Janet Jackson kicks off New York Fashion Week with Christian Siriano, Harlem's Fashion Row

Anika Reed

NEW YORK — Janet Jackson is taking control of New York Fashion Week.

The legendary singer sat front row at Christian Siriano, arriving to camera shutter clicks and hushed admiration from attendees. Jackson, seated between Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia and fashion correspondent Derek Blasberg, took in Siriano’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection on Sept. 7 at the Elizabeth Collective, the famed former townhome of another legend, Elizabeth Taylor.

Jackson chatted briefly with Garcia and Blasberg near the show's end, and when Siriano closed the show with his usual bound down the runway, he bowed toward the Queen of Pop.

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Janet Jackson, second from right, takes a seat during designer Christian Siriano's show at New York Fashion Week on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in New York.

Though Siriano had his usual celebrity muses on hand – Alicia Silverstone, Coco Rocha and Maye Musk punctuated the more muted front row – the inclusion of Jackson rendered any other invites unnecessary; Jackson’s star power said it all, Siriano tells USA TODAY. 

"Tonight we went pretty simple," Siriano says, half-joking, "We really didn't invite a lot of people because the lovely Janet Jackson will be here, so there was no one else to invite." 

And of the collection, comprised of elegant sequined frocks, sheer paneling, and gowns with voluminous tulle skirts, Siriano says he designed with his clients, timeless silhouettes and a "return to glamour" in mind.

"It isn't about a hype look anymore," Siriano says in the controlled chaos before the show. "It's more about what's beautiful, classic, timeless and modern."

Janet Jackson attends the Harlem's Fashion Row 15th Anniversary Fashion Show And Style Awards After Party on Sept. 6, 2022, in New York City.

Siriano says he wanted to "celebrate the body" with his collection. "That was very important for me … to celebrate the shape." 

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What may have been the best accessory of the evening didn’t come down the runway on one of the models: Perfectly perched in Jackson’s hands was a portable fan that only Jackson could make look chic, tilted up at the ideal angle to cool her down in the warm late summer evening.

In stark contrast to Wednesday’s more demure crowd, uproarious cheers marked Jackson’s entrance Tuesday night at Harlem's Fashion Row’s 15th anniversary fête, held at The Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Janet Jackson accepts the ICON of the Year Award during Harlem's Fashion Row 15th anniversary Fashion Show And Style Awards After Party on Sept. 6, 2022, in New York City.

Fresh off a flight, Jackson graced the stage at the after party for the fashion agency’s earlier fashion show and awards ceremony, which persevered through torrential rain in Harlem at General Grant National Memorial, accepting the Icon Award from HFR founder Brandice Daniel.

"Thank you so much … I truly apologize for being so late, but I literally just flew in from London," Jackson said, running through a list of thank yous before posing for photos and heading to a VIP section near the DJ booth.

Other honorees of the anniversary event, sponsored by fashion conglomerate LVMH in a landmark partnership, included Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion editor Robin Givhan, who took home editor of the year; designer Sergio Hudson (yes, the man behind Michelle Obama’s 2021 inauguration pantsuit), who earned designer of the year; celebrity stylist Ade Samuel, who received stylist of the year for her work with celebs including Khalid and the City Girls; and multihyphenate star Issa Rae, whose inaugural Virgil Abloh Award was presented to her by the late designer’s widow Shannon Abloh.

HFR's fashion show presented collections from Jonathan Hayden, Nicole Benefield and Clarence Ruth, with appearances by model Veronica Webb and stylist Misa Hylton and designer Dapper Dan.