Law Roach is The Hollywood Reporter’s Top Stylist of the Year, and even Mother Nature knows that it’s his moment.
As his client Zendaya walked the Oscars red carpet in a midriff-baring, canary yellow Valentino gown, a gust seemed to appear out of nowhere, giving dramatic effect to her long-flowing locks and allowing the layers of the garment to float alongside its megawatt star, creating a peak goddess effect.
And when Zendaya was gone, so was the wind.
“For there to be no wind, and then for this girl to walk on the carpet, and then for it to be heavy wind?” marvels Roach with a laugh. But the stylist — who also works with Anya Taylor-Joy, Kerry Washington, Tiffany Haddish, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Aldis Hodge, Tom Holland and Hunter Schafer — isn’t just about creating red carpet looks to go viral; he’s had a transformative effect on the industry itself.
Take his approach with longtime client Zendaya (“At this point, we are sister and brother,” he says of their relationship). He started working with the Emmy winner when her biggest fan base was tweens who watched Disney shows, and he struggled to get top designers to dress her. Instead, Roach relied on upstart brands to craft a standout style as her star power rose, and by the time those fashion houses began to call Roach back, he was hitting the “decline” button. “[Outside of editorials] she’s never worn Gucci, she’s never worn Chanel. She’s never worn Dior. She’s never worn Saint Laurent,” he says of her red carpet looks. “And she had never worn Valentino until she became the face of Valentino. So, it’s quite incredible that we can build that just using smaller and emergent brands and designers. I think it’s really beautiful.”
The pair also use clothes to remind others of often overlooked Black fashion moments. For last month’s Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards luncheon, the star wore a pale blue, puffed-shoulder Yves Saint Laurent dress once worn by Ebony magazine co-founder and Fashion Fair cosmetics founder Eunice Johnson. “There has been whitewashing and washing out of certain people,” Roach says. “Nobody asked us to do this, but [we’re] just taking upon ourselves to make sure that we keep these icons alive and keep talking about them.”
The stylist is adept at creating the fashion conversation. It was Roach who got people talking about Celine Dion, after years of the diva being ignored by the fashion world, with looks like the white Stéphane Rolland “angel wings” gown she wore to the 2017 Billboard Awards; he mapped out Ariana Grande’s fashion evolution and he’s helped make Taylor-Joy the “It” girl this awards season.
“She has this thing that feels very whimsical, almost like a fairy in a way,” he says.
These days, stars are in Roach’s Instagram DMs requesting his services, and he’s as busy as ever, though the first months after COVID-19 hit had him worried about job security, a first since he started in the industry only seven years ago. “I’d just bought a house, and all my jobs were being canceled,” he recalls. “I didn’t learn how to bake bread … I didn’t learn a new language. … I gained 30 pounds.”
But then Zendaya called him to work on Malcolm & Marie (he and Jason Rembert, the stylist and Aliétte designer, were behind Marie’s memorable metallic gown), and the red carpet scene restarted, albeit virtually. Now that in-person carpets are trickling back, Roach is focused on the Met Gala in the fall, upcoming campaigns and, of course, Emmy season. Here, Roach talks to THR editorial director Nekesa Mumbi Moody about his most iconic moments.
In a year when key Black stylists created the most-talked-about looks, are things changing in terms of access?
If you look at the top Black stylists, it’s me. It’s Micah [McDonald] and Wayman [Bannerman, of Wayman + Micah]. It’s Jason Bolden. We’re the three, I think, leading the pack. I’m the only one who has dressed and continues to dress A-list white talent, as well as my Black talent. That’s because there’s a system in Hollywood where new talent and those girls are funneled through the same group of people, … I always call them the same five white women. That’s just the system. When somebody comes into Hollywood, and they’re building that team, you have the manager, the publicist and the agent [making] the [same five] recommendations on stylists, hair, makeup.
Our work is much more visible, but I don’t think it’s changing the landscape of how we get those girls. Because, to be really honest with you, the way people make the [THR Stylist] List is based on awards season. Not a lot of Black stylists get the opportunity to get on the list because they don’t get the opportunity to work with the talent that’s going to the Oscars, the Globes. We just don’t get that opportunity.
