You are a square if you're in Baltimore and don't know Larry Luv.Thanks to his addictive Sunny Day parties and the whirlwind of high-energy designs flying out of his Huey Brand flagship store, the Douglass Housing Projects native has crafted a simple yet complex cocktail of innovative fashion and the illest events ever. The mix is beaming a much needed light of positive energy over one of the darkest summers in the history of our city.
Summer 2016 has been tougher than those rip-off-online college placement exams. We lost Scoota and Truz, endured the tragic videos posted by Korryn Gaines before she was killed by police, and watched our trash legal system cosign police brutality and murder—allowing all six of Freddie Gray's killers to walk.
It's hard to find hope, especially if your source of information comes from a mix of local news and social media. Every story involves murder, murder, and, of course, murder. The surviving scene is petty beef over the same goals, a bunch of disconnected cops, and talk centered around Port Covington, lack of opportunity, the ever-increasing crime rate, and a bunch of other issues that seem unsolvable.
I don't understand how people can go more than a day without tipping a bottle.Especially if you are in the trying-to-inspire-with-hope-and-change-making business. You plan, you pray, and you strategize, throwing 50 shots up at A-Better-Baltimore basket—watching them all brick, building a new house of problems. And then there's Larry Luv, "The Curator, The Designer, The Creative Director, and The Smooth Operator," as described on his Instagram.
Larry's different. He's like an activist, but not really. He doesn't march, run a youth center, or pair dashikis with cutoff jeans and open toe sandals––no. He's a businessman, and a huge component of his business is fun—exactly what our city needs, especially now.
About two years ago, a friend of mine named Josh came through with a black cap. It had a white X on the left side and a red heart on the right. "Yo that's dope," I said to him, pointing at the hat, "Where'd you get that from?"
"Yo Larry make these! He gotta bunch of fly shit coming out! Get down with him!"
Josh is fly so I listened. I borrowed his hat and purposely forgot to return it, followed all of Larry's social media accounts, and ended up buying a few of his shirts.
My closet is emo; it's dark as summer 2016—all black tees and all black jeans like I'm funeral-ready all of the time. Larry's designs stick out like a sixth toe in my pile of hoodies. HUEY (Helping Us Enjoy Youth), the name of his brand, is full of flavor, life, and inviting imagery like loud muscle cars and cool but real quotes. One reads "A dollar makes a difference."
Larry "Luv" Davis, 27, was born stylish.
"My mom always kept me fresh; I stayed in the latest everything" he says, eyeing an off-green mezcal cocktail on a night at Clavel. "But basketball was my first love."
East Baltimore nostalgia hits when I see him. I think of the dudes we looked up to back in the day, the smooth OG's that owned all of the stores on Monument Street like Milton and Nose—you know; the ones that set the trends. They brought Coogi's, Fila denim, and triple Fat Gooses to town—they were Baltimore fashion and also smart enough to supply it.
Like a lot of us east Baltimore kids, Larry started out on the blacktop. He put countless hours of work in on the court. Eventually, he made it to Carver High School, where he excelled as varsity basketball player, but begin losing interest in the sport.
"Fashion became my thing—not necessarily brands but fabrics and how they felt when I put them on or when other people put them on," Larry explains with a rare burst of enthusiasm. Rare for him because he's a laid back dude, real cool with an old soul. He listens like he's been here before; he lives in a cap, thinks before he speaks, and his eyes disappear when he smiles.
"I always wanted to make my own clothes," Larry says. "My high school had a design class that was full of women and gay dudes—no disrespect to them, but I was a child in Baltimore city where we are taught to be hyper masculine. There were no straight men out here designing clothes, at least not in my neighborhood. Luckily I got over that phobia and launched my first line, HOJAon."
Luv started his first clothing line at 16. Initially HOJAon (Hold Your Own) featured exclusive customs that Larry made for himself, then his friends wanted to buy some and then their friends, which came with more and more referrals that eventually spiraled into a business. Larry made a ton of money and created a buzz that stretched all the away across the city: "It didn't really hit me until I went to a City-Poly game and 50-plus people were wearing my clothes. My clothes. I didn't even care about the money, I was just happy that the city coming together and supporting something that I made."
The HOJAon custom collection was full of the creative part of Baltimore that we don't hear enough about, the Baltimore that us real Baltimoreans are trying to hold on to. Larry ran the company, stacked his money, and continued slanging custom apparel after graduating and being accepted into the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore.
"Eastern Shore made me feel even more comfortable as a designer. I met so many different types of people from all over who were doing great things," Larry says. "They were really into the craft like me, unlike a lot of the brands back in Baltimore who only focused on the business side of fashion, which is the reason why five clothing lines could look exactly the same. My college experience showed me that my designs had much more than a local appeal."
Larry enjoyed his time at UMES, but it really wasn't for him. He only attended to make his mom happy. He was already living in his purpose, coming home and selling loads of clothes every weekend.
"I told my mom that I was ready to be serious and go into business full time as a fashion designer," he says. "She gave her blessing and I left school."
HUEY Brand launched in 2012 and instantly became popular amongst the who is who in Baltimore. The original shirts, hats, and sweats were unique, making people want more. Each design bleeds energy. Some are minimalist, stamped with The Huey logo; others have retro cartoons and playful fonts. The look is catching on, his clothes are starting to generate interest in other states as the designs are only getting better.The vibe is youthful and the brand provides a break from the chaos we adults face daily and, magically, Larry does the same with his parties.
Larry's Sunny Day parties, pool parties, and the rest of his events are lit. After seeing the pictures of people who attended posted online, you'd be sick if you contemplated going but decided not to. Smiles on smiles on smiles at every function, and I never heard about any violent outbreaks during or after his functions—just beautiful people having a beautiful time.
"Larry has amazing talent," says Gregory Clark, a Baltimore native who's now in New York making major waves in the fashion world. "Beyond designing, I could see Larry being a creative director for a major brand or artist. He's humble, intelligent, creative, and a visionary. With those skills, he can make it anywhere."
If you can make it in Baltimore, you can make it anywhere. Baltimore can be one of the roughest places in America for a young black male; however, Larry is still winning. His clothing line is jumping and his parties are popular enough to make him a household name, but only to Black Baltimore—which highlights a bigger issue in our city.
The Huey Brand Flagship store is located in the heart of Station North, across the street from Impact Hub between Bolton Hill and what they call Greenmount West, but has almost zero to no white customers. How does this happen? These divides prohibit our city from being great and ensure that social relations will never advance unless we first acknowledge the obvious bias that exists and, second, do something about it.
So I challenge the next person who wants to stand up at a semi-diverse event and ask, "What can I do as a white or Asian or non-black person to help solve our city's race problems?" to just go out and support a Black business like HUEY Brand. Go support Larry Luv—he's young, he's fly, his parties are as dope as his clothes, he's in your neighborhood, and you are a square if you don't know who he is.