Michael Bush, personal stylist and exclusive designer to the late Michael Jackson has just published a book, The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson. The book is the first ever pictorial document of its kind and details the close to 25 years he spent outfitting the King of Pop. Interview by Regina Henkel

How did you get the job of creating and making outfits for Michael Jackson?

My partner and I had the task of repairing his outfits when Michael was supposed to dance in videos or at concerts. They were completely ruined every time. At one point I said to him: “It takes longer to constantly repair your clothes than it does to just make them new. I’ll make you pants which won’t fall apart, and which let you move more easily.” So I did, and from then on we were responsible for his whole outfit.

What did you do differently?

The point of departure was always how Michael moved. You wouldn't have been able to design the clothes without knowing his dancing style. We worked with stretchable inserts where there was the most wear and optimized the cuts for him.

Did Michael Jackson have a formula for success? What was important to him?

He knew what his fans expected from him, how he had to stage himself to appear “larger than life.” There was nothing which hadn’t been considered in his performances, no weak spots. His outfits were a very important part of his appearances. For example, it was no accident that he chose uniform jackets. He knew that they have a special effect on people from highly different cultures and also draw attention. After that he always searched for things which drew people’s attention and then this needed to be implemented in the costume.

Can you give us examples?

For example, if he wore a tie when dancing we had to sew a coin into the tip of the tie so that it had enough weight to move together with him and have a dynamic feel. The buckles on his jacket sleeves were more loosely attached so that they’d fly around when he dances. We often used sequins, rivets and rhinestones because they reflected light. By the way, he started to wear his famous white socks because he was looking for a way to be more visible against the dark background on stage at concerts – the bigger the concert, the shorter the pants. It was about staging things, but also about drawing attention away from himself because he was a very shy person.

What was the collaboration like and how was the design created?

Michael couldn’t go to clubs or move freely in public to see what the latest trends were – so we were his eyes. We travelled around the world to discover new things. He concentrated on periodicals and browsed through every fashion magazine looking for ideas. If we wanted to create a new outfit, we would sit down together and start drawing sketches on a blank sheet of paper – always on the same sheet – until we came up with the right one. And then the outfit was sewn, he would dance in it, and only after no further alterations were needed was all the decoration sewn on.

Who else have you worked for?

We’ve also worked for Siegfried and Roy and for David Copperfield. And for Britney Spears, which was much harder, because, at the time, she didn’t have a definite image which we could base our work on yet. She was still searching for the right style for herself. With Michael Jackson, it was always very clear.

The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson, by Michael Bush, is published by Insight Editions, California, and costs €30.