A couple of years ago, Simon Doonan, the author and former creative director of Barneys New York, argued in our digital pages that queer people have an inextricable link to the luxury world. And while Pride Month may be halfway over, the influential LGBTQ+ leaders in the high-end food, fashion, design and retail industries have an impact that’s felt no matter what time of year it is. The luxurious products we all enjoy, from fine dining to menswear and even safaris, simply wouldn’t be the same—or even possible—without the tireless effort and passionate creativity of these trailblazing individuals. Below, we’re paying tribute to the work of a small handful of these creators and executives, from Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn and stylist Law Roach to menswear impresario Mats Klingberg and jewelry designer Emmanuel Tarpin and more.
Law Roach, A-List Hollywood Stylist
As the go-to stylist for everyone from Tom Holland and Aldis Hodge to Celine Dion and the modern-day mononym Zendaya, Law Roach is an undeniable trailblazer in the fashion industry. Starting out in Chicago as a vintage broker sourcing eclectic pieces, Roach attracted a fan base and customers that led him to open his own shop in Harlem, New York known as Deliciously Vintage Harlem.
With the success of that shop, the stylist opened a second storefront in his hometown—which eventually caught the eye of icons such as Kanye West. Shortly after, Roach headed out to LA to pursue a profession in styling Hollywood’s elite. Today, the Los Angeles resident has styled numerous magazine covers and red carpets for his long roster of A-list clients
Recently, Roach became the first Black stylist to cover The Hollywood Reporter’s Most Powerful Stylists issue alongside his clients Zendaya and Anna Taylor Joy. If you can’t secure his services, you can watch him in action as one of the judges on HBO Max’s Legendary.
Dominique Crenn, Michelin Three-Star Chef
As the first female chef in America to acquire three Michelin stars, Dominique Crenn is dominating the culinary industry. The renowned chef is the current co-owner of restaurant Atelier Crenn, based in San Francisco, which opened in January 2011. Just eight months later, Crenn secured the first Michelin star for the luxury establishment in October 2011—stars two and three were accredited in 2012 and 2018.
Currently engaged to Coyote Ugly actress Maria Bello, Crenn has rallied for female equality with honest thoughts on gender in the kitchen. According to Eater, she once explained that she “often fumble(s) my way through… feeling pressured to say something super-clever that will educate sexists, cheer on other female chefs, and get points from feminists, all while not pissing off my male colleagues (whom I greatly admire and appreciate having camaraderie with).”
In 2019, Crenn was diagnosed with cancer and has since made a successful recovery. And the dedicated chef made headlines a few years back for removing land animals from all of her restaurants, including Atelier Crenn, Bar Crenn, Petit Crenn and Boutique Crenn.
Bruce Pask, Men’s Fashion Director of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus
Few people understand the way guys shop—and what they want to wear—better than Bruce Pask. He’s been the men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman since 2014, and in 2017 added oversight of the menswear offerings at Neiman Marcus to his job description. It’s a unique position that gives the former fashion editor a lot of sway in how American men encounter luxury goods and incorporate them into their wardrobes—and he’s used it to champion an international roster of brands that the average corner-office type might miss otherwise. Visit B. Shop, a special curation of his personal favorites located on the third floor of Bergdorf’s New York City men’s store, and you’ll find an exclusive offering of Japan’s Beams Plus, Norway’s Varsity Headgear, Italy’s Massimo Alba and England’s Drake’s, just to name a few. That it all works so well together is a testament to Pask’s skill as a stylist—and a reminder that we all have more in common than we might assume.
Corey Damen Jenkins, Interior Designer
Name an interior design accolade and Corey Damen Jenkins has probably achieved it. Jenkins founded his practice in 2009 after losing his job as a buyer for a car company during the Great Recession, which led him to see an opportunity to pursue his lifelong passion. He famously knocked on 779 doors to land his first gig, but after that his rise to fame was meteoric. He won the first season of HGTV’s Showhome Showdown in 2011; in 2019, after commissions from coast to coast, he broke the interiors internet with a room he created for the 2019 Kips Bay Decorator’s Show House. Entitled “To the Lady of the House, With Love,” Jenkins’s high-wattage lady’s library flipped the script on the wood-paneled gentleman’s hideaway and nodded to gay icons like Jean Paul Gaultier and Marilyn Monroe. The space epitomizes his penchant for taking the stuffing out of traditional decor. (His first book, Design Remix, is subtitled “A New Spin on Traditional Rooms.”) Jenkins has since been included in Architectural Digest‘s AD 100 and Elle Decor‘s A List.
