Let him be known. What’s on offer? First off, a model that got us thinking (and dropping…jaws, and lungs) rising through the ranks. With loads of big fashion gigs ticked off over the past few years (believe us, he means business), Louis Mayhew is establishing himself as a triple threat, with features in runways, commercials, and campaigns in his sight. He has gone on to appear in many exclusive smashes, as well as excelling at pretty impressive stints in the system. “I will say I haven’t always felt accepted by fashion, or more specifically by casting people who work primarily in high fashion,” says Mayhew. His words are a burst of deep-rooted reflection and sincerity, thriving beyond the recurring level of fads we’re constantly fed with. “I think some models may need that acceptance more than others. I’ve connected more with the broader art side of things that overlaps with fashion. Fashion tends to have a certain exclusiveness which I don’t always feel welcoming. It doesn’t seem like it’s welcome to everybody. It seems there are people who act as arbiters of what is what in the fashion world and then people who just follow their consensus instead of thinking for themselves. There’s some sort of hierarchy but it’s becoming antiquated. I think with the advent of social media it’s becoming easier for brands and creatives to usurp the so-called gatekeepers of fashion and put out authentic work rather than waiting for approval or a co-sign. I really admire the disrupters who are willing to buck the trend and make things exciting.” Without prompting, Mayhew launches into a wild-eyed smile involving a positive sense of energy I feel from the get-go. Turns out I’m right: my instinctive understanding throws us deep in discussion, and I may have prophesized his willingness to speak to me about his stuff. It’s a struck of luck, then, that Mayhew’s words had me hooked all along.

As a matter of fact, I’m certain you’ll keep seeing his name in lights everywhere in the near future. Thank goodness we’ve got your attention low-down on all you need to know about the chap right below. You’re welcome.

Cheers for tuning in Louis. How did you venture in the fashion industry?
I was scouted getting dollar pizza on St. Marks by my former agent Dave Fothergil. He got me in front of a lot of really interesting creatives early on and I was fortunate to work with so many inspiring people in the beginning of my career.

Who’s been the dream client to work with?
I think I used to think more in terms of a “dream client” when I was younger, but after a few years in this industry, I don’t really think that way anymore. I wanted to work for certain brands because I was told that’s what would put me on the map or take my career to the next level/make me lots of money. But I didn’t up working for a lot of those clients. I’ve been close and I’ve been told “no” by some of those clients, but I’ve learned not to let that get to me. If anything, I’ve tried to use hearing “no” as motivation. It’d be foolish to say I don’t desire working with certain clients as this is a job, and the goal is to do it on the biggest scale. But I don’t know if it could truly be a “dream” until I’m on set and feeling the energy and having some sort of revelation that I am helping a client’s vision be brought to life. When the job is done best, I think it’s less about what I dream of and more about giving the client (whoever that may be) what they desire. Many times, you’re working for someone who’s life (professionally at least) very much revolves around the ideas they are trying to convey, and being a part of that is my honor. I’ve learned to resist the temptation of making the work about me even if I am the subject of it. All that said one client who’s work I admire both from a fashion perspective and business perspective is Rick Owens. I actually got to meet him briefly at his book signing here and I had so much I wanted to say but couldn’t get any of it out. I must’ve been a bit star-struck I think it’s pretty incredible the size and following his brand has cultivated while still being independent and staying true to his own vision. In what can be an extremely fickle business his brand seems like a very genuine evolution of his own world. It’s one brand I couldn’t ever imagine anyone else directing. I’d also like to play a role in a film/tv series whether big or small I think that would be fun.

Most treasured experience thus far?
My favorite experience was working with Steven Klein for Electric Youth magazine. It was my first time shooting fully nude for print and it made me realize how comfortable I was with it. I don’t even think most of the photos were overtly sexual per se, but they were very raw and provocative, and it was an honor to work with everyone involved. The whole team was great that day and it was nice chatting with some of the other guys on set too. More recently because I think he deserves a mention is a set of photos I did with Diego Villarreal. It only came about because he DM’d and asked if I was down to shoot and I just instinctively said yes. It was one of those shoots where I showed up without seeing a mood board or having any clue what it would be like. It ended up being a really cool couple of hours and I can’t thank him and the people at Bond Hardware enough for having me. A lot of people seemed to like it and I thought it came out really cool. So many people did drawings of it and I love seeing those. It reminded me of how things were when I was younger where I wouldn’t have any clue what I showing up to and I kind of just get thrown into the fire so there’s no time to really question anything. I like a bit of mystery.

