Here’s how to wear all-white in the desert: Pair a crisp button-down with suspenders, riding pants, boots, and a silk scarf looped through your belt hole – then stage-dive into a dust-covered crowd and emerge with your pompadour down but your clothes pristine. At least, that’s how Janelle Monáe pulled it off during her Coachella set at the first weekend. Monáe is one of the few performers around who walks a tightrope -- forgive the pun -- between daring and poised, glamorous and funky. She’s fearless, ambitious, and takes risk with both her dandyish wardrobe -- which never veers from tailored black and whites -- and her music, like 2010’s genre-fusing masterpiece The ArchAndroid. Hive spoke to Monáe before her set about her bold stage look, how her style relates to her music, and the sentimental items she travels with.
Can you tell me a little about what you’re wearing and how you chose this outfit?
I actually took a risk in my wardrobe: I wore, at least, 3/4 more white than I normally do in a dusty environment. I wanted to be fearless amid all the dust and dirt.
You’re usually in a suit.
Am I? I don’t have my jacket on today. I have a button undone.
[caption id="attachment_74058" align="alignleft" width="640"] Christopher Kitahara for MTV Hive[/caption]
Where did you find the clothing that you’re wearing?
These are ideas. When I’m onstage, I made a deal with myself that I would not allow brands to get in the way of the performance.
What are considerations that you make when you pack for tour?
I only take one suitcase. If I’m on tour for two months, I only take one suitcase and maybe a garment bag. I pack light. I only wear black and white.
[caption id="attachment_74054" align="alignleft" width="640"] Christopher Kitahara for MTV Hive[/caption]
How would you describe your style?
Minimalist. Daring. I have a rebellious sense of style.Other people may not think that -- they think I’m zany: “How dare she wear a tuxedo every day."
Do you see any overlap between your style and your music?
Absolutely. They’re consistent to core values-- remaining innovative, inspiring young girls, redefining what it means to be a young woman in music today.
[caption id="attachment_74059" align="alignleft" width="640"] Christopher Kitahara for MTV Hive[/caption]
What’s the most important item in your tour wardrobe?
Everything is important to me. If you made it in the bag, you’re important. I don’t have one thing that’s more important than the others. I’m a believer in teamwork. So when items are in my bag they get along and respect each other’s space and they’re there when I need them.
Is there any sentimental thing that you always travel with?
I try to travel with poems. My journal. I write a lot so I like to have journal around to document and reflect. I keep obituaries too. Two of my aunts passed so I keep them with me and it encourages me to go out and continue to inspire and uplift because they were really proud of me. I like to open up [my journal] and randomly their obituaries will fall out and I’ll be reminded of them.