On Nov. 30, Law Roach will be honored as Style Influencer of the Year at the 35th annual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Nov. 29 print issue.
For a non-model, Law Roach makes modeling look easy. It’s a late afternoon in New York City and I quietly creep up a set of stairs to a Grand Marnier photo shoot, where Roach is scaling a ladder with one foot on a step and the other jutting out. He’s wearing a black-and-white houndstooth coat and billowing skirt with dramatic platform heeled boots. His hair is in braids and beads, which are rattling between each click as he shifts into a new pose.
“I love how you move after every single shot. I usually have to tell people to do that,” the photographer says.
Clearly, Roach is a pro. He’s been on 30 cover shoots this year alone, though he’s typically behind the camera styling entertainment’s biggest celebrities. “I was also a judge on ‘America’s Next Top Model’ for two seasons, so I know,” he quips.
The stylist teamed up with the French cognac house to host a party in Manhattan and was capturing content for the company prior to guests arriving. One would expect anxious energy before such an event, but Roach exudes calm. He’s playful, drinking the prop drinks behind the bar. He’s no stranger to this type of setting — prior to his foray into the fashion world, he was a bartender in Chicago.
The day is a glimpse into Roach’s busy life, which is entering a new phase. It’s not often that stylists are spoken of in the same breath as their clients, but his impact on fashion is undeniable.
Many know Roach’s work with Zendaya. Over the past decade, the two have created countless red-carpet stunners together, cementing her as a fashion icon — an actual title she earned at the CFDA Fashion Awards this month. And Roach remembers every single look.
“I firmly believe that the universe puts me in people’s lives exactly when it is supposed to happen,” he said. “When Zendaya and I started our journey, it was about being a chameleon. Her style is not having a style — it’s being able to do whatever she wants whenever she wants to do it. I think that’s a trend that I was at the forefront of.”
Roach has become known for his ability to disrupt. As he puts it: “You’re not going to call Law Roach if you want to just have on a pretty black dress,” he said. “I’ve been at the forefront of doing vintage on the red carpet, [for example]. That has shown me that I do have influence, that I am influential in those ways.”
Outside of Zendaya, Roach has crafted the images of stars such as Priyanka Chopra, Anya Taylor-Joy, Lewis Hamilton, Halsey and Tiffany Haddish. And even when he’s no longer working with a client, Roach said that blueprint is already laid out for the next person to come in. Hence his self-given title “image architect” (which is trademarked, by the way).
“Stylists, we are the ones who shift [trends]. We are the ones who take something from
runway to real life. And I think that we should get more credit for doing that,” he explains. Designer Tommy Hilfiger seems to agree: “Law has an exceptional eye. He’s a master storyteller and every single detail of his work is well-thought-out. What sets him apart is that he is not afraid to take risks with fashion and he does so in a way that is authentic and unique to every client he works with. He is a style genius.”
A NATURAL-BORN HUSTLER
The next day, we are back on set as Roach preps for his FN cover shoot. Just five years ago he was here behind the scenes, helping to direct Zendaya’s cover moment to mark the launch of her shoe line in 2016.
His new position in front of the camera is a testament to Roach’s evolution and work ethic.
“I’m a natural-born hustler,” he said of his early days in fashion where he would travel to New York from Chicago, pretending to be local so he wouldn’t miss opportunities. “I wanted people to say my name as the best to ever do this. And that’s what I was working toward. I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I had no clear plan. I just wanted to be the best.”
His days now are similar to those of a sleep-deprived new mom. He’s up at 3 a.m. about four days a week, working with clients and in a new position in London that he couldn’t disclose. Then it’s back to bed around 6 or 7 a.m., only to wake up again at 9, when his L.A. office opens.
This work, though grueling, is fuel for Roach.
“I still have a lot of passion for what I do. I don’t think who I am as a person — what I look like, being a Black man — has ever existed in this world at this level. So hopefully my presence allows space for other people who look like me. That’s the biggest motivation for me to work the way I work,” he said.
And he did make space — quite literally — at the Met Gala this fall, when Hamilton tasked Roach with curating a table filled with Black talent. That included Roach, designers Kenneth Nicholson and Edvin Thompson, stylist Jason Rembert and others.
“The beautiful thing about that night was the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. This moment had all these Black people in a space that has just now opened up for us. And it was powerful, it was Black and it was strong,” said Roach.
During our interview, Roach called out another up-and-coming Black footwear designer, Sunni Sunni, as someone he admires and supports — at his own monetary expense.
“Law Roach has been amazing to me since the beginning of Sunni Sunni and very impactful to my exposure,” said designer and founder Sunni Dixon, who was also included in FN’s 2021 emerging talent list.
In this business, any person of influence is typically sent free product, but to Roach, it was important to pay for Sunni Sunni shoes.
“We can get on social media and advocate for someone, but if you’re not actually using your influence to change people’s economic status, then it doesn’t really mean sh*t to me,” he said. “Where I’m from, you kept your money under your mattress. I didn’t understand how to have a real, genuine relationship with money. Now, I’m becoming more financially literate. And as much as I learn, I want to be able to teach that to other people who look like me.”
JUST HAVING FUN
Back on FN’s set, Roach is impressing the photographer. Beyoncé plays in the background and he’s giving a Michael Jackson toe-stand in a 10-pound Marc Jacobs look paired with platform Mary Janes. “I’m different,” Roach laughs.
However, work doesn’t stop even when it’s his time to shine. During the shoot, a young man (who may or may not be our new favorite webslinger) calls Roach on Facetime. “It’s beautiful, you look fucking stunning,” I overhear Roach say. (Later that night, Tom Holland, one of his clients, attended the 2021 GQ Men of the Year Awards in a suit that Roach would most likely describe as “fucking stunning.”)
The balance between being a stylist and crafting his own brand isn’t easy. In fact, Roach is still trying to figure it out. “At the core of who I am, I am in the service industry,” he says. “I still have to come in with the mindset that me doing something for me cannot interrupt the service that I’m getting paid to do, because that’s what pays my bills.”
That doesn’t mean his aspirations aren’t bigger than ever.
Roach’s agent and CEO of the Only Agency, Kent Belden said it was only a matter of time that his success as a stylist would lead to a range of opportunities. “I am constantly in awe of his devotion to fostering emerging talent and using his influence to inspire a new generation of talent,” said Belden. “At present, the name Law Roach is synonymous with fashion’s greats, and this is only the beginning of his legacy.”
Roach dreams of becoming a creative director and ultimately wants his own lifestyle brand that covers it all, from footwear to food. More immediately though, a natural transition is through brand collaborations.
“I’m going through the process to become more public-facing and it’s something I’m figuring out,” he said. “I’m having fun, I’ll make some mistakes. I don’t want to fail. I get comments that what I do makes people happy and that makes me happy, so I’m in a position to just make people feel something.”
For more photos of Law Roach during FN’s cover shoot, click through the gallery.
Hair by Antoinette Hill
Makeup by Amber Amos
Styled by Law Roach FN
Style Director Shannon Adducci
Assisted by Posh McKoy
For 35 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2021 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide.