Lava La Rue has become a household name in recent years. Many will know the 22-year-old as the singer-songwriter and rapper behind the critically acclaimed 2019 EP Stitches, and as a founding member of NiNE8 – a diverse London collective, home to rappers, producers and familiar names such as Biig Piig. Others will recognise her as a regular at fashion shows and the face of multiple campaigns, or as a vocal and active member of the Black and LGBTQIA+ community, championing Black stories and queer love in the mainstream through music and art. This summer, she released a fan-led music video exploring the “summer of love” in lockdown for her single “G.O.Y.D” (Girl Of Your Dreams) with proceeds going towards the Black Trans collective FOR OUR SIBS.
Fortunately, the pandemic has in no way diminished La Rue’s creative prowess. On 19 February, she releases her second EP Butter-Fly alongside self-made artwork and a music video for the bluesy opening track “Magpie”. Inspired by Björk, Prince and the sounds of her collective, it consists of five personal queer love stories envisioned as “individual movies with the same characters but different settings and genres”. After “Magpie” comes “Angel” – a poppy fusion of West London and American West Coast sounds followed by the ethereal love ballad “Goofy Hearts”, the trippy R&B track “G.O.Y.D”, and “Lift You Up” featuring Karma Kid – a sugary finale to a kaleidoscopic EP.
DIY is La Rue’s guiding philosophy in life, having fashioned her own clothes and typographies from the age of seven. That creative spirit is the foundation of her success, and of the NiNE8 collective’s as well. From trawling charity shops to finding inspiration in vintage magazines, the DIY extraordinaire shares her best fashion hacks, below.
How do you DIY your clothes?
I swap unworn clothes in charity shops or revamp them with new materials. I’d make clothes before a night out – ripping, sticking, pinning something up quickly. People liked what I made and that’s how my brand Lavaland came about. When I’m making clothes, I think about functionality and past subcultures that inspire me. I’ll see a sick photo of Joan Jett in a crazy pinned T-shirt or jeans, then go to Portobello Market and make my own version. With Lavaland and NiNE8 Garms, I buy second-hand clothes by the kilo at warehouses. For the boutique collection we did for London Men’s Fashion Week, we found loads of Korean army pants, fixed all the zips and added all the additional textures.
How would you describe your style?
People say it’s punk-ish anime meets Ladbroke Grove. I like to go super baggy, like the TLC vibe, with an element of spray paint or a tight top. Sometimes I go for a full-on 2000 Brit-Pop look in a Fred Perry cardigan and flares.
What are your favourite brands and shops?
Most of my clothes are from markets that I get tailored. I love all the Farrah and Traid charity shops across London. My trick? Go to a charity shop in a really nice area. The Mod Father in Camden Market do amazing mod pieces, parka jackets and original Trojan Records cardigans. The Fruits magazine Instagram archive page always makes me want to DIY something.
What is your biggest fashion crime?
Everything I do is a fashion crime. I follow no rules – clashing colours, prints and materials. I love ugly fashion – ugly knitwear, granny mohair cardigans and mixed patterns. I’d be buried in a granny cardigan.
What is your best style or DIY tip?
Don’t be afraid to DIY expensive clothes because no one else will be wearing that anyway.
What do you wear on date night?
Pre-Covid, I’d be in a full leather Matrix outfit. It’s casual, sexy and not too crazy. I wore that on my first date with my partner.
Who, in your opinion, is the greatest fashion icon?
They’re all around my house! Posters of Grace Jones, Prince, Joan Jett. I feel like 2021 needs authentic rockstars with their energy.
How do you approach the DIY process?
Focus on what excites you. Growing up, I was excited about the history of Ladbroke Grove, Trojan Records and the Buffalo movement. I’d buy archive rave posters and FACE magazines from the ’80s for £3 from the Notting Hill Comic Book Exchange for inspiration for my art. I’m lucky to have grown up surrounded by so many resources. You can do it virtually, too, when you’re watching mad documentaries. I’ll pause whenever I see a crazy set design or title graphics, then build my own style around it.
What’s your advice for budding creatives seeking out their own collective?
Punk, hip-hop, UK garage, grime – they all started as collectives. NiNE8 is about the bigger picture – doing something that hasn’t been done before, bringing in a new genre and movement. The best way to find your creative tribe is to understand what your long-term goal is. Once you work on your frequency, people with the same frequency come to you. You don’t need a middle man to find you a gallery space or do your graphics anymore. Look at all the viral internet stars and bedroom producers! There’s a song I sampled from South America on my EP which I couldn’t have found without the internet. It’s all about how you use those resources.
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