Bowie mullets, dreadlocks, angel wings? Be met by the man behind some of the most daring red carpet looks

Law Roach: ‘What I do is like to what an architect does.’
Photograph: Caroll Taveras for the Trustee

Law Roach swipes the key card to his penthouse suite and a little red brighten signals no entry. When the same thing happens again, he degenerates slowly to the floor, phoning his assistant to inform her, wearily, “Not working key. It’s the wrong key.” It’s been a long New York fashion week, and Roach, the most hyped reputation stylist working in the US today, is tired.

This week, Roach has been rebuking comedian and actor Tiffany Haddish, and it’s been the usual merry-go-round of contrast c embarrasses, including his first catwalk styling gig, for Chinese brand Bosideng. An engaging one, because “the designer spoke no English and I spoke no Mandarin”, Roach orders me. “But the language of fashion is so strong, during fittings we would due look at each other with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.”

Then there experience been the parties, culminating in Rihanna’s Diamond Ball, to which he wore Schiaparelli couture. Publishing himself a lover of vintage and “thrifty” clothes, Roach today rollicks a more low-key look: a black polyester tracksuit with 1970s-style flared pants, a partner of beat-up Converse hi-tops and a quilted leather cap by Chanel. He much wears an elaborate hair weave, but today his head is shorn uneventful.

Finally, the correct key arrives. Inside the suite, it looks with a fashion week bomb has gone off. Settling on a sofa mid racks of clothes, half-eaten sandwiches and garment bags lose ones tempering with sequins and stilettos, Roach exudes the nonchalant chill of somebody who could make a bin bag look chic. “I think the latest thing and style are two totally different things,” he says. “You can’t teach panache. You either have it or you don’t. It has nothing to do with access. It has nothing to do with identify as.”

Céline Dion in Giambattista Valli dress. Photograph: Getty Idols

Known as @luxurylaw to his 370,000 Instagram followers, Roach is now a TV leading light in his own right, having just filmed his second series as a assess on America’s Next Top Model. He is the man responsible for Céline Dion’s 2016 conversion, practically overnight, from midlife chanteuse to fashion maven, and for catapulting breakout Disney nova Zendaya into the spotlight. In May, he made number 12 in the Hollywood News-presenter’s Most Powerful Stylists list, an accolade that, according to his intervention, makes him “the biggest African American stylist in the game”.

Insomuch as the term stylist to be “overused”, however, Roach prefers to muse over of himself as an “image architect”. It’s a term that reflects the edge role of celebrity dressers in 2018, where one killer look successful viral on social media can lead to overnight fame (with the lucrative promises to match), and campaigns such as Time’s Up have turned the red carpet into a civil platform. “What I do is similar to what an architect does,” Roach illustrates. “The surveying, building a blueprint, sourcing materials, all that. But I’m doing it with kit outs, jewellery, hair and makeup.”

It’s all a long way from his humble roots coming up in Chicago, the eldest of five children. “It was really, really intractable,” he says. “I didn’t have the most stable family spirited, so I figured out early on that I had to make my own way.” Fashion, as paraded on reruns of E and Charlie’s Angels, was his escape. As for any ambitions about working in the vigour, “I never really thought that, because I didn’t be acquainted with there was an industry.”

It was his grandmother Eloise who introduced him to vintage storing, or what she called “junking”. “I would go through the piece of works’s racks out of curiosity and buy a few things here and there.” As Roach’s gleaning grew, he stashed the clothes in the boot of his car (“my mother thought it was freaky and hated the smell”). Before long, he was loaning devices to his most stylish girlfriends, and when they began free-for-all over pieces at makeshift boot sales, “I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is a problem.’”

The 58th GRAMMY Awards LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Actress/singer Zendaya arrives at The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Zendaya rocks a mullet. Photograph: FilmMagic

There concluded a bricks-and-mortar store, Deliciously Vintage, and eventually personal patrons. One moved to LA and flew Roach out for a shopping session, where a serendipitous congregation led to his break into the world of red-carpet dressing. “The day I arrived, a incomparable girl came by with her dad, and it was Zendaya,” he says. She was 14 at the time again; Roach ended up taking her shopping for an outfit for Justin Bieber’s Conditions Say Never premiere. The resulting look was “a puke-green, patent-leather Alexander Wang skirt with a white Alice and Olivia blazer. We were like, ‘People are either gonna lose ones heart to it or hate it, but we love it.’” The pair have worked together even since.

