It’s 9 a.m. on the Friday before the Met Gala and Law Roach is in performance mode. The celebrity stylist — “image architect,” rather — is dressing Ariana Grande, Zendaya, Mary J. Blige and Tiffany Haddish for the 2018 event and has yet to see Grande’s nor Zendaya’s looks in person. It’s down to the wire, yes, and there’s always the chance of something going awry. But you know what they say: pressure makes diamonds. And Roach loves pressure.
Unlike many stylists, who began their careers as interns or assistants, the Chicago native started at Bloomingdale’s as a gift wrapper. “I was horrible at it,” he admits, speaking via phone while in a car on his way to a Manhattan fitting with Grande. “To this day, I still can’t wrap a gift properly, especially if it’s foil wrapping. I didn’t have that job long.”
He may not have been able to master the art of the curly bow, but there was one thing he was particularly good at: thrifting. Roach was “addicted” to vintage clothing, a trait he says he inherited from his grandmother. He shopped for himself at first, but eventually developed a curiosity for what was hidden within the racks and racks of women’s clothing. And so he began to buy…and sell.
“I was in Chicago and I remember going through my trunk and one of my friends saw a dress,” he explains. “It came out of the bag and she reached out and grabbed it. She’s like, ‘I wonder if I can fit this. Can I buy it from you?’ So I literally started selling vintage out of the trunk of my car.”
He started hosting “trunk shows,” where he’d invite friends and serve cheap Champagne, and in 2009 he opened a physical shop called Deliciously Vintage in Chicago. The shop lasted for a few years, but Roach says he ended up closing it so he could move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in styling.
He’s now a self-described “image architect,” a term he thought of about five years ago and recently trademarked. He says he approaches his clients much like an architect would approach a new project. First, he “surveys the land,” looking at everything his client has ever worn and breaking down what worked, what didn’t and why. “Then we start to build a plan, where they want to go based on what they want their fashion profile to be. It’s a lot of work and it’s very cerebral and we put a lot of time into it. I think that’s why none of my clients have any small trickle of the same thing because I really pride myself on finding out who they are and who they want to be.”
His current client roster includes Céline Dion, Demi Lovato and Tom Holland, as well as the aforementioned celebrities. He is the first and only stylist Zendaya has ever had; the two have worked together for eight years.
If you’ve ever witnessed the architect in action, you know he’s persistent. “I can’t tell my clients no when they want something,” he explains. “I take that as my own thing, like, what do you mean ‘no?’ I don’t understand that, there has to be something we can do. Can we share it? Can I send someone to pick it up as soon as we shoot? I know the dress when I see it.” For this year’s Oscars, he had his eyes set on a chocolate-brown Giambattista Valli dress for Zendaya. “When I saw that dress walk [the runway], I was like, ‘She has to wear this dress, this is the dress she’s gonna wear to the Oscars.’ Someone had already requested it, so I was e-mailing them every other day, like, ‘Hi, has it been released yet? Hi.'”
His hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, either. His creations are often buzzworthy, with examples including Céline Dion in Vetements’ “Titanic” sweatshirt, the white Stéphane Rolland gown Dion wore to the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, the hot pink Ralph & Russo gown Zendaya wore to the 2017 L.A. premiere of “Spider-Man” and most recently, Zendaya’s Joan of Arc-inspired 2018 Met Gala gown by Versace.
On top of his styling duties, Roach continues to be a judge on “America’s Next Top Model,” which he joined in 2016 for the VH1 reboot. When asked how he balances styling, television appearances and a personal life, he laughs.
“I have no balance,” he says. “I try not to think about it. Last month, I had six clients that were all working simultaneously. Everyone else around me, including my agent Kent Belden, was like, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ I just get it done. I am in such a grateful place that these people trust me with something so big as their image. I’m so humble to be here that I don’t think about it, I keep going and try to do the very best job I could do every single time someone hires me to do something.”
Roach teases the idea of a clothing line of his own — a step that feels natural for him, as he’s already worked with clients on their various clothing collaborations. “I definitely have aspirations of doing that really soon,” he says, referring to launching a fashion line.
With an ever-growing Instagram following under his belt (he currently has 344,000 followers), he won’t have to look far for a platform on which to launch it. But “soon” could mean anywhere from three months to three years. As his clients show no signs of slowing down, there’s no telling when Roach will actually launch. What will happen once he takes the leap?
That’s a blueprint for another time.
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