At 17, Yara Shahidi has carved out a style worthy of longtime red carpet veterans. Her looks are adventurous yet fun, aspirational yet achievable, and daring yet never veer toward shocking territory.
And Shahidi says it’s going to stay that way.
“I appreciate baby steps,” the star of the Emmy-nominated comedy series Black-ish, future Harvard student, and face of Fossil’s new Fossil Q Venture watch tells PeopleStyle. “I appreciate stepping outside my comfort zone, but at the same time I still want it to come from a natural place of growth, rather than stepping out to be different. There’s no need [to break the Internet]. I have a lot of other years to do that. Also, being 17, there’s so much room to have fun and not be conventional.
Her “baby steps” are taken with the help of stylist Jason Bolden. Their latest look for the 2017 MTV VMAs featured a one-shoulder Zimmermann gown in Shahidi’s go-to hue: “My favorite color on a day-to-day is just yellow,” she says. “And I love a great mustard!”
Together, Bolden and Shahidi make sure an outfit has two things: “It’s something that I not only feel comfortable in, but really establishes my presence,” says the star, who describes her looks as unorthodox and loud. “What I really appreciate about clothing is just its ability to help you take up space. When you put on a bold color, you can’t help but fill up a room.”
Some of her favorite looks recently include the Fear of God sweats and Libertine sparkly shirt combination she wore to the 2017 Teen Choice Awards (“It’s so unabashedly me”); the purple belted Elie Saab flouncy dress she wore to Black Girls Rock (“Purple has always been my favorite color”); and the high-neck Chanel blouse and wide-leg jeans combination she chose for a Chanel event (“What’s fun is figuring out the small details that make an outfit different and the neckline is one of them”).
“I think this speaks to the idea that I just want to have fun,” she says of her red carpet choices. “It’s always a reflection of who I am in that moment.”
Lately, she’s also applied her playful attitude for fashion to accessories, specifically when it comes to earrings. “I don’t know if many people picked up on the fact that there have been multiple events in the past couple months where I’ve worn mismatched earrings,” she says (like for her second look at the VMAs, shown above).
“But it depends on my hair, too,” she says. “Sometimes it’s huge and takes over. Sometimes it’s braided. Sometimes it’s doing certain things. But it really comes down to the look—sometimes accessories make it and sometimes I’m going to let this outfit speak for itself.”
Another accessory she loves? A good watch, which makes sense since she’s now the face of Fossil. “I’m somebody who collected watches when I was little, and I have always enjoyed the importance of time,” says the star, who now uses the Fossil Q Venture, a digital smartwatch that tracks your activities and syncs to your smartphone. “I wear one a lot when I travel, it’s a way to keep myself grounded.”
Ultimately, when it comes to fashion, she says she’s still figuring it all out.
“Just looking at the past couple years being on Black-ish, my style has evolved,” she says. “It really comes from taking small risks and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. For me, the colors that I’ve worn have changed and the cuts of shirt that I wear have changed—but I have never sacrificed comfort.”