Culture

BornxRaised’s Spanto on “An Ecosystem Where Everybody Wins”

Fashion—and streetwear in particular—is an intrinsic part of our culture. In the Bag is a column that highlights pieces and collections we’re excited about/have no qualms about popping into our shopping bags, the work of innovators in the scene who are contributing to its evolution, and more. Here’s what’s in the bag.

For the last eight years or so, Spanto and 2Tone have cultivated their home turf’s original culture and cautiously shared it with the world through their streetwear fashion label that’s almost about everything but. The beloved Venice, California staple is a cult favorite and community-focused relic if you will. Despite the uncertainty of the times, the team’s soles have never been more grounded.

“I’m OK,” Spanto says when we do the now dreaded three-word question exchange at the onset of conversation. “You know what? I’m more than ok… I’m great,” he self-edits. He’s ringing in from his 96-year family-owned home where he’s got a stocked fridge and a backyard—both of which he recognizes are a blessing. He’s, of course, way too enticed to boast about the latter when he learns I’m in New York. But it’s, of course, not all rainbows and butterflies for him either at the moment.

“Everybody in the fashion industry’s f**king scrambling trying to figure it out right now,” he says. “Struggling in fear [because] no one knows [what’s] gonna happen.”

But it’s a day by day mentality, and the team of ten has decided to go hard, full speed towards the finish line of all this by harkening back to their core ethos while prioritizing those on the frontlines—both medically and culturally. To them, those who fit into the latter’s spectrum of concern are simply the ones who need it most at home—e.g. the folks on Skid Row (a hotbed for COVID-19, with at least six positive cases at the time of publication), community kids without an assured meal every day, Native people who are a particularly high-risk, low-resource group, etc.

Every BxR drop since the inception of the pandemic’s spread at the global level has benefited a charity of choice and we shouldn’t expect to see that come to a halt anytime soon.

 

Courtesy of BornxRaised

This week, BornxRaised released a vibrant collection on GOAT, including an exclusive iteration of the immediately sold out “Stay Together From Far Away” tee and other new items that seem to be in line with both their quality and Southern California style. A portion of the proceeds from this drop will benefit Suay Sew Shop’s mask production in Frogtown. It was an organic partnership, to say the least.

“We’ve been friends for two weeks… we’re great friends,” he audibly smiles. “That was our first charity/cause we donated to. We were able to donate thousands of masks to people out here in the frontlines in LA.”

2Tone. Photo by Johnny Le. Courtesy of BornxRaised.

Spanto and his creative partner 2Tone are sifting through what they’ve got, weighing where they spend and getting personal about where they give. When they launched BxR, they did it to help theirs and them.

“[It was] like a fairytale,” Spanto remembers. “I was like ‘I’m gonna start this clothing brand when I get out of prison and I’m gonna buy my mom’s house and everything’s gonna be OK.’ Well, that actually happened. Last year I bought the house and I’m keeping my whole family there which is why I started my f**king brand in the first place… now, with all this happening, I’m terrified,” he admits.

The fairytale, as he calls it, hasn’t lacked its fair share of hurdles. From Spanto’s five-year fight with Cancer to a months-long case of unintentional ghosting from the factories they work with in China to closed doors in Italy and a metamorphosing industry that will likely not partake in previously defining things like Paris Fashion Week—they’re just trying to figure it out like the rest of us.

But, 2Tone and Spanto are known for their ride or die, born and raised to live and die energy. To some, it would seem ludicrous to take on a more consistent spirit of giving when the future is all but assured, but these guys aren’t here to do what’s expected.

“The clothing part of the brand is almost secondary to everything else,” 2Tone told Vice a few years ago.

“We’re all trying to figure out what we’re gonna do with our businesses… Everyone’s trying to figure out how to keep their lifestyles the same way, but nobody thinks about all these little kids who are gonna suffer,” Spanto says, explaining why No Kids Hungry was another no-brainer charity of choice. “In highland park, there are 450 homeless students that go to elementary school,” he shares. “I look at those kids… it’s me.”

Spanto is a half-breed who grew up what he calls “artist poor” in Venice in the ‘80s. Life was greatly rich in culture, the arts and food “but we were poor,” he recalls. He has warm memories of visiting reservations with his grandfather as a kid—he’s part Native himself, so it’ll come as no surprise that he recently had a chat with a Tribal Chairman and has taken it upon himself to find a way to help them as well. There is a story and purpose behind everything he and the team put their hands on and that’s no accident. Their sense of urgency about the corners of society that are typically forgotten isn’t either.

Courtesy of Spanto

“Everything we do at BXR stands for something or it means something, it’s not just a trend. There’s something we’re trying to say with every drop.”

The F*ck 2020 Rat t-shirt came out before last year’s carcass really started to hit the fan, believe it or not. The team, like many of us, had had enough of it all (Trump, gentrification, the works) by then. Suddenly, when things got worse (because they always can), they flipped the switch and chose to deliver a different kind of message.

Stay at home, but stay together.

While similar brands stay silent and continue to push their merchandise, Spanto’s doing the same, with an inclusive vision and easy-to-back approach.

“I feel like an asshole just trying to sell stuff during this time… It doesn’t feel right in my gut with all this shit going on,” he says. “BornxRaised is about people, really, honestly… that’s kind of been our ethos since our inception so I’ve always tried to help and house people, keep them under the umbrella and keep everybody fed and create an ecosystem.”

When at our wit’s end, we discover either the best or worst version of ourselves and BXR seems to have found the former. Over the last few weeks, California has been at the forefront of action in many ways, with Governor Newsom taking unprecedented steps to contain the spread and aid the undocumented community. But, things, and more importantly people, can and will slip through the cracks. So, it’s increasingly up to us to take the reins on looking out for each other.

“We have to keep our door open,” Spanto says, “but if we create an ecosystem like this where everybody wins, I think that’s a really good thing.”