Fashion 1
Law Roach on Styling Zendaya and Keeping It Real on Reality TV

Law Roach is having quite the moment. As the man behind Zendaya’s next-level wardrobe, Roach helped create a fashion star. And with the reboot of America’s Next Top Modelheaded into its second season, he’s well on his way to becoming a television star in his own right. Roach’s path from vintage store owner to high-powered celebrity image-maker has been atypical. But from his days junking with his grandmother in Chicago’s thrift shops to dressing stars for the Met Gala, clothing has always played a big part in his life. “I’ve always had, not so much fashion, but style around me—it was something that was innate,” says Roach on the phone from Los Angeles. “Being African-American and [growing up] in Chicago, style was always a big thing.”

Unlike those who got their start working as fashion assistants, Roach’s entry into styling came via a chance moment with avid shopper and fellow Chicagoan Kanye West. Stopping into Roach’s Deliciously Vintage shop on Halstead Street back in 2009 and inadvertently bringing the paparazzi with him, West put the store on the radar for a new set of clients. “We started to get calls and business from stylists all around the world,” says Roach, who seized the moment. “We had always called ourselves stylists, but coming from the Midwest, you’re not taught that the arts are something you can make a living at doing. It took me awhile to make the connection and realize that, OK, you can have this creative outlet, but you can also be successful and live in abundance.”

Moving to Los Angeles to further his career, Law connected with Zendaya when a mutual friend (and former client) introduced him to the then-14-year-old Disney star. Helping her pick an outfit for the premiere of Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never, Roach instantly formed a connection. “We just had this chemistry that was just unbelievable and undeniable,” says Roach. “We were in the mall for, like, hours and [her family] didn’t know where we disappeared to. It’s funny but we’ve been together ever since that day.”

In the six years that Roach and Zendaya have worked together, she has moved from teen phenomenon to leading lady, embracing the kinds of dramatic fashions few celebrities would dare to tackle. Changing hairstyles, outfits, and makeup looks with ease, she’s become a chameleonic source of inspiration for Generation Z. Stepping out in embellished Zuhair Murad at the MTV Movie Awards or voluminous Dolce & Gabbana at the Met Gala, Zendaya turns heads — even those of icons like Rihanna, who Instagrammed shots of Zendaya’s Met look with the caption “brown goddess.” For Roach, getting the bad gal stamp of approval was the ultimate compliment. “For us, she is the queen, she can do no wrong,” says Roach. “She makes everything work: when it’s ugly, it’s pretty, and when it’s wrong, it’s right. So, for her to post that was huge.”

Statement looks have become Zendaya’s calling card, but according to Roach, the red carpet moments come together naturally. “I’m a dreamer so sometimes we’ll both see something and want to talk about it then she’ll say, ‘I’ll let you dream about it’” shares Roach. “I’ll come in the next day and have all the ideas about the hair and makeup.” Inspired by the daring spirit of retro stars like Cher and Mick Jagger, the pair try to live up to their own personal standards, not to appeal to the critics. “I have an ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude and I think that kind of rubbed off on Zendaya when she was young. She just doesn’t care—she doesn’t have any fear when it comes to fashion.”

The defiant attitude has created a few controversies along the way. In 2015, E! host Giuliana Rancic’s commentary regarding Zendaya’s choice to wear her Vivienne Westwood gown with dreadlocks sparked debate, leading to the star’s now famous response post on Instagram — and an impactful fashion moment. “It started a conversation, one that I think needed to happen,” says Roach, who now considers the look one of his all-time favorites. “We didn’t foresee any of that happening. I used to have dreadlocks, her dad has dreadlocks and some of her brothers, too. It was her way of paying homage to the strong men in her life, but it led to this discussion about what is considered appropriate and what hair means to black women.”

Zendaya’s ability to start a dialogue isn’t lost on Roach, but don’t expect to see her in any of the gimmicky designer wares that turn feminism into a trend. “As a stylist it’s my job to keep her look organic,” says Roach, who’s quick to point out that Zendaya’s commitment to activism is about more than a T-shirt. “When there is a cause that is meaningful and close to her heart, she always speaks on it.”

Shaping Zendaya’s look may be Roach’s primary focus, but these days it’s far from his only job. Serving as co-creative director of Daya by Zendaya and working with a growing roster of clients, including the music legend Celine Dion (whose eclectic streetstyle has become phenomenon), Roach is spreading his wings. And by joining the judging panel of the rebootedAmerica’s Next Top Model last year, Roach struck a chord with viewers. “It made me proud to have people come up to me and say that they appreciate what I’m doing, that I’m being authentically myself and not turning it up for the camera.” With the second season—and the heavily hyped return of Tyra Banks—set for later this year, Roach promises viewers they’re in for a treat. “It’s going to be really good,” shares Roach. “You know, Rita [Ora] was great, and I enjoyed working with Rita, but with Tyra being back, it feels like the Top Model that I grew up watching.”

With Zendaya’s upcoming press tour, Dion’s Paris tour dates, and a television show all on the horizon, Roach’s schedule is jam-packed, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I don’t know what’s next. I’m a busy boy career wise, but awhile ago I realized that I have, basically, lived out all my dreams,” says Roach. “I’m blessed, I know that anything is possible, and it is time to dream even more.”

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