Niki Nakayama, Michelin Two-Star Chef
Niki Nakayama’s work at her Michelin-starred restaurant n/naka has won fans the world over, and it’s easy to see why. Nakayama (above, at left) focuses on the traditional Japanese art of kaiseki, which emphasizes the balance and seasonality of each dish. At her restaurant, the 13-course meals feature only the freshest and most delicious ingredients, including some that come from Nakayama’s own garden.
Helping prepare the incredible dishes at n/naka is Nakayama’s wife and sous chef, Carole Iida (above right); the two married in 2015. Nakayama has long been outspoken about being a queer woman in the culinary industry. “I hope that by being an out, queer Japanese-American woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, I can influence people to recognize I’m simply a chef and that none of those other labels matters,” she told Out magazine in 2015.
Tom Ford, Style Icon and Fashion Designer
Tom Ford’s name is synonymous with luxury. From clothing to grooming to his work as a filmmaker, his peerless zest for quality and his unique style have helped the world fall in love with the best of the best. The Austin, Texas native studied at New York University and Parsons School of Design in New York and Paris before jetsetting to Milan in 1990 to join Gucci as the label’s womenswear designer. In just four years, he became the brand’s creative director in 1994 and held the post until April 2004, when he resigned. In April 2005, the designer announced both the launch of his eponymous label and the launch of his film company, Fade to Black.
Ford, who was married to the late American journalist Richard Buckley, has never shied away from talking about sex. From bringing gay relationships to the silver screen in the film A Single Man to his forthrightly carnal advertising, Ford’s work reminds us that sex is an inherent part of sexuality—something to be celebrated and not hidden away.
The luxury designer oversaw the opening of his first flagship store on Madison Avenue in 2007, with the debut of menswear and accessory collections. Today, there are more than 100 of Ford’s stores across the US, Europe, Asia and beyond. The designer’s list of accolades and his global influence cement him as one of the greatest tastemakers of our time.
Guy Bedarida, Jewelry Designer
Guy Bedarida, a leading figure in contemporary jewelry, has had an extensive career that has seen him create jewels for Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and John Hardy, to name a few. Since 2017, he’s been a majority owner and creative director of Marina B, the house founded by Marina Bulgari, where his innovative approach and signature appreciation for the intersection of East and West shines in everything from bracelets and earrings to stylish homewares and decorative objects. But his point of view isn’t precious, even if his materials are. He once told The New York Times that after meeting Bulgari, he realized he wanted his creations for Marina B to be modern and wearable, not reserved only for special occasions. “It has to be comfortable and worn every day, and occasionally you might wear something outstanding,” he said.
Darius Khonsary, Fine Jewelry Designer
Darius Khonsary is using her line Darius Jewels as a way of bringing the past to the present. Her work is inspired by her own ancient Persian ancestry, as well as ancient Egyptian amulets, Greek vessels and Roman décor. These touchpoints are then rendered in exquisitely hand-crafted pieces of gold, diamonds, emeralds and other beautiful gems.
Khonsary, a trans woman, has said that Darius Jewels doesn’t hew to one gender but that it also isn’t unisex. It’s simply meant to be for everyone. “I do want to see as many people like myself wearing the pieces,” she told WWD last year. “It’s great to have the jewelry on other trans women—it’s something that’s really important to me.” Khonsary has even researched how trans people existed in the ancient world, and she’s brought that history to her creations. The first piece she ever designed, the Sisters necklace, is meant to evoke transgender ancient magic, among other references.
Ashley Christensen, James Beard Award-Winning Chef
Having won the James Beard Awards for “Best Chef: Southeast” in 2014 and “Outstanding Chef” in 2019, Ashley Christensen is easily one of the most influential chefs in the country. Since the opening of her restaurant Poole’s in 2007, Christensen has become a decorated champion not only for food, but also for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Raleigh, NC-based cook opened three restaurants in 2011: Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s (which has since closed) and Fox Liquor Bar. And in 2015, she opened Death & Taxes, which was named as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Restaurants of the Year. Most recently, the chef opened Poole’side Pies in 2019. Whether it’s fried chicken or Neapolitan-style pizzas, Christensen brings something for everyone to the table.
