To do that, Dundas considered the hallmarks of Blige’s public persona and wardrobe. In her decades-spanning career, she’s taken on a variety of looks, from the baseball jerseys and doorknocker earrings of her What’s the 411? era to the grownup glamor seen in her latest video for “Good Morning Gorgeous.” Working with Blige’s longtime stylist Jason Rembert, the designer took a deep dive into her fashions and found some recurring themes. “With celebrities, especially icons like Mary, I think about their signatures. Creating [custom pieces] for them is similar to being a creative director at a luxury house in that you need to understand the existing DNA before you can truly begin,” explains Dundas. “We’ve included my signature lacing and embroidery within the look, but this is Mary as seen through a Dundas lens. She loves to shine and wear cream, she looks great in them, and they worked with the staging too.” 

Photo: Courtesy of Dundas

The spontaneous nature of Blige’s performance style was also a factor. “Mary moves a lot, but her movements are impulsive,” says Dundas. “You’re always thinking about choreography and quick changes. Some artists plan every step, but Mary sings from the heart and reacts in the moment. The costume has to be able to do anything that she needs.” Having created pieces for the stage throughout his career, Dundas was up to the task. “We launched with Beyoncé’s, so this represents a great deal of what we do,” says Dundas referencing the star’s 2017 Grammy’s medley, where she wore the first piece from his eponymous collection. “When we began discussions, Mary said to me that she might do ‘this or that’ during her performance, so [at that time] there wasn’t a set plan regarding dance. The ambiguity makes things more challenging, but it’s a welcome challenge.” 

While workshopping ideas, Dundas looked to luminaries from art and music. The effortless elegance of jazz bandleader Cab Calloway immediately came to mind as did the monumental sculptures of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. “Calloway had this unapologetic glamor that I feel connected to,” says Dundas. “His outfits always had these flourishes, especially in Janet Jackson’s ‘Alright’ video where he has a cameo. It’s an iconic moment, and his look there is a little extra, but that’s what you want for the stage.” Dundas was inspired by Saint Phalle’s world renowned Tarot Garden, a cartomancy-inspired sculpture park in Pescia Fiorentina, Tuscany that opened in 1998. “There is a lot of shine, which I’m very into right now,” says Dundas. “I drew from de Saint Phalle’s sculptures of women where she uses mirrors, and that motif was perfect for Mary because she’s able to reflect our emotions through her lyricism.”