He found fashion fame with Zendaya. Now, stylist Law Roach makes a name for himself
On an unreasonably warm afternoon in August, Law Roach is sitting at the kitchen table in his agent’s Spanish Colonial house in the Hollywood Hills West neighborhood above the Sunset Strip, chatting about his summer adventures and what’s next.
In the living room is a small gathering, including a photographer and a makeup artist, prepping for a photo shoot. The globetrotting stylist — whose client roster includes “Euphoria” star and fashion designer Zendaya, singer Ariana Grande, singer-actress Mary J. Blige, actor Tom Holland and actress Tiffany Haddish — is dressed in a lightweight, white thawb that he picked up in Dubai and a gray hat from his friend’s line, Larry Sims Collection by Central Avenue.
He has on Maison Margiela boots, which he later removes to go barefoot. And on this hot, sticky day, he’s pants-free. Wearing them really wasn’t an option, he says. “I’m just in this thing in my life right now,” Roach says. “I just want to feel comfortable. ... I really don’t have a rhyme or reason to it. It’s my costume right now. I think every superhero has to have a costume.”
Sipping a glass of white wine, he recounts what was supposed to be a relaxing, do-nothing-until-you’re-tired-of-doing-nothing vacation to Indonesia. “I kind of miscalculated how far Bali was from Los Angeles. ... I didn’t get a chance to be bored in Bali, so I came back and I was feeling a little bit cheated,” Roach says, adding that another opportunity for time off might come late in the year. But first, there’s more work to do — new projects to consider, the next A-list star to dress, the next big fashion moment. “I travel a lot for work,” he says. “It’s, like, fashion week and I’m with another client in London and other client in Greece. ... You know, every time fashion week is coming or when it comes I get a whole new arsenal of things to play with and things to spark my creativity.”
Pants or no pants, Roach, who was featured on the cover of the Hollywood Reporter’s Stylists and Stars issue in 2017 (and is on the list of top stylists again this year), has made a name for himself, and in an era in which anyone with an opinion and an Instagram account can claim to be a stylist, he has gone next-level by getting a trademark on “Image Architect.” In his case, he has proof to back up the fancy title — and an explanation.
“It kind of came about because I’m a very self-reflective person,” he says. “And when I first started in this business, I kind of was going over the way I felt like I was doing things. I wanted to approach clients and projects not as if I was just picking out the best dress, but [as if there] was a plan to it.” Roach compares his style research process to that of an architect working on blueprints. “It kind of motivated me to feel like I was doing more than just putting a pretty girl in a pretty dress.”
His approach to fashion and styling has worked. On Thursday, Roach was honored as stylist of the year during the Harlem’s Fashion Row awards in New York. Also, on Sunday, he and Zendaya are set to see their sartorial efforts with designer Tommy Hilfiger, as part of the latest Tommy X Zendaya collaboration, presented at the Apollo Theater during New York Fashion Week before the see-now, buy-now collection goes on sale to the public on tommy.com and shop.nordstrom.com and at select Tommy Hilfiger and Nordstrom stores.
Serving as the creative director to Zendaya, Roach, says the new, 1970s-inspired ready-to-wear collection, which includes apparel, lingerie, sleepwear, footwear, a hobo bag and more, gives a hat tip to notable black women and trailblazers who came before Zendaya. Sunday’s show will continue the celebration of black life and culture, which was the theme of the Tommy X Zendaya runway show in Paris in March. (The Battle of Versailles-themed show featured a cast of all-black models such as Pat Cleveland, Veronica Webb, Beverly Johnson and show closer Grace Jones as well as a transgender black model and 10 plus-size black models.)
About the latest Tommy X Zendaya runway show, Roach says, “It’s a celebration of Harlem and the people of Harlem. Yeah, I’m excited about that.”