Has education been an imperative cornerstone in your practice?
I think education in broad terms is imperative no matter what one does. It takes an appetite or hunger for knowledge to ever progress in anything really. I was going to school for finance when I was scouted and due to the nature of the job, it really benefits me to have some background in business/accounting. Being essentially a freelancer, it takes sound financial planning to maintain this job and live in New York City. Education requires a degree of curiosity. Without curiosity, one might not seek knowledge of things outside of what immediately concerns them. And I think curiosity about my peers and the people in this industry has really helped me stay in it when things aren’t always great financially. I really enjoy meeting so many creative people from all over the world and even though it’s often in a work environment many times a personal connection can be made. Sometimes I think about all the things that had to happen for me to end up in a certain room with the people I’m working with. I often find the best way to avoid the vanity of this industry is to form meaningful personal connections with people in a way that isn’t purely networking. I’m not the most outgoing person, but I am quite curious about people. I’m curious about their ideas and the things they find beautiful and who/what they regard as genius. Being open to other ideas and perspectives is a big part of being educated. The author of the book I’m reading (Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann) said it well: “In truly effective thinking the prime necessity is to liquidate judgments, regain an innocent eye, disentangle feelings, be curious and open-hearted.” He was referring to how political opinions are formed and how often constructive thought is passed over in favor of moral judgment, but I think it is also applicable to being educated on any particular subject matter. That attitude of being open-minded and willing to view things objectively has played a big part in my work and my life in general.

How’s it been for you since the start of your journey? Did you encounter any major
hindrances when you first started out in fashion?
I’d say my journey has been really fun and I feel lucky. I feel like being able to travel and see the world while making decent money and doing something I like makes me very fortunate considering most people aren’t as lucky.

What do you do outside of modeling?
I work out a lot, I read, listen to music, try to learn piano or make beats. I have a dog (Jojo) who really requires a lot of attention, so she keeps me occupied when I’m not busy. I’ve also gained a lot of interest in cooking and wine in the last few years. Especially during quarantine. I like a good movie or tv series as well.

Could you kindly elaborate on the trajectory that brought you to dive into this field?
I guess the trajectory started with me moving to New York from Boston for school. I was going to business school because that’s what I thought I should do, and I was interested in it. I still am interested in business and would like to be involved in one that I’m passionate about at some point. But I couldn’t afford school after two years and coming from a very working-class family I knew it would be difficult financially to get a second child through school. I stayed in New York the summer I dropped out because I loved the adventure here and I guess the uncertainty was better than the banal familiarity of home. I was struggling here for sure; I was living on my skater friend’s couch for a while and I didn’t have much to show for the education I was getting. So, when I was scouted, I was at first skeptical but something in my head said “Fuck it I’ll give it a try” because I had nothing to lose at that point. My first shoot was just a test shoot with a photographer/model Michael McCloud, and it came out really cool. I was really depressed at the time due to some girl problems and dropping out of school and I think it showed in some of the pictures. But as the shoot went on, I started to feel liberated from those feelings and some of the pictures show that too. It’s still one of my favorite shoots to this day. From those pictures, I was able to start booking consistent work.

How do you react to trolling and online criticism?
I haven’t had much experience with being trolled online. Every now and again there’s an out of pocket comment or something on my pictures but very rarely if ever do I take any personal offense to anything. Most of the time I think it’s pretty funny. I don’t really put much stock into strangers on the internet and their opinions of me. It took me a while not to care what others think of me, but it really is a great feeling to truly not give a shit.

