Smoke Show

Smoke Show

Smoke Show

In VMAN 38, meet Austin Lawrence: the Instagram sensation whose vape talents need no puffery.

In VMAN 38, meet Austin Lawrence: the Instagram sensation whose vape talents need no puffery.

Photography: Tim Richardson

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Landon Peoples

This article originally appeared in VMAN 38. Go to order your copy.

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Austin Lawrence, the vaping extraordinaire whose smoke clouds are fogging up Instagram feeds. Actually, both he and his art (yes, the art of vaping) have yet to go fully mainstream. And while this may come as a surprise to anyone who’s been engulfed in a cloud of fruity aroma on city sidewalks in recent years, the modern history of vaping goes back—way back.

In 1927, Joseph Robinson first imagined the idea of an e-cigarette. And then in 1963, Herbert Gilbert developed the premier smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette, taking us one step further towards the current vaping trend initiated by Hon Lik’s 2003 invention of a more contemporary version. Now, the self-taught Lawrence is changing the game, with some hundreds of thousands of followers behind him.

The New Jersey native began his relationship with smoking by way of traditional cigarettes, later transitioning to hookah and, finally, vaping. So, what drew Lawrence to the hobby that’s now become his primary form of artistic expression? Mostly the imaginative flavors. To wit: Lawrence’s preferred oils are fried Oreo, blueberry, and citrus-passion fruit.

When he’s not manning his vaping shop with his brother, you can most likely catch the vape master roving the streets of Manhattan watching people duck and dodge his smoke clouds. But unless you’re standing in his way, he swears it’s not intentional. “People are always saying they think I’m using crazy nicotine levels or that it’s a cigarette. They think just because you’re blowing out a big cloud that it’s automatically horrible,” Lawrence begins. “Honestly, since I stopped smoking cigarettes, I’ve had a lot better breathing and mobility in general. There’s a lot of misconceptions about vaping.” These misconceptions extend to the makeup of the e-liquid, a subject on which Lawrence is highly knowledgeable. “It’s not really water vapor, actually. It’s the ingredients that make up the juice: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine (unless you’re not using nicotine), and then flavoring,” he explains. “A lot of people think it’s inhaling a bunch of water and that you’ll get pneumonia and stuff. So, I guess it’s not a water vapor; it’s an oil vape.”

As for what happens after the smoke clears, so to speak, Lawrence plans to grow his presence across all of his social media platforms (so far, you can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube). But when Tim Richardson photographed Lawrence for this issue, the lights, cameras, and action brought out a side to him he hadn’t seen before.

While stylist Nicola Formichetti dressed Lawrence in the luxury brands he may soon be modeling (he rings in at six feet four inches), Lawrence maintains a well-balanced view on fashion: “I’m not super into high fashion, but I definitely like Supreme. I don’t wear one specific brand just because not a lot of stuff fits me that well. But I like Uniqlo.”

Lawrence’s dreams for what’s next couldn’t be bigger. And for good reason: His talents are truly striking. “I use the vape tricks to try to express myself physically with different moods,” he elaborates. “Some are happy, some are mad. It’s about expressing yourself through the art form.”

Vaping? An art? Well, as Lawrence will concur, don’t knock it till you try it. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it.


Photography Tim Richardson Fashion Nicola Formichetti Hair Matthew Tuozzoli using Davines (Atelier Management) Grooming Maki Ryoke (Streeters) Digital technician Kylie Coutts Photo Director Matthew Schroeder Gaffer Jack Foster Best boy grip Brad Bilger Photo assistant Josh Schneiderman Stylist assistant Marta Del Rio Equipment Tim Spellman Location Root Brooklyn Catering Ciao For Now


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