Can you stop time? Law Roach can. Not in a Scarlet Witch way, of course, but that doesn’t mean he’s not magic. As the Image Architect for Zendaya, Priyanka Chopra, and more A-List fashion icons, Roach has scorched a trail through the Hollywood Hills with his damn-inducing looks—the kind so captivating, they suspend the universe for a few precious flashbulbs. That emerald stab of Dior silk that Anya Taylor-Joy wielded at the Golden Globes? Law Roach did that. The hot pink Argent power suit Naomi Osaka wore to show she meant business as a sports mogul who casually brought in 37.4 million last year? Law Roach did that, too. Ditto the black woven bodice that Hunter Schafer sported to prove Matthew Williams’ Givenchy could indeed be gasp-worthy. And when Zendaya launched a million screenshots with her rib-skimming Aliétte dress in Malcolm and Marie? Yep. Him, too.
“I think the women I dress want to dare for fashion,” he says. “Especially right now, because since we’re on ‘virtual red carpets,’ we have more control over the outcome… Everything’s a little bit more staged. You take the pictures yourself, so you choose the ones that get shared. You pick the background. You pick the pose. But I’m still working from what gives me goosebumps and what takes my breath away. And I do miss ‘normal’ red carpets—as if they were ever normal! But I love them so much. I love the yells. I love the paparazzi. I love the whole scene. It’s one of the reasons why I worked so hard to get here, because seeing that and being part of that, that’s the drug.”
It’s no surprise Roach came by his appreciation for glamour earlier than most—as in, by kindergarten. “I was raised on the South Side of Chicago,” he says from his current (and gorgeous) home in Los Angeles. “And yeah, it was a very tough neighborhood. But my grandparents especially instilled a pride of style in me early… My grandfather, he was as equally into style and looking sharp as my grandmother. I never thought, as a young Black man, that I couldn’t love style.” I would watch old VHS cassettes of Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty with my grandmother, and that was very inspiring to me. I felt like I knew glamour, even though I was, like, five.” Through junior high, Roach would go “junking”—first with his grandmother, then alone—at flea markets, stoop sales, and thrift stores to put together looks.
By high school, Roach was well-versed in buying and selling vintage fashion. (“When I was nine, my mother told me, ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat, so figure it out.’ And I had a switch turn on inside me, a work ethic and an excitement about making it on my own.”) He also navigated teenage politics with relative ease. “I’m not saying I wasn’t teased!” he laughs. “I mean, come on, my last name is Roach! I was an effeminate boy. Of course I got teased. But I was also a fighter… I never felt small because of my sexuality, and I had the confidence to walk into a room and be noticed. And I think being popular, in a way, did prepare me for life in Hollywood. Because when I went to school, there was no social media, so you had to actually, you know, be social in real life! And that helped me learn to deal with all kinds of people. In a way, it helped teach me teamwork—you’re part of a bigger unit!”
After studying psychology at Chicago State, and gaining a citywide following for the secondhand treasures he sold out of his car trunk, Roach and his friend Siobhan Strong opened a small resale shop called Deliciously Vintage in 2009. Strong was college pals with Kanye West; TMZ trailed the emerging rap legend on a shopping trip; voila, their store became the store. But it wasn’t until Zendaya’s rising star collided with his—she was a 14-year-old Disney starlet who needed an outfit for Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never premiere; he was a personal shopper just putting down roots in Hollywood—that Roach’s ride to the apex of style really began.
“If it wasn’t for Zendaya, I wouldn’t exist in this industry,” he says humbly—but it’s a little more complicated than that, because though she’s a true supernova, Roach is inseparable from her fashion footprint, which includes a new campaign with Valentino. “In the beginning, we got a lot of no’s when I would approach brands about dressing her,” Law recalls. “Everything wasn’t as wide open, diverse, and inclusive as it is now… That really forced my hand to go out and find emerging, independent, smaller brands” like Stella Jean, Molly Goddard, and Christopher John Rogers (whom the actress wore to accept her Euphoria Emmy this year.). Roach also subverted the Beverly Hills 90210 playbook and purposefully put Zendaya in the same look as another starlet, knowing the “Who Wore It Better” coverage would raise her profile in celebrity press circles. By the time she arrived at the 2015 Oscars in a white Vivienne Westwood gown and princess-length dreadlocks—and sparked a cultural conversation on the glamour and history of Black hair—the then-18-year-old was already a force of nature and style, with front row appearances at major labels like Sacai, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry. . “I used to be very afraid of fashion,” the actress said, “Until Law got into my life… Now, I am fearless.”