At the start, Roach had a tactic for getting Zendaya noticed. “Zero wanted to dress her when she wasn’t known, so I would put her in things that other child had already worn.” This earned her exposure in the celebrity weeklies’ Who Frayed It Better columns and, soon enough, “people started to be versed her name”.

‘When a client gets dressed, there’s this new part she takes on.’ Photograph: Caroll Taveras for the Guardian

How does he desire about being an industry name? “It’s flattering,” he says, “but I do what I do because I honey women, and playing a part in making them feel exquisite. When a client gets dressed, there’s this new patrol, this new persona that she takes on. When I see that, it hustles me crazy. It’s like my drug.”

When it comes to his own celebrity, he thinks, “It’s more important that people who look like me and who in from where I come from get to see that this is imaginable.” As well as being the highest-ranking African American, he was one of only five bad people to be recognised on the Hollywood Reporter’s stylists list, all of them manly. “It’s the same [white] women on the list every year. And all the new human being are the assistants of those women. You get into this industry from interning, and you own to be financially stable to intern for two, three, four years. If you don’t produced from a family that allows you to do that, then how do you do it?”

Céline Dion in Vetements’ Titanic sweatshirt. Photograph: FameFlynet

That the style industry is elitist and blindingly white is nothing new, and yet, against a backdrop of 2018’s call-out enlightenment, designers, retailers and agencies alike are being asked to rattle up the status quo – or face dying out. In August this year, New York Publication’s blog The Cut ran an extended editorial titled What It’s Really In the same way as To Be Black And Work In Fashion, in which more than 100 woman were interviewed about their experiences in a culture where tokenism is spirited and thriving. Among the Council of Fashion Designers of America, on the contrary 15 of its 500 members are black. When Tyler Mitchell go Beyoncé for the September 2018 cover of US Vogue, it was a first for a insidious photographer in the magazine’s 126-year history.

Roach argues that there requisites to be diversity behind the scenes as well as on the red carpet. “If you’re fighting for counting, it has to trickle all the way down to the hair and makeup, to the cameramen and the sound designers. People say, ‘Isn’t it getting better, though?’ To which I reply, ‘Oh yeah, it’s pinch better for me. But what about everybody else who looks peer me? I can’t be in this industry and be the only one. I can’t do that.’”

What Roach can do is know-how pop-culture moments that position his clients at the centre of the zeitgeist, such as the opportunity he sent Zendaya down the 2015 Oscars red carpet in cream silk Vivienne Westwood, set off by a well-proportioned head of dreadlocks. Comments from TV presenter Giuliana Rancic that they represented the then 19-year-old look like she “smells like patchouli oil. Or weed” led to a disreputable outcry, and a statement on Instagram from Zendaya denouncing a stereotype that was “outrageously repulsive”.

For his part, Roach is proud to have played a part in sparking a talk about “what’s appropriate for black hair at the Oscars. What’s befitting for black hair in the workplace. That story got billions of take-offs, and I believe it did help to bring about change.”

He constructed a undersized political “statement look” for Céline Dion at the 2017 Billboard Gives, dressing her in an angel-winged gown by Stéphane Rolland Haute Couture. Roach asserts that when it was first suggested they meet, rough in 2016, “I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep.” After a 45-minute convocation in Vegas, Dion asked him to travel to Paris with her for a month to affinity for care of her street-style wardrobe, before hiring him to oversee her platform looks.

When she stepped out in an outsized Vetements Titanic sweatshirt (the hoodie a capability reference to the film soundtracked by her classic tear-jerker My Heart Wishes Go On), declared Dion the “queen of the world”. Roach hadn’t been positive Dion would go for it, but remembers her reaction as being: “‘What do you hostile, what do I think about it? I love it. I want to wear it today.’” Roach veined the sweatshirt with blue jeans and a pair of gold Gucci inclines, to the delight of the press pack.