How do you see yourself growing as a business, and as an individual?
I run a global, multimillion-dollar business. I did really well, even in COVID. So that part of it is great, you know. As a person, I just want to do the things that I’m doing now and figure out more ways to help other people. I created a fund during COVID to give back to Black-owned beauty and fashion businesses in Chicago. [fLAWless, in collaboration with the community revitalization nonprofit Rebuild the Hood, raised over $100,000 for Black-owned businesses this year.] I want to be more involved in finding and cultivating young, new talent, especially talent of color.
Are there any particular people you’ve mentored that you’re particularly excited by?
There’s a few people I mentor. Donte [Maurice] and Ahmad [Barber] were two people that I took under my wing because I just, I just knew their talent [known as AB + DM, they’ve shot Hollywood Reporter covers, including the Roach-Zendaya-Taylor-Joy one].
How has your personal style changed over the years?
Well, I’ve been able to afford more things. (Laughs.) Most recently, I feel more comfortable in things that are genderless. I love to not wear pants as much as possible. So, I think that’s changed.
What does it mean for you to do custom looks with fashion houses for your clients?
It makes me proud because when I have a vision and work on somebody who has a vision and it comes to life, it’s like, “Wow, look at this little boy from the South Side of Chicago, creating these looks that will be iconic and people will talk about,” long after I’m gone, I think. For those houses to respect my opinions and to appreciate my taste level, I think, is really quite incredible.
Is there a moment that you look back at and are, like, “Wow”?
There are so many with Zendaya. The magenta Tom Ford that she wore [to the Critics Choice Awards] with the long braids is still one of my favorites.
How do you think COVID-19 will change the stylist business?
For me and my studio, everybody being safe is the No. 1 priority. But I think what’s going to happen is, it’s going to be like the roaring ’20s. Like after Prohibition, where people wanted to be out and party and be seen and be fabulous. It’s going to go from zero to 100. We’ll be really, really, really, really busy. This industry will be busy again.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Presenting the Rest of the Best…
Zerina Akers – The Multihyphenate
“Off the charts” sums up Akers’ year, which kicked off with the biggest project of her career, designing the costumes for Beyoncé’s Black Is King on Disney+. The L.A.-based stylist outfitted her client of seven years in looks ranging from couture to emerging Black designers for the critically acclaimed visual album. “Beyoncé does not care who the jacket is by. If it’s a beautiful jacket, it’s a beautiful jacket. She’s not, ‘Oh, I’m going to take the Chanel one over the Jerome LaMaar one’,” Akers told THR immediately following the film’s August debut.
Akers felt so inspired to create a more inclusive fashion community that she launched the Instagram page Black Owned Everything, which expanded to an ecommerce site in February. “I want it to be a destination for people to discover all the awesome things Black creators are doing — a go-to place to find cool things as well as a resource in the pursuit of more conscious consumerism,” says the stylist, who cites Brandon Blackwood and Cise (“both do bags that say things like, ‘End Systemic Racism’ and ‘Protect Black Women’ ”) as well as Fe Noel (“really beautiful prints”) and L’Enchanteur (“twin Nigerian girls out of Brooklyn who use raw materials to create organic-looking jewels”) as a few of the Black-owned businesses on her radar. The ecommerce site “could even be along the lines of an Amazon — you could come on to find an interesting honey company or meditation practices.”
To cap it all off, Akers styled Beyoncé in custom Schiaparelli by Daniel Roseberry for the Grammys, where the “Black Parade” singer notched her 28th Grammy win, making her the most decorated woman in the award’s history.
“I was thinking, ‘What do the Grammys look like in a pandemic?’ … Are you getting super decked out in a gown or did you just leave the house in a cute dress?” says Akers, who opted for something slightly more casual with Beyoncé’s leather minidress, which garnered more than 4 million likes on Instagram. “Sometimes, it’s like, what more can Beyoncé do? But I always challenge myself to explore new silhouettes and things with her.”
Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald – Viral High-Fashion Virtuosos
“We wanted to evoke joy for viewers as they tuned in at home,” says Micah McDonald, half of the styling duo Wayman + Micah, of the decision to reveal their client Regina King’s vibrant blue bejeweled Schiaparelli dress for the Emmys against the backdrop of a playful red carpet scenario. A 12-second, low-fi reel, courtesy of photographer and illustrator James Anthony, was shot against a greenscreen and showed the Watchmen lead actress winner dancing at a party with illustrations of Black female attendees that, McDonald says, “focused on celebrating sisterhood.”
It was the first virtual reality red carpet moment to go viral back in September. Adds Bannerman: “It was the trailblazing display of what nontraditional red carpets could be without sacrificing the opulence, glamour and excitement that we’ve loved for so long. It also set the tone of what would come for awards season.”
“This past year has forced us to really meld our minds together to develop intriguing ways to output fashion in the virtual space,” says McDonald. “We’re having more fun with fashion now, and our clients are enjoying the experimental aspect of it all.”
Jason Bolden – The Avant Guard
The veteran stylist brings his artistic vision to every moment he’s created for multitalented star Cynthia Erivo, whether it’s a sculpted neon green Valentino Haute Couture scuba dress for the Globes or a sparkly drop-waist Lanvin dress with a transparent netted bodice for the NAACP Image Awards.
Bolden, who counts Trevor Noah, Ava DuVernay, Taraji P. Henson and Janet Mock among his fiercely loyal clients, has helped the Genius: Aretha actress navigate the past two years of red carpets, both in person and virtual, while never playing it safe (fierce is the name of their game!) and always elevating her fashion status along the way.
The star of Netflix’s reality show Styling Hollywood — which follows Bolden and his interior design and JSN Studio business partner, husband Adair Curtis — started working with poet and activist Amanda Gorman right after her yellow Prada coat was seen around the world at the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris inauguration ceremony. Bolden opted for an equally impactful yellow Greta Constantine dress for the 23-year-old’s Time magazine cover.
Nicola Formichetti – Social-Distancing Couture Creator
Six feet apart — but make it fashion. Lady Gaga’s longtime creative collaborator dreamed up nine “social distancing couture” looks (masks included) for her appearance at August’s MTV Video Music Awards, where she won five trophies and performed a duet with Ariana Grande.
The “Rain on Me” singer, known for her multiple wardrobe changes, hit the VMAs white carpet in a silver metallic Area anorak with a space helmet (appropriately themed for the Moon Person trophies being handed out). She continued the futuristic theatrics with a spiky, holographic Iris van Herpen minidress and hot pink latex mask, followed by a voluminous Christopher John Rogers ball gown and face tusks, and the ultimate sequined Valentino Haute Couture bodysuit with a matching mask and sweeping feather train.
Gaga ended the evening in a retro-graphic MTV tee and grungy spiked face covering. Formichetti and Gaga’s message to viewers of the first major attempt at a partially in-person, socially distant awards show: “Stay safe, speak your mind, and I might sound like a broken record, but wear a mask. It’s a sign of respect,” Gaga said while accepting artist of the year.
Harry Lambert – ‘It’ Brit
Harry Styles’ longtime stylist continued the duo’s winning Gucci streak, landing the “Watermelon Sugar” singer on top of best-dressed roundups (including THR’s) for his lilac, mint green and black faux fur boas at the 63rd Grammy Awards. Styles, known for his gender-fluid looks, instantly increased sales of the accessory.
According to online fashion search platform Lyst, page views for feather boas jumped 1,500 percent in the first 48 hours following the awards show, with Gucci’s purple feather boa being the most searched item of the evening. Lambert also outfitted co-stars Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor (aka Princess Diana and Prince Charles on Netflix’s fourth season of The Crown) for their virtual awards show rounds.
O’Connor wore bespoke Loewe (think contrasting lapels and a cravat), while for Corrin, Lambert chose cutting-edge Miu Miu (with an exaggerated collar inspired by Pierrot the Clown) and Schiaparelli (a pearl-encrusted minidress with sharp shoulders), proving you can count on the British stylist for anything other than a conventional strapless dress … unless Styles is the one wearing it.
