Emmy-nominated costume designer Michelle Cole, who styled every look for “Black-ish” on ABC and “Grown-ish” on Freeform, wants to make one thing clear: Yara Shahidi and Zoey Johnson are two very different people. Shahidi, who has played Johnson’s charming oldest child on “Black-ish” since 2014, is reprising her role as Zoey — now a Cal U student — in the spin-off series. “Grown-ish” finds Johnson blossoming into adulthood with a budding career as a stylist.
“It’s always a question of who makes [Zoey Johnson] do you want to be that day? It’s a mismatch, but it’s so cute.”
In real life, Shahidi is an actor, activist, and fashion staple on the red carpet. Styled by Jason Bolden, she’s known for her sophisticated yet wearable looks, from the trench coat she wore to the Dior Fall 2022 show to the electric green midi dress she wore to the 2021 Emmys.
Zoey’s “Grown-ish” wardrobe differs in one major way: it’s quirky. “Zoey has been the focus of the show for the past four seasons, which gives me a lot of scope with her character,” Cole told POPSUGAR. “When I do styling for Zoey, she doesn’t have a set look; she loves to play with clothes, because her character works to be in the fashion world. I can do the wacky plaids and prints. is always a question of who does she want to be that day? It’s a mismatch, but it’s so cute.”
Cole has worked with Shahidi since the latter was 13, and they have developed a relationship that enhances the process of working together. “She’s always been an influence, but now that she’s become this powerful, professional young woman, she’s got even more influence, so she never wears anything she doesn’t like,” Cole said of of his working relationship with Shahidi. “But there’s no ‘Oh, I gotta wear this’ attitude. Decisions are driven more by what the character would wear and their specific style.”
Image source: Paul HébertAbove: “Grown-up” costume designer Michelle Cole poses with some of Zoey Johnson’s favorite outfits.
Cole also collaborates with other designers on set and especially praises the beauty artists for helping bring each outfit to life. “For what makes certain looks more memorable, I have to give props to the hair and makeup teams on the show,” she says. “They’re so thoughtful and intentional with every look. It’s more than the outfit – they really tie everything together. It’s the complete package that makes the looks so special.”
Together they work on over 100 outfits for the show, with Johnson alone wearing seven to 10 per episode and about 18 episodes per season. Cole also dresses the entire group of college friends – including Nomi Segal (Emily Arlook), Ana Torres (Francia Raisa), Luca Hall (Luka Sabbat), Sky and Jazz Forester (Halle and Chloe Bailey), Vivek Shah (Jordan Buhat), Doug Frederick (Diggy Simmons) and Aaron Jackson (Trevor Jackson) – all of whom have their own rotation of iconic brands.
Although it’s strenuous, Cole finds the work rewarding — and she’s already looking forward to season five, which will focus on life after graduation. She’s even open to considering DMs from up-and-coming designers who would like to feature in the upcoming season.
Ahead, get a look at each “Grown-ish” character’s style, then check out the best fashion moments from the Emmy-nominated series so far, according to Cole.