What does Law Roach’s retirement say about the state of the fashion industry?

Culture – 57 minutes ago

Robyn Mowatt

Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer, where…

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Photo credit: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Lurking behind celebrity stylist Law Roach’s retirement is an ominous reminder of the dire state of the fashion industry.

Following the Oscars, celebrity stylist and creative director Law Roach announced his retirement. It came as a shock to many who followed his work religiously. He brought the fashion industry to life with his innate ability to alter A-list stars and their relationships with fashion specifically on the red carpet. Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Kerry Washington, Celine Dion, Anya-Taylor Joy and others have worked with Roach. More recently, he was responsible for the stunning look Megan Thee Stallion wore when she attended the vanity fair Oscar party.

Law Roach’s announcement was filled with statements like, “You won… I’m out,” which he wrote in the caption of the now-deleted Instagram post. Alongside a large emblazoned graphic that read “Retired,” he also wrote, “Politics, lies, and false narratives finally got me.”

Law’s fashion transforming skills took him from Chicago’s South Side to Los Angeles. The self-proclaimed “image architect” has worked tirelessly to make his dreams come true. He went from living alone at age 14 to being a super stylist. His start in fashion included opening his now-defunct Chicago boutique, Deliciously Vintage. In 2009, Kanye West walked into the boutique and it was no longer a hidden gem.

A few years later, he packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles, where he met Zendaya, who would become his first big client. Roach is mostly known for dreaming up crucial style moments for stars – the biggest one being Zendaya – one particular moment for the actress was the custom blue lights up tommy hilfiger dress she wore to the Met Gala in 2019. He was also responsible for the Schiaparelli Haute couture dress that she is seen wearing on the cover of On stylein November 2022 edition.

Immediately after Roach posted on Instagram, industry insiders publicly expressed their thoughts on Instagram. Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, wrote the following on Instagram: “You will always have a home in British Vogue. Nico Kartel photographer tweeted“I hope Law Roach’s Instagram post creates a healthy dialogue about fashion and how nasty this industry is.”

Watching the fashion community react to Law’s retirement led to an urgent moment of soul-searching to uncover the story behind the story: what Hollywood’s most highly regarded black stylist announcing his retirement says about the state of the fashion industry. This moment is even more urgent when Roach spoke with Lindsay Peoples, editor-in-chief of The cut about what led him to retire; he was tired of being tired.

From the expansive conversation, one quote in particular stood out: “I haven’t been happy, honestly, in a long time.” roach said. This rang high and so did his share: “I am so grateful that I was able to move and climb in this industry the way I did. But I can’t say I didn’t do it without suffering. And I think as black people in this country, it’s built into us to suffer, right? We feel that to succeed, we have to suffer.”

His remarks are testament to the journey he’s been on as a black gay man who has given himself fully to an industry notoriously known for being tough. Giving yourself the space to finally rest after dedicating yourself to your clients must be difficult, but also liberating. “I feel a freedom I don’t remember feeling,” he said.

Although Roach has been very successful, he feels he “has been hurting for years”. It shows how constantly entering an industry run by capitalist leaders can often lead to feelings of burnout, which is largely identifiable for many African Americans.

Because of the prestige and glamor that is often associated with roles in the fashion industry, many people dream of making it big in the space. What often isn’t told to eager black and brown upstarts is how you can work twice as hard to reap opportunities and roles that your white peers will receive due to connections or resources you lack. You are expected to work from intern to assistant to whatever it is you dream of becoming with little to no resources. That’s where the community comes in.

One firm position is that while the black fashion community is constantly advocating for change, some of the industry’s agitators who are neither black nor brown are not doing so. There was a period when black fashion designers, photographers, and other creatives were being embraced. Even now, this is still happening. But these are isolated incidents in the bigger picture. What does your header mean magazine, creative agency, or Digital platform looks? How is your directory? Racism is the reason for not being diverse.

Advocating for dismantling racism seems to appoint people from underrepresented backgrounds to roles and also guide them. Also, setting up “accountability check-ins” with the decision makers in your company to ensure that people who don’t look like you have chances to intern and also work at the executive level. Taking things even further, it also consists of looking for contractors outside your network and advocating for their fair wages and salaries. Also, recognizing the meanness that can thrive in fashion and creating measures to eradicate this culture from your own company or where you work is another significant step in the right direction. It appears that after a brief break nearly three years ago, whites in positions of power are back to business as usual, rather than taking the aforementioned steps.

The idea that the 2020 protests altered things and opened the gatekeepers’ eyes to understand how complicit they are in allowing racism to thrive is a fallacy. And Law’s retirement is a direct response to the fact that he was tired of working so hard and feeling like it wasn’t enough. Even with respect and recognition for white institutions, he dealt with blatant attacks on his character and outright lies that caused him to lose clients. “I never feel protected,” he shared with The cut. Roach’s announcement also establishes the notion that no matter what level you are at as a black man in fashion, you will still be beaten with mistreatment by those in power.

Law plans to leave the celebrity style for the foreseeable future, as it was a space that pushed him into a major depression and also isolated him from having relationships. Behind this choice, it is especially important to note that his departure points to how unsustainable the fashion industry is for black people. Prestige and money haven’t protected Roach from instances that are seen as normal for many in the fashion community, which is exactly why he’s choosing himself this time around.

“I hope people start to see me more as me, as Law, as the person,” he told Lindsay Wagner. “I just, I just want to breathe. I want to fly; I want to be happy. I want to discover other things.”

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