Emmy-nominated costume designer Michelle Cole, who styled all the looks on ABC’s “Black-ish” and Freeform’s “Grown-ish,” wants to make one thing clear: Yara Shahidi and Joey Johnson are two very different people. Shahidi, who has played the charming oldest Johnson child on “Black-ish” since 2014, reprises her role as Zoe — now a college student at Cal U — in the spinoff series. “Big-ish” sees Johnson coming into her own as an adult with a budding career as a stylist.
“It’s always a question of who does it [Zoey Johnson] Want to be that day? It’s a mismatch, but it’s very beautiful.”
In real life, Shahidi is an actor, activist and red carpet fashion fixture. Styled by Jason Bolden, she’s known for sophisticated yet wearable looks, from the trench cape she wore at Dior’s Fall 2022 show to the electric-green midi dress she wore at the 2021 Emmys.
Zoey’s “Grown-ish” wardrobe stands out in one major way: it’s quirky. “Joey has been at the center of the show for the past four seasons, which has allowed me to have a lot of range with her character,” Cole told PopSugar. “When I’m styling Zoe, she doesn’t have a defined look; she likes to play with clothes, as her character is working her way up the fashion world. I can do plaid and whimsical prints. It’s always a question of who she wants to be that day. ? It’s mismatched, but it’s very beautiful.”
Cole has been working with Shahidi since he was 13, and they have developed a relationship that enhances the collaborative process. “She’s always had input, but now that she’s grown into this strong, professional young woman, she has even more input, so she never wears something she doesn’t like,” Cole says of her working relationship with Shahidi. “But there’s no ‘Oh, I have to wear this’ attitude. It’s decided by what the character wears and her particular style.”
Photo credit: Paul HebertAbove: “Big-ish” costume designer Michelle Cole poses with some favorite Joey Johnson outfits.
Cole also collaborates with other creatives on set and especially appreciates the makeup artists for helping to bring each outfit to life. “In terms of what makes things 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 single look. It’s more than just the clothes—they really bring everything together. It’s the whole package that makes the look special.”
Together, they worked on more than 100 costumes for the show, with Johnson alone wearing seven to 10 per episode and about 18 episodes a season. Cole dresses up an entire group of college friends — including Naomi Segal (Emily Arluck), Anna Torres (Francia Raisa), Luca Hall (Luca Sabbat), Skye and Jazz Forster (Haley and Chloe Bailey), Vivek Shah (Jordan Buhat), Doug Frederick (Diggy Simmons), and Aaron Jackson (Trevor Jackson) — who each have their own spin on the signature brand.
Although it is difficult, Cole finds the work rewarding. He is even open to reviewing DMs from emerging designers who would like to be featured in the series.
Ahead, get a rundown of each “Grown-ish” character’s style, then check out the best fashion moments from the Emmy-nominated series, according to Cole.