Welcome to our new podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion and beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Since Who What Wear came to be in 2006, it’s grown to be a one-stop source for all things fashion, beauty, celebrity, and shopping. Now, we’re bringing our expertise to a new format with the launch of our first-ever podcast. Each week, Hillary Kerr, Who What Wear co-founder and Second Life podcast host, will cover everything from the latest emerging trends and talent to candid conversations with industry icons.
Kicking things off is Law Roach, the image architect, a costume designer, and a judge on HBO Max’s Legendary. His illustrious client list includes Zendaya, Celine Dion, Anya Taylor-Joy, Priyanka Chopra, and Kerry Washington. You can also see his work as the costume designer for the Nexflix film Malcolm & Marie.
Hillary also speaks to the designer on everyone’s mind as of late: Sergio Hudson. Fans of his work include Tracee Ellis Ross, Beyoncé, and none other than Vice President Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama, who both wore his designs the day of the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.
Read on for some of the highlights from Roach’s and Hudson’s interviews, and we hope you enjoy getting your Who What Wear fix in this new format.
Hillary Kerr: Let’s talk about your title, which is also trademarked, image architect. Why is this the best way to describe your work?
Law Roach: Well, it’s kind of twofold. When I first came to L.A. to start working, there were a lot of stylists. At that time, I think we were seeing the trend of people wanting to, you know, be a stylist. So I wanted to figure out a way to differentiate myself. The second, when I actually started working, I looked at my work in a way that an architect works, surveying and putting together blueprints, hiring out the different people that bring in the materials, and you have electricians and plumbers and conferences and all those things. So for me, I was just doing all those things with a person instead of a structure. I was hiring out makeup and hair, and the similarities were really, really interesting. So I’m like, “You know what, I’m an architect, too. But instead of being a traditional architect, I’m an image architect.” Since I started calling myself that, I always try to continuously work that way and to make sure that I’m always doing a little bit more than just picking a pretty dress for whoever hires me.
HK: Why do you think your partnership [with Zendaya] works so well?
LR: I think trust first of all, and we know our parts, right? I know what my part of our relationship is, our professional relationship anyway. I know what my job is, and she knows what her job is. So although we collaborate, those really don’t mix that much. Like I know her mood, right? I know that she wants to try on two dresses or 200 dresses. And then when she goes to do her job, she goes on the carpet as whatever narrative we’re trying to tell—whatever the story is, whoever the characters are. I don’t say, “Hey, when you get on the carpet, I need you to be stoic like Joan of Arc.” I just came up with that look and gave it to her. And now was her time to do her job. So those things don’t cross that much, and I think that’s what really works. She lets me fly. She lets me be me. She lets me create. And then whatever I create, she becomes it. And then, she shows us the world. So it’s like the perfect partnership.
HK: I’m curious about your approach because you have so many different clients, and they have different bodies and different styles and different interests. So how does your approach switch when you’re dressing someone like Anya [Taylor-Joy] versus Hunter [Schafer] versus Tom Holland?
LR: Well, it doesn’t really switch. It goes back to the architect part of it. All those people you name [and] everyone I’ve ever worked with, I study them. When I get the call that they want to work with me, I study everything they’ve ever worn. I watch all the interviews because I’m also at this point really good with body language. So by the time it’s time for my first fitting with them, I’ve already known everything [they’ve] ever done. I also can say, “Hey, when you wear [this] dress, what was it about it that you didn’t like?” And it’s like, “Oh, how did you notice that? It really wasn’t the dress. I really didn’t love my hair that night.” But if you’re concerned about your hair, then you can’t really be as confident about the dress. So my team and I, we build out a plan. So I’m like, “Okay, this shape and silhouette were really cool on her, or I can tell in this picture she really loved the way she looks.” So that makes me take note about the best hairstyles or the best makeup or the best color or whatever. Once we build out that blueprint for every client, then it’s bringing them things that I think will work but still keeping them authentically who they are because I’m not here to change anyone. I’m only here to elevate who they already are.
