The Business of Fashion
Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
LOS ANGELES — Law Roach is sitting in his Los Angeles home on a warm summer morning swathed in an S.R Studio robe and oversized dark glasses. Work is well underway at what for most might feel like a dizzying pace. For Roach, the self-proclaimed Image Architect, who is responsible for some of the most memorable sartorial transformations and red-carpet moments in recent history, the day starts at 6:00 a.m. and from there, as he puts it, “the business doesn’t stop.”
On this morning, he has already direct messaged with several designers, completed a daily brief with his six-person team, taken a call with the producers of Legendary, the HBO Max ballroom competition series on which he serves as a judge, and spoken to his attorney. He has also managed to prepare looks for race car driver Lewis Hamilton for an upcoming premiere. It’s only 10 a.m. The rest of the day will play out much the same, capped off with a red eye flight to New York to dress his client Megan Thee Stallion for her album promotion.
Roach’s life contains a lot of moving parts. He has designed it this way. Roach has bust open the traditional boundaries of what it means to be a celebrity stylist, with multiple revenue streams and a level of personal celebrity that goes far beyond the red carpet. Some of his biggest clients are people you’ll never see in the tabloids or at an awards show: He earns more these days raising the fashion profile of high-net-worth individuals — minimum net worth deep in the nine figures — than any other work.
Each aspect feeds into the other, adding up to a business that brings in revenue in the mid-seven figures, Roach said.
“We’ve all learned that you have to diversify to really get to a place of financial freedom,” he said.
In that, he’s mirroring his clients. Today, celebrities are just as likely to earn the bulk of their income from launching a beauty line or as an ambassador for a luxury brand as they are appearing in movies or releasing albums. The through line of Roach’s success is his ability to spot the shifting nature of the celebrity industrial complex, and put himself and his clients at the centre of it.
“It takes more than good style to create a business like the one that Law has,” said Kent Belden, CEO and Founder of The Only Agency, the Los Angeles-based artist agency that represents Roach. “His power is a product of his perseverance. He’s a multi-hyphenate when it comes to our intersecting industries.”
Roach moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in 2014. He dreamed of being included on The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Most Powerful Stylist list and for his name to pop up in high-level entertainment industry conversations. His inspiration: stylist Rachel Zoe, who in the 2000s branched out from working solely with celebrity clients to having her own television show, media platform, lifestyle brand collaborations and clothing line, and he focused on creating a similar trajectory.
“Rachel was my window into what was possible,” said Roach, “I wanted that version of the career. I knew I wanted to diversify in front of the camera, and everything I’ve done to this point has been very strategic. It’s been about having the right conversations at the right time.”
His first move was to forego the larger budgets he was used to when working with musicians, who made up the bulk of his early work and who generally have larger wardrobe budgets than actresses.
“The studios give a rate and sometimes you come out in the red,” recalls Roach, “But if you want to build this type of career, you have to do the actresses and awards shows, these are investments you just have to make and hope you get an ROI. Maybe I didn’t make money on a press tour, but it could lead to a campaign and that’s what makes it profitable. You take these clients and fingers crossed they bring you along with them.”
Roach considers his work with singer Celine Dion to be the moment when the world began noticing his ability as a stylist.
“I say this with all humbleness, but nobody was going viral before I put her in Vetements and Off White,” he said. “People started to really pay attention to me and my work and I gained a reputation for being able to transform people.”
Zendaya is arguably Roach’s most fashionably famous client. The pair has worked together for over a decade since the actress’ Disney days. She has been a staunch advocate for Roach; as her star has risen, so has his. Their partnership has made clear what doors can open when a fashion profile is built strategically and with an authentic alignment: In addition to events and red carpets, he’s styled her for campaigns ranging from Valentino to Smart Water to Lancôme.
“Zendaya came in and advocated for me and that was unheard of really,” said Roach of their relationship. “It gave people a reference point to go in and negotiate. Our relationship has been able to break down some doors. [Campaigns and covers] didn’t just happen. One of my proudest things is being able to be that reference point and hear people say, ‘I’m looking for my Zendaya.’ That’s the power of being loyal to each other.”