Although he’s widely known for his work with Zendaya, Roach has had big Instagram moments with another star in recent years when he transformed singer Céline Dion’s wardrobe and helped turn her into a front-row couture darling. In 2016, Roach put Dion in Vetements’ “Titanic"-themed hoodie, and the internet went crazy. Although the two currently aren’t working together, Roach says he still has fond memories of the 51-year-old songstress and the story he wanted the world to know about her through her clothes.
“It became my mission to show people, like, Céline Dion is cool,” says Roach, who has more than 496,000 Instagram followers. “She’s young and she has a young spirit and she knows fashion like the back of her hand. She studies it. She reads all the fashion magazines still. She buys couture — all these things that people didn’t know. I went back and I built this blueprint of what we would do. ... I really disrupted the idea of what people thought she was.” As a result, he introduced her to designers and streetwear brands, including Off-White, that she didn’t know or wear at the time.
Back then, he says, “She just wanted to be happy. It was a few months after René [Angélil, Dion’s manager and husband] had passed, and so the fashion and dressing up and all that kind of helped her grieve.”
Roach also went on to elevate the red-carpet looks of Haddish, who attends film premieres as well as charity and black-tie events in L.A. “She just wants to feel pretty,” he says, adding that Haddish looked perfect in a black silk stretch satin Galia Lahav dress at the premiere of her recent film, “The Kitchen.” “She’s like every other woman in the world. She wants to feel pretty. She wants to feel special. She’s the most sensitive pure, pure soul. ... Her spirit is, like, incredible. I spoke to her this morning actually.”
The women who want to work with him, he says, aren’t looking to be subtle with their wardrobes. “I think they work with me because I’m a storyteller, but you also have to have a level of confidence,” says Roach, who has also worked on more than a dozen of Grande’s videos and two of the singer’s tours and two fragrance ads. “I think '... you’ is the ultimate sign of confidence,” Roach says with colorful defiance. “There’s nothing more liberating than that. ‘I did it. I wore. I loved it.’ If you think otherwise or your opinion is different from that, then, ' ... you.’”
Although he doesn’t go on about his personal life, just saying he isn’t great at making new friends or dating, he says he’s mostly happy today, and work continues to remain a constant priority. (“I struggle with making sure that the sacrifices weren’t in vain,” he says.) Despite his success and accolades, Roach says he’s here to serve a greater purpose in Hollywood. His goal is to be a role model and open doors for more black people and other people of color, especially because he has found celebrity styling to be a profession that glamorizes white female stylists. Also, he says, he ultimately wants to help black people live in abundance, not paycheck to paycheck.
“I always say, like, it’s not talent because I think we are the most talented people on the planet,” he says. “I think it’s opportunity and I still feel like there isn’t a lot of opportunity for people who look like me. ... I feel like if I’m going to leave a legacy and I’m gonna really get to a position where my work and the things I’ve done really create an avenue for somebody else, especially somebody of color, then I can’t be complacent on things I’ve ... done. You’ve gotta keep moving.”
Thinking about his early days in L.A., Roach says he didn’t have black role models in the Hollywood stylist community. Instead, he initially used tips from stylist-turned-designer Rachel Zoe.
With her Bravo TV show, “The Rachel Zoe Project,” which ran for five seasons, he and others were given a behind-the-scenes look at Zoe’s life and the L.A. styling world. He says he briefly tried Zoe’s approach but realized he just needed to be himself. What stuck with him, he says, is when a young admirer approached him and told him, “‘I know I can because you did.’ It was so profound to me because I didn’t have anyone I could say that to.”
He says that’s when he realized how important representation is. “I always wanted to be a ‘black stylist,’” says Roach, who has also worked with Oscar winner Anne Hathaway. “I always want to be known as that. I always want to be African American. ... I wanted to be considered one of the best. I wanted my name to be spoken in the same conversations as my counterparts, you know, whoever that may be.”