Elizabeth Stewart – The Awards-Season Ace
Though this past year was atypical to say the least, the veteran stylist, who topped THR’s Most Powerful Stylists list in 2014, ended up as in-demand as ever, juggling two Oscar nominees — Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s Viola Davis and Mank’s Amanda Seyfried — during awards season. “For all these press tours, we started out feeling odd due to the world circumstances and ended up realizing all of us need the magic and escape of fashion. Not to mention the livelihood,” says Stewart, who remembers sending boxes of clothes to Seyfried for her first press appearance of the season, only to see the actress wearing her own orange sweatshirt. “I don’t know if that’s funny or whether I should just cry. It was still pandemic mode, and we had to get our groove on,” recalls Stewart.
When it came to dressing Davis, who would become the most nominated Black actress in the history of the Academy Awards, Stewart gravitated toward “happy colors,” including a vivid Duro Olowu peplum for the NAACP Image Awards, which she says is her favorite look of the past year. “Viola’s Duro Olowu gown is representative of her overall awards-season vibe: colorful, celebratory and inclusive. I’m a huge fan of his work, but he doesn’t do a lot of gowns, so I’m so happy I asked and he said yes, even though it meant him going into his studio on his own during the quarantine.”
Davis, who worked closely with Stewart to spotlight a diverse range of designers (LaVie by Claude Kameni, Greta Constantine, XULY.Bët), tells THR: “I want clothes and designs that reflect me. I never want to fit into anything that serves an image or a zeitgeist.” Davis’ favorite look was her sunshine-yellow Greta Constantine dress when she received the AAFCA Icon Award in April: “The color, style, designer was all me!” she says.
Wouri Vice – The Chanteuse’s Not-So-Secret Weapon
When it comes to getting glam, first-time Oscar nominee Andra Day counts on Vice for her carefully curated retro-modern bombshell looks. “It was love at first fitting,” says Vice, who met the United States vs. Billie Holiday actress on a photoshoot in 2013. “Andra is a total fashionista with a mind of her own — she’s fearless when it comes to red carpet.” Says Day: “My style is free-flowing. I do what I feel moves me in the moment.”
An awards-season standout was Day’s gray silk Chanel Haute Couture tulle gown with a sequin macrame bodice (“It epitomized her beauty and strength, says Vice) when Day won the Golden Globe for best actress in a motion picture drama. “There’s always a nod to different time periods mixed with modernity,” says Vice, who got his start doing wardrobe for Alicia Keys on tour in 2002.
As for Day’s favorite look this awards season? “My custom Vera Wang gown that I [wore] for the Oscars because, to me, it exemplifies passion and craftsmanship coming together,” she says. “The dress is tiny pieces of chain-link metal that had to be welded together. Vera listened and truly created a beautiful vision out of what I saw myself looking like on this day.”
Erin Walsh – The Queen of Quarantine Shoots
“You just have to go for it. Don’t hold back. People miss drama, the inspiration, the moments,” says Walsh of nailing at-home photo shoots with clients. “Marrying a photographer has worked for me, too.” The L.A. transplant, who moved cross-country from New York during the pandemic, masterfully pulled off three gilded looks for Anne Hathaway’s Locked Down virtual press in January, all photographed poolside in the backyard by Walsh’s husband, Christian Hogstedt.
“The idea was completely Annie’s,” says Walsh. “The viral response was surprising — I expected it to resonate and register at a certain level, but you could really sense the excitement about it. … People had been craving a fashion moment.” Hathaway’s virtual shoot lineup included a billowy gold Azzaro Haute Couture pleated gown, a sultry gunmetal Vivienne Westwood corseted dress and, perhaps most spectacular of all, a rose-gold Atelier Versace chain mail dress that fit like a glove.
The actress captioned all three snaps on her Instagram, “Fashion, but make it fashion.” Says Walsh: “Shooting at home gives you the opportunity to craft a moment and [control] how it will be released, as opposed to a random red carpet snap where plenty of things might not have gone the right way. You also don’t need to worry about wrinkles in the car ride over.”