For the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, Roach will be dressing Zendaya, who is nominated for four Emmys including lead actress for Euphoria, Kerry Washington who is presenting and Hunter Schafer for after parties.
Roach said he continues to strike a balance between lucrative jobs and ones where the relationships or the exposure are worth more than the pay.
He said he can command a “significant rate” to work on advertising campaigns —Roach handles an average of 13 campaigns a year fronted by his various celebrity clients, some of which shoot up to four times a year. In addition to Zendaya, he also styles Priyanka Chopra for Bulgari, Max Factor and Gloria Vanderbilt, Kerry Washington for Neutrogena, and Hailee Steinfeld for Core Water.
That helps offset the red carpet gigs, which still involve plenty of work — from tailoring to shipping and messengers — but far less money.
“I am going to take $1000 [for a single event] when my clients have a movie, that’s part of it,” he said. “Or if there is somebody I really want to work with and want to see if we have some magic, I will do that.”
He’s also adept at expanding the definition of what it means to be a celebrity stylist. He’s one of the few in his field to make the leap from red carpet dressing to editorial work, with his looks appearing on 32 magazine covers in 2021.
Roach has also ridden the wave of brand collaborations and more out-of-the-box opportunities for stars to cash in on their celebrity. In 2019, he acted as creative director on a line with Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya, and launched a capsule collection with Herve Leger under his own name.
“His clients wearing the (Herve Leger) collection really resonated with our customers and we could see that in our sales,” said Melissa Lefere-Cobb, SVP of Herve Leger.
Roach began appearing on Legendary in 2020. Acting as what he calls a “Simon Cowell” type of character, Roach pays particular attention to what each competing house wears and whether their look tells a story.
“I’ve created this alter ego type of character that’s a bit me, and also something I’ve purposely created,” said Roach.
This persona, plus his visibility on social media and attending global fashion events has led to unexpected opportunities like appearing alongside Zendaya and her makeup artist Sheika Daley in a recent ad for Lancôme’s Teint Idole foundation.
“We’ve been working with Lancôme since 2019, but I had no idea they wanted to have me in this one,” said Roach of the ad. “So, the Lancôme team had this idea to incorporate some of Zendaya’s closest confidants, and that was me and Sheika.”
For Roach, appearing on television is a clear path to growing an even bigger business.
“I’ve been thinking about having products and being on TV is still one of the greatest ways to promote and build an audience,” he said.
Aside from the business opportunities, Roach is aware of the type of representation he is able to create by having such a large, multi-faceted platform.
“The more I work and the more opportunities I get, the more I can leave the door open for someone who looks like me to have more opportunities,” said Roach. “I can’t put a value on that.”
As early as 2017, when his own star was beginning to rise, he began working with a roster of private clients who hire him as much for his relationships in the fashion world as his styling skills. This business is now his biggest source of revenue, he said.
Private clients include the Norwegian billionaire named Gustav Magnar Witzøe and Jaime Xie, the American socialite and businesswoman who appeared on the Netflix series, Bling Empire. For Xie, Roach said he sourced vintage pieces, scouring different cities and online sites to find specific collector items.
“She has amazing style on her own and didn’t need a stylist, but a sounding board,” said Roach. “She wanted to raise her profile in fashion, so I took her on and got her a couple of magazine covers and got her to sit at couture.”
Those services don’t come cheap — hence the need for a net worth well into the nine figures.
“You have to have a certain budget to have those services,” said Roach. “Someone might say, ‘Go and find a McQueen dress from the Shipwreck collection’ and it may take me flying into Paris or London.”
The transparency with which Roach discusses business breaks from the norm of fashion styling circles, and makes clear that he is as much a bottom line focused entrepreneur as he is a creative force. He also has a greater goal when discussing the details of his financial success.
“I also look at it as aspirational,” Roach said. “Someone who looks like me, from where I’m from who doesn’t know this is possible – if people take me talking about money and my success in a certain way, I don’t mind, because I didn’t know this was possible until I did it.”