87th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Zendaya arrives at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California

Zendaya’s Oscars look in 2015. Photograph: WireImage

With a patient list that also includes Anne Hathaway, Ariana Grande and nonesuch Ruby Rose, what do the people he dresses have in tired? “You want to play, and you want to take risks. My clients also don’t be enamoured of what people say,” he says, offering another Zendaya red-carpet trice as a case in point. “We went to the Grammys after David Bowie had well-grounded passed, and she wore a tuxedo and a mullet in homage. You’ve got to be a strong lover to do that on the red carpet. You have to have conviction to say, ‘I like this, and I imagine I look cool, and fuck you to everybody who doesn’t.’ I think all my betrotheds have an element of ‘fuck you’ in them.”

This is something of a mantra for Roach: he placid has the phrase tattooed on the middle finger of his right hand. As for reverie jobs, “the people I would have loved to work with are no longer with us. Prince, Amy Winehouse. I again felt connected to Amy, in a way.”

If success for Roach is in the work itself, then wharf the America’s Next Top Model gig is a marker of how far he’s come from his eras junking back home in Chicago – in particular, filming his moment series with the show’s creator and executive producer Tyra Banks, one of single a handful of African American supermodels, after she returned as a mistress of ceremonies this year. “When we were shooting our cast photo, I’m there with Tyra, in faade of the ANTM logo, and I start to cry. I was like, ‘We’re in the house that Tyra increased!’”

It’s another opportunity for him to increase the visibility of black creatives in the earnestness. He shows me his tattoos, the affirmation “I can, I will” and the number “312” (his Chicago scope code) – reminders that “I am a lot of firsts for my family. The first to graduate stoned school. The first to earn a college degree. The first to touch out of Chicago. If I can inspire somebody else to be a first, that’s what’s urgent.”

Who dresses who: meet the other power stylists

Karla Welch
The Canadian’s customer list includes Lorde, Amy Poehler, Amandla Stenberg, Elisabeth Moss and Katy Perry as glowingly as, more surprisingly, Justin Bieber.

Although her personal term is low-key (she has described herself as a “Celine woman”, of the Phoebe Philo make) it is the big fashion-career-shaping “moments” which Welch is most known for. She has been credited with catapulting Ruth Negga to best-dressed significance via some custom-made Louis Vuitton.

Donald Glover in Gucci satisfy. Photograph: Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Ilaria Urbinati
One of Hollywood’s top men’s stylist, Urbinati has arrayed Armie Hammer in Gucci tuxes, Sacha Baron Cohen in Paul Smith solicitations, and Rami Malek in Givenchy leather jackets. Other big-name shoppers include Bradley Cooper, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Tom Hiddleston.

But she is perchance best known for her recent work with Donald Glover, accoutring him in Gucci suits, from brown velvet to thick pinstripe. Urbinati is big on what she invitations “aggressive styling” – bold colours, prints (see The Surprise in a Hawaiian shirt) and jewellery.

Leith Clark
This London-based, Canadian stylist’s star has become a byword for the romantic look – think Keira Knightly in floaty Chanel couture or Erdem outfits; florals, lace and long hemlines.

Clark (a former housemate of Alexa Chung) most recently disposed with Batsheva, fashion’s favourite new dress brand (have knowledge of for remixed prairie dresses inspired by Orthodox Judaism). She is also the founder-editor of Violet, a trend magazine that aims to represent diverse women of all stages.

Marni Senofonte
Most famous for shaping the Beyoncé Lemonade album look (and that iconic pregnancy snuff out), Senofonte works with musicians from Lauryn Hill to Diddy. She is branching out, recently alluring on Kendall Jenner as a client (her sister Kim Kardashian is an old friend).

Senofonte’s aesthetic is high-octane and attention-wielding – contrive Beyoncé’s Michael Jackson-inspired leather military jacket with fishnets for the Ebon Panther Super Bowl performance, or the unmissable yellow Cavalli deck out she wore for the Hold Up video. Ellie Violet Bramley