In 2016, she shared her thoughts with Eater about HB2, North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill that would bar individuals from using restrooms in schools and government offices that don’t align with their gender at birth. Having advocated against the bill, Christensen spoke out, stating, “We will ultimately defeat this bill, not by opting out of serving its enthusiasts, but by breaking bread together and pushing forward an agenda of inclusion, positivity, and equality for all.”
Mikel Welch, Interior Designer
Few can say they’ve had the honor of designing a space for Oprah Winfrey—or Michelle and Barack Obama. But Mikel Welch has created VIP green rooms for all three, along with Faith Hill, Steve Harvey and other bold-faced names. The Southfield, Michigan native runs a New York-based interior design business, Mikel Welch Designs.
In January 2020, Welch was credited as one of House Beautiful’s 2020 Next Wave designers. His interiors have also been featured in publications such as Architectural Digest, Traditional Home, Elle Decor and The New York Times in recent years.
However, one of his most notable features includes a discussion with an interior design website regarding Pride in June 2020. During the talk, Welch shined a light on design community microaggressions he’s witnessed and racial issues within the gay community he’d like to see resolved. In it, he said, “I was taught that Christianity is about love and acceptance of others, not judgment of others.”
Simon Mayle, International Travel Executive
If you’ve ever wondered how bespoke travel agents are able to tailor unforgettable, one-of-a-kind experiences for discerning jet setters, it’s thanks to people like Simon Mayle. As the event director for International Luxury Travel Market—a series of annual conferences that bring together travel advisors and travel brands—Mayle has a unique view of the global hospitality business, and his programs enable its key players to offer travelers the best service they can.
But Mayle is also working to make tourism safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ+ travelers. Through Proud Experiences, he helps travel brands and advisors create strategies that embrace and welcome members of this community, helping everyone feel like they belong.
Emmanuel Tarpin, Jewelry Designer
Jewelry designer Emmanuel Tarpin may be the youngest person on this list, but his inventive designs merit inclusion. At just 29 years old, Tarpin is already at the helm of own design studio, which he founded after a three-year stint at Van Cleef and Arpels in 2018. Tarpin’s individuality is on display in each unique piece he creates, from nature-inspired earrings that look like flowers freshly picked from a garden to sinuous bracelets and rings that look like ribbons dancing on the breeze. Even his most voluminous pieces are remarkably lightweight—a testament to his skill as both a sculptor and a technician. His work is an active reminder that jewelry is a form of art you can wear, not merely decoration or investment.
Wilfredo Rosado, Fine Jewelry Designer
The jewelry designer Wilfredo Rosado has been in the world of luxury for quite a while—but still, things change when the vice president of the United States wears one of your designs during her inauguration. Last year, Kamala Harris chose a custom Rosado design for her swearing-in: a pearl necklace with each pearl surrounded by a delicate gold halo, linked with small diamonds. “It’s one of those life-changing moments, on many levels—me as a person, you know, how do I top this? Do I just become satisfied with knowing that I’ve done it already? I hope not. I hope there are other moments like this,” the designer told Fashionista last year.
Rosado launched his eponymous line W. Rosado in 2011, but even before that he was a protégé of Andy Warhol and worked for Giorgio Armani in Milan. Now he’s designing jewelry that uses fine materials and techniques in a bold, playful way. Some of his other celebrity clients include Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts and Mariah Carey.
Mats Klingberg, Menswear Retailer
Though Trunk Clothiers has just two stores (one in London and another in Zurich), its impact goes far beyond its physical locations. And that’s thanks to its founder, Mats Klingberg, who set up shop in 2010 with a vision that’s as fresh and relevant now as it was on opening day. Klingberg’s thoughtful curation of everything from sharp tailoring and soft sweaters to stationery and grooming essentials is underpinned by a peerless eye for quality; you can trust that if it hasn’t passed Klingberg’s rigorous sniff test, it won’t make it to the shop floor. That goes double for Trunk’s in-house brand, which boils down wardrobe staples to their most timeless and essential forms and crafts them from luxurious and thoughtfully sourced fabrics. Trunk is the kind of place where you can buy a jacket or a pair of shoes today that you’ll still wear and love a decade from now—and with sustainability at the forefront of the menswear world, it’s exactly what we need more of.