“Fearless” is the word Céline Dion uses when speaking of Roach, too. (Although, okay, it’s intrépide in French.) “The way we used to work before [Law] was more conservative,” she explained to British radio host Dan Wootton, “But now, I want to look strong, beautiful, feminine, fierce, sexy… I want to look however I want. But of course,” she emphasized, “with [direction] from my fashion team.” Which is why when the chanteuse emerged wearing Vetements’ Titanic hoodie and a pair of gold Gucci heels while walking down the street, it became the first in a string of viral Dion-a-thon outfits cannily engineered by Roach. (“I saw it. I thought it was amazing. I thought she might not want to do it,” he says, “but she loved it.”) Then there’s Ariana Grande, whom Roach steered from Nickelodeon pop princess to grown vixen by keeping her signature ponytail intact… but adding va-voom crop tops by Jonathan Simkhai and floaty Vera Wang poufs. “Not everyone wants to suffer for fashion,” he says, when I ask how he coaxes pop culture fixtures into new skin, “But everyone wants to experience it… fashion can change your mood; it can change your life.” Or as Dion put it in his Hollywood Reporter cover story, “[Law] has brought me happiness through my clothing.”
Roach also brings the textile expertise and live-for-the-dress dedication that ensures every piece delivered to his clients is in pristine condition… even if it means taking an Oscar gown on a plane so he can deliver it by hand. “This is the trick,” he says. “If you’re taking an important outfit on a flight, carry it yourself no matter what. Do not let it out of your sight. Lay it flat on the security x-ray belt. Get on the plane and ask the flight attendant to hang it for you. What I’ve learned is, if you mention whatever is in the garment bag is for a wedding, you will get all the help you need. Even if it’s for, like, Cannes, say it’s for a wedding! People respect that, and they put it in high regard and take care of it. Ask nicely, ‘Can you please hang this up front? I’m getting right off the plane and going to a wedding. I’m trying to keep it in the best condition possible.’ They’ll never say no.”
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As an experienced stylist with a ride-or-die reverence for beautiful clothes, Roach knows all the hacks for traveling, tailoring, and walking like a model in stilettos. (“Your feet aren’t the problem. Your ankles are the problem. Walk around in your heels and learn some exercises to strengthen them. That’s how you can last all night in high shoes.”) But the issues that truly plague him—most notably, the class-based gatekeeping and racist barriers still rampant in the world he adores—don’t have solutions that can be neatly sewn up. And lately, that’s been keeping Roach up at night. “I don’t have the right answer,” he sighs when I ask how to make fashion’s pipeline more accessible to all creative talents, regardless of their initial connections. “I don’t know what the right formula is, and I care very deeply about this issue because it’s so fucked up. So let me answer it this way: I never interned. I never assisted. But that doesn’t mean other people like me—Black kids, kids from poorer neighborhoods, kids with no connections—don’t need those things to succeed. I am blessed, and I hope because of that, I can hold the door open for other people to come into this industry and celebrate its blessings, too. Interns, designers, agents, even! I want to hold the door open for you. I’ll jam it open if I have to.”
For a moment, the phone line fizzles, and Roach offers apologies—Zendaya is calling, en route to their next fitting. “But this has been great,” Roach says. “You didn’t ask me to talk shit about anyone!” We laugh, but I do have one more question—a rumor I’ve heard that Roach has “fuck you” tattooed on his body 3 times.
“Just one time!” he exclaims. “On my middle finger, that part’s true… I got it done maybe seven years ago, because I think ‘fuck you’ and ‘fuck it’ are two of the most powerful phrases you can master. When you get to a point where you are not scathed by anybody’s opinion of you? What people think about my work? That’s powerful.” It is, but I’m confused. Law Roach is famous, and famously adored. Magazines fawn on him. TV shows ask him to judge their style contests. Websites list his outfits as GOAT material. Who would be dumb enough to come for Law Roach?
“It’s not like that,” he says gently, as if he’s about to dispel the myth of Santa Claus to an eager kid. And in fact, it’s who’s not always coming for Law Roach that’s the issue. He explains that Hollywood publicists are almost always the ones who put “teams”—stylist, hair, makeup, etc.—together for big red carpet moments. But despite his consistent out-of-the-park moments, “Black stylists are not usually on those lists. I am not usually on those lists.” (In a later talk with fellow Hollywood stylist Jason Bolden, Roach added, “I want people to know that Black men are capable of working at the highest possible level. But to this day, when I work with a new client [like Anya Taylor Joy], it’s often because she calls me herself.”)
“But as I said,” Roach says, the energy picking back up in his voice, “I am blessed. I have an amazing career. I am blessed to work at the highest level. So it’s like, ‘fuck you’ to everybody else who wants to ignore or belittle that. I am okay as long as my clients feel beautiful. And they look so beautiful, don’t they?”
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