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Jiovani Cervantes on Fashioning Authenticity

personal styling

A chat with wardrobe stylist Jiovani Cervantes

Words by 

David Yeung

Published on 

October 30, 2023

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Embracing one's true self and cultivating authenticity in fashion is a special practice of self-care. Fashion is a form of self-expression that can have impacts both personally and publicly. With influencers, actors, and models often being the role models and trendsetters, there can be times in which authenticity becomes a questionable attainment.

For personal stylist Jiovani Cervantes, authenticity is the very essence that makes fashion unique and deserving of celebration. Jiovani has over seven years of industry experience, designing and refining his service specifically to revitalise an individual's sense of self-worth and personal style.

Throughout his career, Jiovani has had his work featured in well-known industry publications such as Digital Vogue, Yellow Mag, and Selin Magazine. He has also enjoyed collaborating and working with emerging artists such as Keraun Harris, Jackie Mitchell, and Inas X.

Jiovani's experience, confidence, and commitment to authenticity enable him to thrive in the crowded, high-pressure fashion industry. We speak to Jiovani about his personal awakening to the power of fashion, his what personal style really means.

As told in Jiovani's own words.

On inspiration

When did your styling career begin?

My interest in styling first sparked in middle school. My friends liked how I presented myself through what I wore, so they would ask me to create outfits from their closet that they could wear throughout the school week. Whether it was to simply look cool or popular, get noticed by the girls, or even keep up with the latest trends, I continued styling my friends until my senior year of high school and I enjoyed every minute of it.

What motivates you?

Those near and dear to my heart. The people who I came up with through hard times, who have always supported my creative endeavours, and who have always given me a sense of purpose. They’re the reason I work as hard as I do. The more I create, the closer I come to making sure they’re taken care of forever.

Who do you draw inspiration from?

Rick Owens. His mindset, perspective, and brand identity align with mine in many ways.

How would you describe yourself?

Artistic, Ambitious, Bold, Creative, Compassionate, Edgy, Elevated, Enthusiastic, Expressive, Grunge, Intelligent, and Polished.

And your style?

I truly think most of these adjectives can be used to describe my personal style. Personally, I’ve always called my style “Polished, Elevated Grunge”.

On trends

You prefer not to follow trends, why is that?

Style is meant to promote authentic individual expression, how can you properly do that when you are dressed to blend in with the others around you?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t participate in the trends, some are worth trying out, the issue is when the entire foundation of your style is inspired by what’s hot right now.

What tactics do you use to steer clients away from trends, and towards a style that is authentic to them?

I encourage my clientele to create budget plans, 5 year plans, and a personal style mood board, a visual representation of the new style realm they should be shopping and dressing within. When you know yourself, the direction in which your life is going in, and how to save money, the new places you’ll shop at won’t sell cheap trends, they’ll sell quality and longevity.

In your eyes, what is authenticity?

Authenticity is how far you’re willing to go to stay true to who you are and your values, despite the pressures of social conformity.

Pretending to be something you aren’t is exhausting. On the other hand, being unapologetically yourself can be liberating and fulfilling.

On business

What are the biggest challenges you face as a freelance stylist?

Recession and economic inflation. I often work with high-profile clientele but, for the most part, I work with everyday people. These clients aren’t expected to pay much, but they pay enough to keep the bills paid, gas in the car, styling supplies stocked, as well as other expenses. One of the ways I’ve overcome this is by spreading my outreach throughout my team and making it a goal to reach out to x amount of client leads per week.

How do you manage and operate your styling business on both coasts?

We don’t need to be in the same state to work together. My network of clients lives throughout the US from Seattle to California, New York to Florida.

Simply describe the occasion, outline your budget, and send over your measurements. Once I have shopped for the look, I’ll send back the remaining shopping balance and expedite shipping to your current location. You then keep the look after—that simple!

BTS of Jiovani and his team working on a glamorous shoot. Via Jiovani Cervantes on Instagram.

On achievements

After seven years in the industry, what has been your highlight?

My career highlights include:

  • Working on a Karl Kani set when I first moved to Los Angeles.
  • Styling personalities during the rise of “influencer culture”.
  • Styling aspiring musicians for artist development agency Wealth Nation.
  • My first publication in Vogue
  • NYFW client styling
  • Creating a Fashion Show event series that promotes and highlights independent designers in the San Fernando Valley.

What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?

I once styled a musician for their headlining performance. After the show, the entourage headed back to their mansion for an after-party. At some point during the party, I find myself out on the balcony, overlooking the city of Los Angeles, just thinking about where I come from and how the hell I’ve managed to get this far. It was one of those moments where life comes full circle and you kind of step back and look at all that you have achieved and gone through in appreciation. I just smiled and started to imagine what more was to come.

... What is to come?

I won’t share all of my future aspirations. However, I do plan to mentor stylists and implement basic cut-sew classes in schools and communities in the future. Mentoring stylists on how to build and curate slow, ethical, versatile, and long-term wardrobes could help reduce consumption, whilst implementing basic cut-and-sew classes in schools and the community could help encourage recycling and reduce waste in landfills.

Jiovani Cervantes and Chilli Spirit style Reed Shannon.

On the next generation

Is fashion school necessary?

I studied pattern and textile coordination as well as colour theory and analysis during my time at FIDM (The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising). This knowledge comes in handy when I’m identifying what colours will look best on my muse and what textile and pattern combinations work without clashing too much.

If you aim to become a stylist, you don’t need a degree to qualify. You just need to know how to put together looks and have an outstanding network of resources. If you aim to be in PR, designer clothes, or visual communications, then I’d suggest going to school.

You offer a course for aspiring stylists. Why is it important to you to teach?

Teaching and helping others have always been some of the things that fulfil me in life. I’ve gotten so far in what I would consider my dream job, that I feel as though I have a responsibility to share what I’ve learned so that the next creative has a chance at turning their dreams into reality. That’s just the way I am.

What advice do you have for aspiring wardrobe stylists looking to make their mark in the fashion industry?

This career is not glamorous. It is brutal, high-performing, last-minute, and leaves little room for error. But it is highly rewarding. It is not enough for you to love fashion, to really make it in this field it has to be your life. Figure out what it is you want to do in the industry, figure out how to be the best in your lane, and embrace failures as stepping stones to success with unwavering resilience.

Follow Jiovani on Instagram, or learn more about his styling services on his website.

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