Sherwin Banda, President of African Travel, Inc.
In 2015, after a successful, decades-long career as a hotelier in Africa, London and the United States, Cape Town native Sherwin Banda became the president of African Travel. The company is dedicated to helping travelers have the best experiences possible when they’re visiting the continent, whether they’re on safari in a nature preserve or volunteering to build desks for schools. Banda’s personalized approach prioritizes not only the traveler’s experience, but also the local communities they interact with, and he’s a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation. He’s also Black, gay and Jewish, and has seen the world become more fair and inclusive throughout his life and career. In a recent interview, he said, “I wish I had had the self-awareness at age 20 that I have now. But, that would make the reward less sweet. I know now that the struggle was part of the journey.”
Shaun Leane, Jewelry Designer
From the age of 15, renowned jeweler Shaun Leane trained in a traditional apprenticeship learning to mount diamonds and use antique restoration methods. Best known for his long-standing collaborations with Alexander McQueen creating one-of-a-kind fine jewelry, the artisan created distinguished couture designs for the catwalk.
Today, Leane’s jewels are viewed as iconic milestones in both art and the history of fashion. The distinguished jeweler is the four-time winner of the UK Jewelry Designer of the Year award and has also produced collaborations with English socialite Daphne Guinness, fashion photographer Nick Knight, French jeweler Boucheron and many others. Working with the hottest tastemakers in the industry propelled Leane to global recognition, along with his commitment to breaking outdated traditions in jewelry design.
In a 2017 interview with Another Magazine, Leane recalls the working partnership with his friend Alexander McQueen. “We were best friends, and we were great work colleagues. We were exactly the same age. He was an east London boy. I’m a north London boy. Both gay, both quite feisty,” he shared. And with 15 years of friendship to remember, the designer continues to carry on the legacy of the iconic duo.
Telfar Clemens, CFDA Accessories Designer of the Year
From The New York Times to Fast Company, Telfar Clemens has made headlines consistently over the past few years for the mass appeal of his luxury handbags that are “not for you—for everyone.” The designer’s shopping bags or “Bushwick Birkins” are in such high demand that if you’re not queued up on Telfar’s website the moment restocks go live, they sell out within two minutes—and you miss your shot until the next restock.
The Liberian-American designer has been in business since 2005, creating all things from luxury apparel to accessories and footwear. Clemens’s focus has been specializing in gender-fluid products that connect with all demographics and dismiss the notion of exclusivity—to a degree. Since launching, the designer has won the Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2017 and the CFDA’s Accessories Designer of the Year Award in 2020.
In 2021, the designer launched a lauded partnership with UGG and designed uniforms for the Liberian Olympics team—major feats, indeed. Clemens’s designs and gender-fluid concepts continue to lead and influence new designers today. “We walk the line of fashion and art,” the designer says of his brand. “It’s definitely not either/or.”
Robert Couturier, Interior Designer
Robert Couturier made history in 1987 with his acclaimed redesign of billionaire Sir James Goldsmith’s 200-acre estate on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Shortly after, the luxury interior designer decorated a slew of the billionaire’s possessions, from his Boeing 757 to a double-wide Manhattan townhouse and his French chateau.
The native Parisian’s work is primarily grounded in the US, Europe and South America. And with his diverse portfolio, Couturier’s name has often been included in Architectural Digest’s prestigious listing of the best designers and architects world-wide. Publications such as Vogue, House and Garden, Conde Nast Traveler and The New York Times, among others, have also featured his works.
Married to historic preservationist Jeffrey Morgan, the designer says the attitude towards being gay in France is not the “puritanical view” it is in the US. And during a 2020 interview with the Business of Home, the designer shed even more light on acceptance, community and the AIDS crisis. “I was very close with [AIDS activist] Larry Kramer. I loved Larry Kramer. He was a wonderful person. Everybody always used to say, ‘But he’s in your face!’ And I would reply, ‘He’s saying things to people that they need to hear. And he is right.'”