Andrew Weitz – Hollywood Style Strategist
“I’ve always had an interest in fashion and style since early in my career, when I realized a lot of people were watching games on TV — of course, my wife [Gisele Bündchen] has had an influence, too,” says Tom Brady, the first athlete to appear on the pages of THR’s Stylists issue alongside Weitz, a former WME talent agent who created men’s fashion consultancy The Weitz Effect.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion, head of multiplatform content company 199 Productions as well as co-founder of holistic wellness line TB12, who describes his look as “classic, simple, functional, masculine and chic at times,” dominated headlines in 2021 for his winning style both on and off the field. “My favorite was the Super Bowl LV look — a bomber jacket, polo shirt, light denim and sneakers,” says Weitz of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers MVP’s pregame ensemble, courtesy of Tom Ford. “Since the game was in Florida, I wanted to stick with light colors and fabrics. I knew all eyes were going to be on Tom when he arrived, and I wanted him to stand out from other players whom I expected would opt for more predictable suiting.” Tom Ford sold out of the bomber jacket hours after Brady was seen wearing it during his arrival at Raymond James Stadium.
“I would like to dress Tom in more British, Italian and French designers, but I know what ultimately looks the best on him, and I don’t try to fix something that ain’t broke,” says Weitz, a THR men’s fashion contributing editor, of Brady’s almost exclusively Tom Ford wardrobe. The exception? The Versace black turtleneck that became a hot topic of conversation on ESPN when the superstar athlete hit the Heavenly Bodies-themed Met Gala with his wife in 2018: “I knew people would take notice. I did not know he’d be the most-talked-about man of the evening,” says Weitz. Adds Brady: “Andrew pushes the limits and is always ahead of the trend. The things I learn from all of these special events also give me an opportunity to learn more about fashion and design for the next aspect of my career beyond football.”
Back in 2016, Team Brady was scouting for someone to style the former New England Patriots quarterback for a Simmons Beautyrest campaign and reached out to Tom Ford’s press office for suggestions: “They recommended me,” says Weitz, whose client roster is stacked with top Hollywood executives (including MACRO’s Charles King, whose Oscar look landed on Esquire’s and GQ’s best-dressed lists) and who since has styled Brady for his IWC, Aston Martin and Christopher Cloos campaigns. “We spent time together on set and got to know each other a bit, realizing we had a lot of mutual acquaintances. The rest is history.”
Jeanne Yang – Leading-Man Maestro
“A friend recommended me to Regé. We had a Zoom meeting and ended up talking for an hour and a half,” recalls Yang of her recent and remote first meeting with Bridgerton heartthrob Regé-Jean Page. “He could literally wear anything because he knows how to wear everything.” The accomplished stylist, who also counts Keanu Reeves and Jason Momoa as clients, opted to dress the British actor in a printed blazer by Adrien Sauvage (“Robert Downey Jr. introduced me to the designer,” says Yang about another one of her clients) for the NAACP Image Awards. “The pattern was inspired by Asafo culture from Ghana,” she says.
Yang also experimented with a slim-cut Louis Vuitton velvet tuxedo sans tie by Virgil Abloh for Page’s appearance at the SAG Awards, keeping in mind the flawless fit that she’s renowned for. (The look has been described by some online as a “virtual thirst trap,” coming just days after Page’s announcement that he wouldn’t be returning for a second season of Shonda Rhimes’ popular Netflix drama.)
“Having fittings remotely made me rely on my experience to ensure proper tailoring. I was surprised by how my 10,000 hours of styling came into play with getting outfits to work on people when I couldn’t physically be in front of them,” says Yang, who also collaborated with Thom Browne exclusively on a suits, sweats and sneakers wardrobe for Hollywood’s youngest awards-season gent, Minari’s Alan Kim. “I had been researching a fashion project for kids and came upon Seoul Fashion week and was struck by how forward the Korean kids were. … At the same time, Thom Browne had sent the lookbook for his first children’s collection,” she says. “It was a perfect match.”
Otherwise, virtual red carpet dressing during a global pandemic has prompted the stylist to lean toward simplicity: “I’ve been much more thoughtful about not being too over-the-top, preferring more comfortable as well as more fashionable looks,” says Yang. “The way something feels has become an important factor … elastic waists and knits are a priority.”