In an era thundered by the ruthless desire of digitalization and social media appearance, being constantly exposed to the public’s eye must result quite daunting, particularly with the level of saturation present in such a field. In a nutshell, what are your key thoughts in regard to the whole Instagram thing?
Instagram came about just as I began modeling in 2011 and it didn’t really gain any real relevance until a couple of years after. I think it is big in our industry simply because fashion very visual experience and it seems to be the best platform for fashion to showcase itself. I personally like having some control over how I show my work because it allows me to give it a personal touch that doesn’t exist the same way with agencies. I don’t feel like I’m in the public eye, but I do think it’s interesting people ask me to post more because I often wonder why people care about what I’m doing. I try to not be vain about it so I don’t post a ton of selfies all the time, but it seems like I could cultivate a bigger following if I did. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but it wouldn’t feel genuine to me. I do like having a place to show people my work and an audience that wants to receive it. It’s a double-edged sword of maintaining some sort of relevance while not just putting out content for the hell of it. I think we have this tendency to scroll over someone’s page and quickly extract a mental image of who this person is, but I try to avoid that. I try to also be conscious of how much time I spend on it and not just mindlessly scroll and inhale content all day. Instagram definitely has its pros and cons, but I do like how it has somewhat democratized publication in fashion/photography in a way that those with fewer resources can communicate their vision effectively. I also think it is at least partly responsible for the growth in men’s fashion we’ve seen in the last decade. Most men I know at least don’t tend to go out of their way looking for fashion inspiration, but Instagram has made it much easier for men to observe each other and see styles they wouldn’t see every day in their own bubbles.

Do social media propel your identity? Or do they destabilize it in a way?
I try not to let social media play a huge part in my identity. But I also think it helps to have worked when it didn’t play such a large role in the industry and to be old enough to remember life without it. I think the younger generation that has grown up with it for most of their life may have more trouble separating social media from their identity or vice versa. I don’t think you can fully communicate with people who you are thru social media, but you can give people an idea of who you are. I’m just careful not to let any attention I receive on there have the power to stabilize or destabilize my identity.

Do you feel somewhat empowered through your social media channels? If so/not, how come?
I do feel empowered by it in the sense that I can show my work to whoever is willing to see it and that it gives me a platform to do so. Others can share my work there too. It’s an effective tool for showcasing many things. It’s nice to be able to see other inspiring people’s work as well so I guess it also empowers us to find inspiration. But I try not to depend on it in any meaningful way emotionally.

What’s been the most gratifying aspect of your career thus far?
The most gratifying experience was my first shoot I think because it opened a door to a different world for me and showed me the magic of working in this industry. It was just me and the photographer, so it wasn’t a huge team which in hindsight made it more intimate. I remember getting the pictures back and being really shocked that I could be a part of something like that. It was a great way to start off and I’m grateful for it being my first experience.

What do you wish you could have done differently throughout your journey?
I’m not really sure because I try not to dwell on or regret things. It’d be easy to say I wish I got this big job or made a better impression at this casting. In the end, I think everything happens for a reason and I don’t think I would do anything differently. If anything, I try to learn from mistakes and improve rather than regret them.

Any major inspirations?
It’s really tough to narrow down all my inspirations. There are a few models both men and women whose work inspires me. There are actors, musicians, writers, photographers, stylists, and artists of all types who inspire me but it’s tough to say who the biggest would be. I think it changes so much from any given day that it’s hard to say just one without doing a disservice to the others.

How do you feel like your legacy will be left in the world?
I feel kind of weird even entertaining the idea of a legacy because the world is so big and there is so much happening to have a legacy in itself is a feat. I just hope I can get to the point where I’ve amassed enough great work and worked with so many bright minds that I can even be considered to have a legacy or be a part of one in the first place.

What’s the wisest lesson you’ve learned being in the industry?
The wisest lesson I learned was that at the end of the day I have to look out for myself. I learned with my old agency that they would do what is in their financial interest even if that is at odds with mine and I had to leave to continue earning a stable living.

Thoughts for our future gen?
I think the future generation is exciting and in particular, I hope they can continue to break into the industry and reshape it. The old guard, so to speak, isn’t always willing to cede power to the younger generations but I love that there are younger people willing to take risks and do things on their own terms.

Talent: Louis Mayhew @louismayhew at DNA Model Management @dnamodels
Photography: Menelik Puryear @mr_puryear
Styling: Paul Frederick @paulmfrederick
Editor: Chidozie Obasi @chido.obasi
Brands: 3.1 Phillip Lim, John Varvatos, Emporio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Officine Générale, Brioni, Lanvin, Casablanca