Aesthetic:Lava La Rue

Words: Douglas Greenwood
Photography: Eleanor Hardwick
Photographer's Assistant: Melissa Arras
Styling: Neesha Tulsi Champaneria
Stylist's Assistant: Renee Saliba
Hair: Akiko Kawasaki
Makeup: Lauren Reynolds

 

The heatwave makes everything in this studio feel like it’s sweating. Lava La Rue sits in the steam, almost unbothered, sinking into a sea of mesh fabric and carrying a helmet of chainmail on her head. “Feel how heavy that is!” the 20-year-old rapper says, eyes wide, passing it my way mid-change to feel its weight.

Lava La Rue isn’t used to this. An artist who has made her name by creating an entirely self-sufficient style of art, the multi-hyphenate – real name Ava Laurel – has a personal style that she seldom strays from; a byproduct of her desire to cover all creative bases. From photography, to music-making, to designing her own “garms”, this girl proudly does it all.

At the end of her Crack Magazine shoot, she switches back into her more low-key get-up – some of which she’d incorporated into her looks: a net vest, a crochet Jamaican bikini and some wide-legged orangeade-coloured skater shorts. We walk out of the Brixton studio to find a spot to chat. “How do you find living in west London?” I ask, making small talk with someone who comes across as a little shy. Lava launches onto her skateboard, hurtling 10 paces ahead, proving me wrong. “It’s home, innit?” she shouts back.

Top: Paula Knorr
Skirt: Paula Knorr
Joggers: Slazenger Banger
Hat: Slazenger Banger
Neckerchief: Lava's own
Glove: Stylist's own
Socks: Puma
Jewellery: Lava's own

 

Home is a council flat in Ladbroke Grove: something that stands in stark contrast to her wealthy, upper-class neighbours. It’s a dichotomy that’s not gone unnoticed by someone who's spent much of her teenage and adult life watching the hallmarks of her upbringing – as a queer woman of colour with a working class background – become creative fodder for those who didn’t grow up like she did. Having spent much of her childhood in spots across the capital, raised by her grandmother before falling in and out of the foster care system, it spurred Lava on to spread her roots in a different way, gathering an artistic family to confide in. She’s now the founding member of nine8collective: a group of young Londoners who are using their talents to switch up London’s underground art scene from the inside. “Everybody’s absolutely bonkers in nine8!” she laughs, describing her group of co-creators. “We’re a family of outcasts, but not in a [exclusionary] way – we’re all about accepting everyone and positive vibes.”

Armour headpiece: Stylist's own
Gloved top: Poster Girl
Sheer top: 1683 Atelier
Shorts: Lava's own
Jewellery: Lava's own

 

Lava knew her love of art and music would become her livelihood when she was 16 and still in college. What she had was both hustle and a bunch of creative favours she could trade with those closest to her. They’re instrumental when it comes to the creation of her music: both her debut EP, LETRA, and the mixtape nine8 collection debuted at their Tate London show last month. On the latter, Lava’s cadence (as soft as her speaking voice) carries confident flows, and acts as the vehicle for stories about everything from vying for a lover’s approval to the fucked up state of the country she lives in.

Coat: Mashama
Leggings: Mashama
T-shirt: Blouse
Socks: Puma
Shin pads: Nike
Rings: Maria Black and Lava's own

Shirt: Paula Knorr
Knickers: Wolford customised by stylist
Shorts: Topshop
Socks: Puma
Sliders: Kappa
Boxing gloves: Stylist's own
Jewellery: Maria Black and Lava's own
Sunglasses: Gentle Monster

The warm and woozy production lying beneath it is something Lava takes seriously too; she doesn’t do half measures. “As a female musician, you’re often surrounded by a bunch of male sound engineers who are telling you to ‘do it like that’, even when you came in with a vision.” She shouts a little to be heard over passing sirens. “There’s a difference between collaboration and compromise, and for me, I don’t feel good leaving the studio without being proud of the outcome. It’s like seeing your crush at a party and leaving before telling them what you wanted to say.”

Her music carries messages so many young people today want to emulate. We circle back to the conversation starter; about Lava’s culture and upbringing transforming into somebody else’s throwaway creative aesthetic. “A lot of the shit these kids preach in their bars, when they get bored of it, they can swap their Adidas for a white collar shirt and vote for the same parties they were dissing,” she tells me. “What I say and speak about in my music, I’ve experienced. Kids that spit about stuff they haven’t been through – it’s not cool. I’ve had family members in pen. It’s not ‘sick’” – she punctuates with air quotes – “It’s traumatic.”

But Lava La Rue – independent, intelligent, bigger than this – isn’t willing to waste too much breath spreading negativity. She has better, more positive things to do. “People who want to make ignorant music, that’s fine,” she concludes. “Just make space for those who want to make a difference. Make their dreams a reality.”