Sep 17, 2018

By Tara Weiss
How Arturo Chavez creates costumes for the iconic tween entertainer.

When Arturo Chavez first met JoJo Siwa in 2016, her attire reflected her dance background. Chavez, style director for Nickelodeon, remembers she wore an oversized Coca-Cola logo sweatshirt with dance shorts and a giant hair bow to their first meeting at the network.

Siwa came to Nickelodeon in 2017 with a massive social media following of “Siwanatorz” (that’s what her fans call themselves) who were inspired by her anti-bullying message. She was outspoken then, as she is now about being true to herself. To reflect that, Nickelodeon wanted her wardrobe to echo her youth and strength and Chavez—who serves as the style director for all the talent on Nickelodeon’s roster—wanted to incorporate her obsession with all things unicorns, emojis and bling.

Together, they collaborated to create what has become her signature look: A bomber jacket, full skirt, high tops and of course, the oversized bow. The color palette is bright, shiny and frequently metallic. Her style is copied by little girls—and their moms—worldwide. Fans typically attend her live shows wearing bows, t-shirts with her empowering sayings and tulle skirts.

Nickelodeon signed her to an exclusive licensing partnership deal in 2016. First on the market were her signature bows, which are sold at retailers including Walmart, Target and QVC; 35 million have been sold worldwide. Following her performance at SlimeFest in Chicago this summer, bow sales at local Walmart and Target jumped by 40%. After her Vidcon appearance in June, bow sales at those stores in Anaheim, Calif. Area increased by 60%, according to Nickelodeon research. This summer fans were also able to buy replicas of her favorite costumes at the JoJo’s Closet collection at Target.

In anticipation of the premiere of The JoJo and BowBow Show Show, which will air Saturdays starting September 22 on the Nickelodeon YouTube channel, Chavez recently talked with Viacom about creating Siwa’s style and how it’s evolved as she’s matured.

Viacom: Her ensembles seem to have a theme. Are there guidelines to designing a JoJo Siwa costume?

Arturo Chavez: We like color. Everything is fun, bright and youthful, which fits in with the Nickelodeon DNA. Three things we consistently try to include in her wardrobe is texture, shine, and color. For texture that might mean ruffles, sequins, or rhinestones. It brings more interest to her clothes. For shine, we include metallics and rhinestones. She’s always shining and sparkling. With color we always have either rainbow or a minimum of three colors at once. For example, her costume at SlimeFest had bright pink, green and turquoise. It makes it fun and true to her. She came to us loving color, sequins, and shine which we at the network love. And bows!

V: Where do you get the inspiration for her look?

AC: From JoJo, the two decades that reflect her style and that we pull inspiration from are the 50’s and 80’s. A modern take on 50’s fashion was the inspiration for the kid in a candy store music video. JoJo wore a fit and flare, full, sequin skirt with crinoline underneath it. It’s like a poodle skirt but shortened to the knee. She’s also drawn to the ‘80s. Neon, vinyl and motorcycle jackets. I try to mix the rocker punk vibe with a ‘50s skirt. It’s mixing and matching but it’s always with a modern take.

V: I’m guessing her costumes give seamstresses a lot of work. Where do you shop for her?

A: We do a lot of custom—90% of her wardrobe is custom made and with over 100 looks, we get to have a lot of fun. Even things we buy off the rack we customize. We’ll chop off sleeves and add things. Last year’s Kids Choice Awards performance is good example of how we customize her outfits. The beginning of the performance started in the dark but we wanted something to catch the light, so we sewed fairy lights into the skirt. The lights added a subtle detail on camera; they had to be waterproof because she was slimed. They were battery operated so we had to create a panel for all the battery packs with wires coming out of it. When we built the microphone packs into the outfits they have to blend in so the audience doesn’t see them when she dances.

V: She’s best known for wearing oversized hair bows. What is it about the bows that resonate with young girls?

AC: It goes back to what she stands for and how she’s used the bow to embrace her followers, fans, and audience. You see her fans wear them. It’s fun and refreshing that she stays youthful and she wants to have fun being her age.

V: Having said that, she’s approaching her 16th birthday. How will her style evolve as she matures?

AC: There is an evolution that’s naturally happening now which JoJo, myself and Nickelodeon are embracing. She’s wearing more pants and Doc Marten boots. I think the color palette might become darker, more sophisticated. The bow won’t ever go away because it represents so much more than just an accessory but it may come out in different ways.

V: What’s her everyday style like?

AC: What she wears on her vlog is pretty true to her everyday style. Oversized hoodies and leggings or skinny jeans. That’s her go-to. She loves wearing her merchandise that our great apparel partners create, especially her t-shirts that have her sayings or her image on them.

V: Tell us about JoJo’s Closet, the collection sold at Target this summer.

AC: JoJo’s Closet is a really unique collection that the network did in partnership with JoJo and Target. Everything from that collection is based on things we’ve designed together and that she has worn at events and performances. It’s taking memorable, signature pieces that she’s worn and remaking them to a price point where fans can get them.