Avo Yermagyan – Fearless Tastemaker
While many actors opted for more subdued looks, Leslie Odom Jr. and Yermagyan didn’t let a worldwide pandemic slow them down. The stylist and the Oscar nominee for both best supporting actor and best original song fully embraced fashion, making numerous bold choices like a colorful ombre Berluti suit that Odom debuted at the SAG Awards, five days before it even hit designer Kris Van Assche’s virtual fall 2021 runway: “It looked like a watermelon tourmaline,” says
At the BAFTAs in London, the One Night in Miami nominee stood out in two color-blocked Versace suits that were anything but restrained in contrasting red, yellow and cobalt prints. “That was something special … it felt like we hit our stride a bit, maybe?” Odom tells THR. “It wasn’t something I would’ve walked in a store to grab for myself, but that’s what’s dope about Avo. He pushes.” That same evening, the “Speak Now” singer put his own spin on a red Prabal Gurung suit that previously had been worn by Michael B. Jordan (an act most male stars wouldn’t dare to follow), adding a polka-dot dress shirt and red-heeled dress shoes.
The result was fresh and uniquely his own. “I don’t know if it’s the fact that we are essentially both musical theater kids at heart, or that we have the same sense of humor, but it works like a charm. Leslie is curious and open to taking risks, and he trusts my vision and fully commits. He’s a dream to dress,” says Yermagyan, who met Odom on the set of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen when the actor was starring on Broadway’s Hamilton. Adds Odom of his willingness to experiment with a range of styles: “I guess it boils down to, I just wouldn’t wear anything that didn’t make me feel like the best of myself.”
Stylists Doing the (Side) Hustle
From YouTube to at-home fitness, some of the town’s top tastemakers spent lockdown working ‘5 to 9’ away from the red carpet.
With Hollywood at a halt during lockdowns, THR power stylists turned their attention to new business ventures. Margot Robbie’s stylist, Kate Young, launched her own YouTube channel offering viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at her creative process, including working on Selena Gomez’s Revelación album art (“It’s the most watched episode”) and going over mood boards with Dakota Johnson. “I wanted to talk about clothes and be around fancy dresses again,” says Young. “I miss the beauty, stress and excitement of awards season.”
Activism-minded stylist Karla Welch founded The Period Co., a brand focused on changing the narrative around menstruation by offering affordable, reusable underwear and boxers ($12 to $14, period.co) to help eliminate the plastic waste associated with single-use products. Says Welch: “It’s a mission. We are here to rethink waste and the stigma of periods. We get letters every day from people who tell us this product has changed their life. It’s incredible.” Welch adds that one of the company’s long-term global goals is to end period poverty, or the lack of supplies in low-income, unhoused, trans and other underserved communities in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Puma creative director, costume designer and longtime Jay-Z stylist June Ambrose focused on wellness, signing on as an adviser for future fashion and lifestyle partnerships and collaborations for the CLMBR fitness machine (arriving this summer; investors include Jay-Z, Pitbull and Novak Djokovic). “Living and working at home has been trying at times — I’ve been wanting to shake off these COVID curves with minimal time, and having this piece of equipment that’s low-impact and fits into my home space has been life-changing for me,” says Ambrose, who also has been hard at work on forthcoming Puma collections. “I always say, ‘Life is a sport,’ and why wouldn’t you want to be as stylish working out as you are in your everyday life?”
Dwayne Johnson’s stylist, Ilaria Urbinati, launched digital men’s lifestyle destination LEO (leoedit.com) in October. “Styling remotely is the worst — it takes away the spontaneous collaboration that happens in a fitting,” she says of her usual work during the pandemic, adding that “for LEO, it’s so much more efficient to do all of the business meetings via Zoom.” The website includes celebrity interviews and shopping guides that reference everything from sports to Akira Kurosawa films to Johnson’s cocktail with blood orange juice and his Teremana tequila. “The guys I work with are multifaceted, but where’s the magazine or website for them? LEO was born out of the need to not pigeonhole men into categories like nature guy versus fashion guy,” says Urbinati. “We provide experts for all of these different subjects … and, of course, I select every single item of clothing and write the style stories, so it’s a bit like having your own celebrity stylist for everyday life.” — C.M.