Dynamic music trends seem to make up the inner talents of Atlanta, but that’s hasn’t done much to limit the next generation of movers and shakers from the city.
Enter LVRN, widely known as LoveRenaissance. Comprised of first-generation creatives, Sean Famoso McNichol, Tunde Balogun, Junia Abaidoo, Carlon Ramong and Justice Baiden, the group has made a name for themselves as a one-stop shop for management, creative direction, and production services. With the success of their artists 6LACK, DRAM and now Phora, the group linked with Reebok to trek somewhat familiar territory–fashion.
As part of the company’s 3:AM series with Foot Locker, the sneaker brand tapped LVRN and designer-artist FRKO Rico to put a spin on Reebok Classic silhouettes, which came naturally to the group. “We know our ‘why,’ our ‘why’ is how we wanted to create shoes that are for the city,” Baiden tells VIBE at LVRN Studios in Atlanta’s West Midtown area. “…That are living, breathing reflection for the city that kids would want.” The process only took a matter of days given their very direct inspirations; the city’s MARTA transportation system, the fearless style of Allen Iverson and their close connection to the sneakers.
“I look back on every year of my life as a child and I had Reeboks,” FRKO Rico says. His design was a little closer to the heart since he used to the rock gum bottom style as a child. “I had an idea of what I wanted my shoes to be,” he says while on a tour at the Fourth Ward Skate Park. “The graffiti on the side is just the culture, but it’s hand drawn, believe it or not.” He says the experience was beyond surreal. “It makes you feel like you’re a kid again at a Foot Locker.”
“That’s kind of something we wanted to bring to what we were doing,” Ramong shares about their organic style. “Everything we do has that feel to it. We look at everything in a traditional standpoint and try to find another way to do it.”
Breaking tradition is something the guys do with ease. Their first creative venture included the discovery of Raury in 2012 and the release of his ethereal debut album Indigo Child in 2014. Next was DRAM with his viral hit “Cha Cha” that same year. He would later earn Grammy nominations for his single “Broccoli” with Lil Yachty in 2016 and “Andromeda” with Gorlliaz in 2017.
“They all run on the same tangent and energy, it’s so strong because they all stick to it like a real team,” DRAM says at LRVN Studios. He’s learned from the guys just how strong the power of ambition and tenacity can take one’s dreams. “If you stick to something, believe in it and go out with that energy, it can happen,” he said. “This is a management, record label that started very grassroots style and now we’re all here talking about a collaboration with a sneaker company. That’s big.”
Their most recent success story is 6LACK, whose mixtape FREE 6LACK earned him several Grammy nominations this year and platinum status with the tracks “PRBLMS” and “EX-CALLING.” Their independent journey led them to a deal with Interscope, where they’ve been able to push out more ideas with the help of new resources. “[Interscope] saw that we weren’t just getting lucky finding talent,” McNichol says in a profile with Billboard. “They saw that we were transforming artists into something the world wanted. Joie [Manda] trusts that we know what we’re doing. We’re learning from each other.”
With Atlanta being a creative hub for music, the influence was bound to transfer into the fashion world. No longer do artists have to jump to California or New York for clout. They can finally let brands come to them. It’s what makes their collabo with Reebok more than a humble brag. “Our parents came over here with nothing in their pockets so the whole idea is to have more than what your parents had,” McNichol tells VIBE. The guys are all mostly the sons, nephews and grandchildren of African immigrants, who weren’t too fond of their choice to jump into the music industry.
“I’m first generation from Ghana and it’s a continuous process of educating them on what we do for a living,” Abaidoo says. “That’s why things like this are cool. It’s something that you can point to see.” Balogun shares the same sentiments. “My mom has her friends from work coming because she can’t explain to them what I do,” he said. “I literally have to give her plaques to show her because I don’t have a degree.”
In a space where trends come and go, a marriage between Reebok and LVRN makes sense. Both brands are seeped in authenticity and have found a way to remain true the their ethics while existing in a very fly by night culture.
Check out more of VIBE’s feature on the Reebok/LVRN/FRKO Rico collaboration in the video above.
-Photos and visual provided by Jason Chandler