How Law Roach Went From Selling Vintage to Styling Icons Zendaya and Céline Dion

He's also the first black stylist to cover the annual "The Hollywood Reporter" Stylists and Stars issue.
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Photo: Courtesy of Law Roach

Photo: Courtesy of Law Roach

Law Roach has a tightly curated styling roster. In fact, you could tick his current red carpet clients off on one hand: Zendaya, Ariana Grande and Celine Dion. All three are gold star talents — Zendaya and Dion went to the Met Gala on Monday night in Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda and Atelier Versace, respectively, both landing on our best dressed list — who are currently in the midst of whirlwind touring schedules. This sort of intimate lineup is right where he wants to be, as his client roster once ballooned to almost a dozen people per night.

"I love my girls," Roach told Fashionista in an interview last week. "I am at a place right now where I really love my roster. They are all so different, but at the same time they are all kind of the same." Though the self-described "image architect" has recently earned industry stamps of approval with a judging spot on VH1's revamp of "America's Next Top Model" and the prestigious cover of The Hollywood Reporter's Stylists & Stars issue (Roach is the first black stylist to ever receive this honor), his climb through the ranks has involved perseverance and quite a bit of tenacity.

"Vintage has always been my addiction," Roach said, and in the beginning stages of his career he owned a vintage shop called Deliciously Vintage with locations in both Harlem and Chicago. Though it's now shuttered because of his styling workload, the concept store-inspired shop got Roach's foot firmly in the door of the celebrity styling world. By building out vintage selections based on trends of the moment and current runway collections, the space attracted in-the-know customers — even Kanye West came through for a visit. That appearance sparked inquiries from stylists around the world and eventually led to Roach's introduction to Zendaya.

"A woman who was a client of the store was a really good friend of Zendaya's dad," Roach explained. "I'll never forget this: [Zendaya] was going to Justin Bieber's 'Never Say Never' premiere and she didn't have anything to wear. They were going shopping and the client said, 'Law said he's a stylist, you should go along.' So I did, and we've been together ever since."

Celine Dion at the Dior Haute Couture show in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Celine Dion at the Dior Haute Couture show in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

That 2011 connection has turned into a career-long relationship. One of their first golden moments got placement on the cover of WWD, when Roach put Zendaya in a Miuniku coat to go people watch at Lincoln Center during fashion week. Wearing jeans, a T-shirt and hair and makeup she whipped together herself, the then-Disney star became the subject of hard-to-impress street style photographers.

"One became two, two became 10, and before you know it there were all these photographers surrounding this girl — it was the first time she had really experienced something like that," Roach recounted. "I whispered in her ear, 'You know, they are not photographing you because they know who you are, they are photographing you because you're beautiful.'" Those hoards of photographers followed Zendaya for the rest of the week, officially marking her debut as a street style force.

Though Zendaya is quite the get for brands now (she has campaigns for CoverGirl, Material Girl and Dolce & Gabbana under her belt, as well as her own apparel and footwear brand, launched in partnership with Roach), there was a point at which the stylist had to prove her relevancy, as well as the relevancy of some of his other talent — a roster that began expanding after Zendaya rose to style prominence. "I fought," Roach admitted when asked. "I fought for Zendaya for years, I fought for her. I didn't come from anybody's lineage, I was never someone's intern, I wasn't in 'the system' so I didn't have any structure. I didn't know what was politically correct, what was right and wrong. I didn't know what you shouldn't say to offend someone. I just didn't understand what they didn't see, that this was one of the most beautiful girls in the world." 

To wit, when Roach and his team sent out requests for looks and were denied, he wasn't above replying back with "Why not?" or listing some of the star's recent style coverage and upcoming projects in an attempt to impress upon them how advantageous the appearance could be for their respective brands. This didn't always get in a response, but every once in awhile, it could turn the tide. And in 2014, there was a significant turn. "All the big fashion houses were saying the same thing: no, no, no, no," Roach confided of his team's Grammy preparations for that year. "I remember going to Alta Moda, the showroom that reps Emanuel Ungaro here, and seeing this dress. When I saw it, I knew: 'This is the dress.' Brooke Pace, [who worked in the showroom], was really nice and was like, 'No, she's not ready, she's a little green.'"

Zendaya in Ungaro at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Zendaya in Ungaro at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Roach simply would not take "no" for an answer. "I literally sat there with her and would not leave," Roach continued. "'She's going to think I'm crazy,' but I kept saying, 'She's five ten, she's gorgeous, she carries herself like a seasoned diva on the red carpet. You have to, you have to.'" Pace held her ground, admitting that the brand had its eye on another star of color for that exact look. Roach persisted.

"Finally, she said, 'You know what, I'm going to take a chance on you,' and gave us that dress." That appearance made Zendaya one of the best dressed of the night by most reports, made her a talk of the then Joan Rivers-hosted "Fashion Police" and warranted a personal "thank you" from Ungaro Creative Director Fausto Puglisi. Roach, Zendaya and Puglisi still have a relationship to this day.  

There was a period where Roach's work with Zendaya caught the eyes of up-and-coming celebs all over. His roster has seen appearances from the likes of Wale, La La Anthony and Willow Shields, as well as Jessie J, Ruby Rose and Brandy. "Having all those clients was validating me in a way," Roach says of the time, which he admits was difficult to juggle. "It was hard! It was stressful because I didn't have a group of clients where everyone was the same size and I could have all these samples. And I was also working with some girls who designers wouldn't lend to, so it was basically me being baptized by fire." But he worked it out, eventually whittling the list down to his current lineup. For Ariana Grande, who is currently on tour, Roach tapped designers like Virgil Abloh, Sergio Hudson and Bryan Hearns for custom stage outfits. Dion and Zendaya joined Roach for his cover of The Hollywood Reporter.

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"Celine means so much to me, and everybody knows how much Zendaya means to me," Roach said of the shoot which happened the day of the Oscars in the hangar outside of Celine's private jet. "Zendaya looks up to Celine and Celine looks up to Zendaya in a way because she knows how much of a role model she is — she's a really good girl and Celine has children who watch her, so they were happy to meet each other." In fact, it was Roach's work and collaboration with Zendaya that caused Dion to reach out initially, and the reason she's recently made the rounds wearing the likes of Vetements, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Off-White.

But these days, Roach isn't just working for himself, and he's cognizant of that. "Until very recently, I had never really known how my career is inspiring to others," he admitted. "I have just been working in a bubble, head down, move, move move." But as he recently began reading messages sent to him on social media and having fans approach him to tell him how they appreciate seeing his career trajectory, that has changed.

"I want everybody to look at me and see that there's a place for us in this small, small industry," he said, referring specifically to creatives of color. "We have a place here, and there should be more people like me or like Jason Rembert or Jason Bolden," he said, name-checking others who have appeared on THR's list. "It shouldn't just be one or two."

Homepage photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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