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