For emphasis, Roach’s agent, Kent Belden, owner and founder of the bicoastal the Only Agency, added: “Law is literally one of the busiest people we represent. He came to L.A. with a plan in his head and manifested that plan based on what he saw on Rachel Zoe’s television show — and made it, in many ways, even bigger.” (Belden has represented Roach for three years, and the two are in contact with each other several times a day.)
To reach this level of success, Roach bootstrapped his L.A. life using his creativity, storytelling, eye for fashion and determination. He says the life he wanted was different from the tough one he had growing up on Chicago’s South Side as the eldest of five children. He used to go “junking” with his grandmother, Eloise, who showed him the world of thrift shopping. A turning point came in 2009 when rapper-turned-Kardashian husband Kanye West visited his now-defunct vintage store, Deliciously Vintage. (“I was always so impressed with the brands and designers and labels that you didn’t know,” Roach says, adding that he was also impressed by West’s interest in the construction of the vintage clothes he sold.) As a result of West’s visit, new customers and stylist inquiries came to the store.
Back then, Roach started working on bigger dreams. He landed a deal with Atlantic Records to style R&B singer K. Michelle. Through a family friend, Law was introduced to his now longtime client and friend, Zendaya, the former Disney actress who appeared this year in Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and HBO’s “Euphoria.” Juggling several projects, Roach stayed in Chicago while regularly flying to New York and L.A., where he has lived for the last six years.
Roach calls his early days styling Zendaya a “passion project.” “I believed in her,” he says. “I thought she was special.” Working together since she was 13 years old, Zendaya has become a rightful standout on the red carpet with look after look picked by Roach as she evolved from a budding teen star to a leading actress.
Before she met Roach, the 23-year-old actress took a different approach to dressing. “I would go to Target with my dad and try to put outfits together myself,” she says on the phone last month during a trip to Greece with Roach.
Early on, Roach helped Zendaya pick out a look for the premiere of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” in 2011. Back then, he created a fashion strategy for the young star. He borrowed pieces already worn by other celebrities, hoping to get Zendaya in the Who Wore It Best? features in magazines. The move worked, and with her rising celebrity, she now has access to top designers and luxury brands.
“He became a brother to me,” Zendaya says about Roach. “He’s my family. We’re very close. I’m very lucky to have that. He’s watched me kind of grow up.” The two talk daily, she says, adding: “He always encouraged me to do what I felt was right. If I felt good that was the only thing that mattered. He taught me how to be fearless and how not give an eff. He has helped me … get to know myself. To me, Law is a visionary. He can see hair and makeup when he just looks at something, and I’m kind of just like his Barbie, which is kind of nice.”
What are her favorite Roach-styled looks? “It’s very hard to pick a favorite,” she says. If she had to, she says one would be the Joan of Arc-inspired custom metallic Versace gown with chainmail touches she wore to the Met Gala in New York last year. “I think that was a brilliant year,” she says. Another is the monarch butterfly-print gown by Moschino that she wore to the 2017 Australian premiere of “The Greatest Showman.” “I tried it on and fell in love with it,” she says.
Although she admits she misses Roach when he’s busy working with other clients, Zendaya says she never gets jealous that they don’t exclusively work together. “He’s an incredible talent, and I’m glad people are recognizing him on his journey,” she says, adding that she couldn’t imagine working with any other Hollywood stylist.
In Roach’s eyes, Zendaya had a fashion milestone this year at the Met Gala. As a tribute to her former Disney days, Zendaya went to the Camp-themed gala dressed as Cinderella in a Tommy Hilfiger gown. With a magic wand in hand, Roach, who accompanied the actress, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo’d Zendaya’s gown, which lighted up and unfolded to the delight of onlookers. It was another fashion moment for the pair.
“It was like our way of kind of leaving that behind,” Roach says about the Disney years, “and giving people that last moment of this Disney princess. ... She was moving into ‘Euphoria.’” But for this Hollywood tale, no fairy godfather was necessary. A thoughtful Image Architect was, he says with a smile, “to kind of help her transform and move into the second chapter of her career.”
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