HK: Okay, our audience is very interested in advice about how to build or refine their closets. So I’m wondering if you have an idea about key pieces that you think everyone should own or invest in?
LR: Sure. I think that everyone should have a beautiful coat and a beautiful bag. I think everything in between is dependent on financial situation and taste and all that, but a beautiful, beautiful coat and a beautiful bag.
HK: Since you’re someone who knows so much about fashion and style and luxury, I’m curious about your thoughts on investment items, like key pieces that people should save up for. Are there specific brands or styles that someone should really consider investing in? What do you think is really worth it?
LR: Everyone knows Chanel bags really never lose value, and they’re collectible, and they’re always sought after. I do spend my money on things that I think people would want if I don’t want them anymore.
Hillary Kerr: So I have to congratulate you on a very impressive January—to dress both the vice president of the United States and to have such a major, once-in-a-lifetime moment with Mrs. Obama the same week. I mean, that’s so beyond next-level, to put it mildly. But that said, you’ve also been dressing so many notable women for so many years, including Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez—why do you think this was such a breakout moment for you?
Sergio Hudson: You know, I don’t know. What’s crazy is a lot of people think dressing celebrities is the equation. Dress celebrities equals instant success. And it’s just not the truth. It’s dressing celebrities at the right moment, at the right time, in the right pieces equals success—maybe still not instant. So I feel like it’s almost like the stars have to align. That’s what happened with Mrs. Obama that day, and it was so unexpected. I knew she was gonna wear it, but it was still a backup option. Meredith [Koop] was like, “Okay, it’s between you and this other person.” You know, I’m used to that. And when she wore it, I was like, “Okay, that’s great.” But I’ve dressed her twice before, and we’ve had amazing responses. But it was never to this level. It was different. And I tell the story all the time about how I was traveling from D.C. at the moment when she wore it. I was in Philadelphia in the airport in the lounge with a bunch of other people, and we were all watching at the same time. It’s like everybody audibly gasped in the room. That’s the moment that I knew that it was different. This is not the same. You’ve done all these celebrities, you’ve dressed all these celebrities, but this moment is changing something.
HK: How has the pandemic changed the way you work?
SH: It’s definitely harder. It’s not so much traveling back and forth to New York. It’s more Zooms and all that, but it’s definitely changed the way we do business. To be honest, it’s a terrible pandemic, and so many people have died. It’s been awful to watch and to see, but it’s changed my business for the better. I don’t feel like we would have had the opportunities that we have had, had it not been a pandemic, or we might be still rolling on that tradition. No calendar and fashion, which, to me, was just like a machine that people just get spit out of as it keeps rolling, like, “Oh, you can’t afford to do it? You go.” “Oh, you don’t have that connection? He’s gone.” But I feel like now it’s rolling at a slower pace. People are taking more time to cultivate relationships. We need each other more like the big stores need the young designers. They need the up-and-coming people more than we so much needed them before. Now we’re slowing, now we’re taking notice of people, now we’re getting to know people. We’re noticing other talents that we weren’t noticing when the machine was rolling so fast. So in that way, it has been good for the fashion industry.
HK: You’re known for these really incredible, thoughtfully designed outfits. I love all of your staples. The fit is so amazing. I’m curious about your advice to women. What investment piece do you think that everyone should have in their wardrobe that will elevate it both now and then also in non-pandemic times?
SH: When a woman comes to me and she’s like, “Okay, I want to redo my wardrobe.” I ask them, What do you have? Most of the time, they never have the key pieces. A great black blazer and a black pencil skirt are great. Like, you need your wardrobe of black. That’s what builds your wardrobe, and a lot of women just don’t have it. So my advice is that’s what you invest in. Suiting, coats, basic pieces, good turtlenecks—you know, those pieces are important. You spend the money on those, and then, you go buy the crazy red pencil skirt from Zara. You know what I mean? That’s because you can’t wear those pieces all the time. But you can wear the same black dress 100 times, and you’ll get compliments on it.
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.