Law Roach’s career proves the power of a stylist

Law Roach’s supposed retirement will be a huge loss to the industry.

Unless you live under a rock devoid of fashion, you have probably heard the news by now. Tuesday afternoon, celebrity stylist Law Roach announced he was retiring, two days after the 95th Annual Academy Awards red carpet was filled with looks he styled.

In an Instagram post, Roach said his “cup was empty.” He also alluded to “politics” and “false narratives.” 

“If this business was just about the clothes I would do it for the rest of my life but unfortunately it’s not! The politics, the lies and false narratives finally got me! You win … I’m out,” he wrote.

Law Roach retires Black fashion stylist Black fashion red carpet style
Law Roach during his Masterclass, Hia Hub fashion conferences on December 08, 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Neville Hopwood/Getty Images for Hia Magazine )

While Roach has yet to elaborate, stars in both Hollywood and the fashion industry reacted passionately in the comments of his post: “Law I won’t let you !!!! We don’t quit … strived too hard,” said legendary model and fashion icon Naomi Campbell. “Stop it,” said Samira Nasr, editor-in-chief at Harper’s Bazaar. “Mental health is first,” said reality TV star and actress Nene Leakes. “If you’re done because you want your next role, blessings to you…. If you’re having a ‘moment’, keep your main character energy! Either way: you got this,” said actress Niecy Nash.

It remains unclear what has prompted this and what “retirement” means exactly for the stylist, who is also a designer and collaborator with other brands. What is becoming apparent as reactions continue to emerge, whether from those who worked with him directly or via recaps of his most iconic looks, is just how powerful Roach has been in the world of celebrity fashion. His career as a stylist and self-proclaimed “image architect” proves the power of the image and the value of someone who has “the eye.”

Roach, who hails from Chicago, started in fashion by running a vintage store, Deliciously Vintage. After a chance encounter with Kanye West, who visited the shop, bringing it international attention, Deliciously Vintage launched into the stratosphere. This newfound recognition led to Roach landing arguably his most famous client relationship to date with Zendaya, which began in 2011 when the then-Disney actress was 14 years old.

Zendaya and Law Roach attend The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

In the 12 years since, we have watched Zendaya evolve from a child actress to an Emmy-winning fashion icon. At the 2019 Met Gala, which had a theme of “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” Zendaya famously arrived dressed by Tommy Hilfiger as Cinderella in a gown that lit up with a purse shaped like a carriage and with Roach, who conceived the outfit, as her fairy godfather, complete with a wand. The look offered up plenty of camp and spectacle, and it also provided a subtle nod to the fact that Zendaya was officially transitioning out of her Disney child star era.

Two years after this magical moment, Zendaya became the youngest ever to win the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Fashion Icon award. In the years since, his work with Zendaya and others, including Kerry Washington, Ariana Grande, and Celine Dion, continued to prove his unmatched prowess. He’s become known as the stylist to work with if you’re a celeb in need of a rebrand, as demonstrated by his recent work with Megan Thee Stallion, following a tumultuous few years and her court battle last year. 

Zendaya in three recent looks styled by Law Roach. (Photo credit: Getty)

Roach’s growing influence over the styling world was formally recognized in 2021, when he became the first Black stylist to top The Hollywood Reporter’s “Most Powerful Stylists” list. In 2022, he became the first-ever recipient of the CFDA’s Stylist of the Year award. This move signaled that not only was Roach’s work being recognized on the highest levels of the fashion industry but had also earned the art of styling its much due respect. 

Roach was recognized again in 2022 when he landed on Time magazine’s Time 100 Next list. At that time, he said he wanted to “change the world.” Considering he’d already gone from being a vintage store owner in Chicago with no formal training or experience to an internationally renowned stylist, eventually becoming the catalyst for CFDA’s Stylist of the Year award, it’s safe to say he already has. 

Speaking to the BBC about how Roach has inspired others in the industry, British stylist Alexis Adjei called him “innovative” and “creative.” 

“He doesn’t do the norm; he creates conversation and controversy and makes the moment last,” she said, adding, “Some might say his looks are gimmicks and theatrics, but it’s not. He is all about the transformation.”

This is precisely why Roach’s purported retirement has come as such a shock. His stepping away potentially represents a huge loss to the fashion industry and Hollywood. No one has done what he’s done for Black talent and red carpets, but should his choice to step away be permanent, it’s a decision we’re inclined to respect; after all, he’s far from the first to indicate that the fashion industry can be hostile towards Black creatives. 

In a 2022 interview with Fox Soul, Roach warned the world that if given too much hell, he’d see himself out.

“You can’t talk to me any kind of way. You can’t treat me any kind of way… I’m not really afraid of this industry because I’m Black. I’m from the hood. I can always go back. If I have to rework what I’m doing, I’m not afraid of that,” he said. 

In other words, even if his retirement from styling holds true, Law Roach’s legacy is just beginning.

Kay Wicker is a lifestyle writer for theGrio covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and the myriad ways Black people live and enjoy their lives. She has previously created content for magazines, newspapers, and digital brands. 

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