A stitch in time for Michael Jackson

A CHANCE meeting and a few posts on Facebook led to an opportunity for a former Sanctuary Point man to be a part of the posthumous launch of Michael Jackson’s latest album.

GLIMMER TWINS: Robert Manzini from Wollongong and Ricky Milne formerly of Sanctuary Point with the jacket they designed and created within two weeks for the launch of the Michael Jackson album Xscape. 	Photo: SONY MUSIC AUSTRALIA

GLIMMER TWINS: Robert Manzini from Wollongong and Ricky Milne formerly of Sanctuary Point with the jacket they designed and created within two weeks for the launch of the Michael Jackson album Xscape. Photo: SONY MUSIC AUSTRALIA

TAFE fashion design student Ricky Milne, 26, and fellow theatre student Robert Manzini, 27, from Wollongong secured their first significant industry gig when they were asked to recreate a CGI jacket worn by MJ on the cover of his latest album, Xscape.

The pair sewed the jacket in two weeks so it could be worn by the Michael Jackson wax figurine at Madame Tussauds in Sydney for the day of the launch on Tuesday, May 16.

The opportunity arose when a Sony Music Australia employee, who had seen some of Ricky’s design work on Facebook, asked if he and Robert would be able to make a costume in two weeks.

“I said, ‘Yeah, it depends what it is,’” Ricky said.

“When she went into detail, I was like – we won’t sleep, we will do it.”

There was time for two fittings – the jacket was too baggy the first time and still slightly too big the second.

“At the final fitting night before the event, there I am my heart racing, thinking if this doesn’t fit – but it fit perfectly,” Ricky said.

Xscape came about when the Jackson family discovered old music and archives for this album with a computer generated image.

The image only showed the jacket from the shoulder up. 

Robert designed the lower half of the jacket, in keeping with the military style Jackson often wore.

“I had his old hits in primary school,” Ricky said.

“So when we were making the jacket we had the greatest hits going. 

“I didn’t really realise when I was younger how powerful his voice and messages were.”

Ricky and Robert were thrilled to hear Sony had been sending updates on the jacket to the marketing manager of the Jackson estate in the US. 

“He loved it, which is – wow – and I’m guessing the Jackson family has seen it by now,” Ricky said.

“It’s surreal.”

The jacket remained on the wax figure for the day of the launch and has now been returned to Sony, where it will be displayed.

Ricky was born in Shellharbour and moved to Sanctuary Point, where he attended primary school.

He attended Vincentia High School until year 9 and then finished year 10 at Shoalhaven High School.

“After I finished I embarked on travelling and all sorts of things. I just wanted to get out and go backpacking. I ended up living in Sydney, then Melbourne and now Wollongong,” he said.

While he had work in call centres and the like to pay the bills, he took on jobs in theatre on the side, doing makeup.

Last year he decided to pursue sewing and completed a certificate two in fashion design.

He’s now halfway through his certificate four.

Ricky met Robert, who was performing and doing set design on Cats last year.

“He asked me to do the makeup,” Ricky said.

The two discovered their creative talents worked well together and have taken on a number of projects.

”He’s more graphic design and I’m more into makeup and we both sew.”

The two will be working on Phantom of the Opera set to open in August at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre.

They also plan to start a business together offering graphic design, makeup artistry, hair, costume design, set design and photography.

A labour of love

RICKY Milne described the jacket he and Richard Manzini created.

“The base of the jacket consists of two layers,” he said.

“The outer layer is a stretch fabric, which has been covered with a cotton drill fabric, to give it structure.

“All of the buttons down the front and on the cuffs are made from brass. 

“The epaulettes on the cuffs and shoulders are handmade by Robert and myself.

“The shoulder accents are also handmade and hand-sewn into the seam with the epaulettes and the rope features. 

“The arm band is made from a different gold fabric and attached, as MJ always wore the arm band as part of his military theme.

“The collar is gold on the outside and black on the inside with clusters of rhinestones between two layers of fabric.

“The bottom layer is like a glittery fabric and the top is a mesh with hints of glitter on it. 

“We had the ring on top laser cut to fit, and attached.

“The embellishments on the front are hand sewn on as tapered lines, keeping with the military theme MJ loved.” 

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