Forget green juices – BornxRaised label founder Spanto and his collaborators pay tribute to their home turf
Whether you’ve been to LA or not, you probably have an idea about the city in your head. Like the one that it’s all Botoxed Beverly Hills mums, hiking in Runyon Canyon with a green juice in hand, and people who literally say ‘literally’ all the time. While that is (mostly) true, there’s much more to the city than that – especially if you stray over to the streets of Venice.
When it comes to the neighbourhood, there is no better representation of its spirit than label BornxRaised – founded by Spanto and his creative partner 2Tone. “It’s different,” Spanto tells us. “I’m not from LA, I’m from Venice. We’re our own thing, our own entity.”
Launched in 2013 after Spanto was released from a year-long sentence in prison, the brand was literally born and raised from sketches he made on a manila folder he got from commissary. “I didn’t know anything about making clothes, but I got out and I was like I’m gonna figure this out. I had all of these ideas, I found a guy who knew how to vectorise shit, and, like, printed my first t-shirt.”
The t-shirt itself featured the slogan ‘Gentrification is Genocide’, perfectly summing up an idea that is core to the brand. “When gentrification came (to Venice) it just pulled the rug out,” Spanto explains. “We were just like ‘Yo what the fuck! What the fuck happened?’ Fucking juice bars, yoga studios, fucking tech boom and all of this stuff.”
“I’m not from LA, I’m from Venice. We’re our own thing, our own entity” – Spanto
More than just clothing, he sees BornxRaised as a collective idea – almost like a manifesto. “I wasn’t put on this earth to do streetwear, I was put on this earth to deliver a message. And like, speak up for people who don’t really know how to speak up for themselves,” he says.
The brand’s latest venture is a collaboration with Converse. Reinventing the Jack Purcell – an alternative skater shoe silhouette that Spanto grew up wearing – in ponyhair, the collection reflects his personal style and throwback to his memories of Venice at its best (“one of the (most) fucking radical places on Earth.”) He also staged a pop-up in the midst of the chaos, where people “come to get a slice of pizza, smoke some fucking weed, get a drink, go to the beach, show off your muscles, show off your pitbull,” to celebrate the collection’s launch.
As one of the only Venice-repping brands from Venice, Spanto is naturally protective of what he does with BornxRaised. “There are so many people that speak up for this place that don’t know shit about this fucking place, you know?” Here, we speak to Spanto’s BornxRaised gang, who all represent the best of his birthplace. Or in his words, “people who are the real deal, who aren’t pretending.”
PALOMA ELSESSER, MODEL
“I normalised extremely niche LA experiences, only much later realising that growing up in LA is in fact – not normal. It was strange, tenuous and impactful. I grew up in the lower/middle-class black neighbourhood, Mid City, in a duplex with my grandparents downstairs and my mom, siblings and me upstairs. I would go to schools 45 minutes away from me; all filled with peers who looked and had lives nothing like mine. They were celebrity children with nannies and Adderall. It was all so simple, it was all so LA.
The creative energy of Venice is tough and effortless at the same time. Every house party I went to growing up there was a fight. People love to describe Los Angeles as ‘chill’, it’s the go-to characteristic. It is chill, but it’s also complex because in a place where it never gets cold you have to facilitate iciness somewhere. Not everything (is) what it seems.
People forget about the minority communities that give life to LA and allow it to thrive with fortitude past the bullshit of lip fillers and green juices. This exposure to these communities both in and out of my own home has framed why I think the way I do, and who it is that I want to affect.
BornxRaised IS LA. BornxRaised IS Venice. It is the fight at the house party, it is drinks at the Chateau. It embodies the coarseness and complexities of what it means to live and breathe LA. The brand wraps its arms around all the corners of the city to remind us what LA truly is, not dorky celebrities and hiking Runyon, but our home that can’t be taken away from us.”
JIM MUIR, DOGTOWN FOUNDER & SKATEBOARDER
“Growing up in LA through the 60s and 70s was definitely a cultural experience. I saw a lot of the important cultural advances that were created through political activism. In the area I grew up in they had a very good mixture of races, so it was a good experience as in my early wonder bread years and then as a teenager being able to expand the roots out beyond reach and find Hollywood.
The creative energy of the neighbourhood growing up was the ultimate influence of my life, based on the fact that there were things that you could do and couldn’t do, places you could go and places you couldn’t go. Or if you were to go and visit other neighbourhoods you know how to act right. The name of game was respect, and you had to have heart. If you didn’t have those two things you weren’t gonna survive around the environment or someone would put you in your place real quick.
BornxRaised is super homegrown and represents the essence of LA. It has a certain attitude and rebelliousness to it that totally reminds me of growing up here as a youngster.”
JOSH ‘BAGEL’ KLASSMAN, PHOTOGRAPHER
“Growing up in the city of Venice as a little kid in the 70s and then a teen in the 80s and then as a young adult in the early 90s was gritty and crazy in so many ways. Graffiti covered every inch of the city, violence was at a high, the streets were unruly, relations with the cops were at an all-time low since the 60s, it was exciting to be around such a hardcore environment at that time, I loved it and fed off how insane it was. We did what we wanted, how we wanted. There was tons of diversity, many cultures meshing together in one huge melting pot. Surfers, skaters, gangsters, artists of all types, hippies, yuppies, dope addicts, homeless people, business owners, and many different walks of life all living in one small diverse area, Venice. You have to understand that Venice is its own entity. When people ask me where I live I don’t say LA, I say Venice, anyone who grew up in Venice will tell you the same.
The creative energy in Venice has always been huge. From photos to music, to film, to painting, to poetry, all of it, every medium that involves creativity has always been taken seriously in Venice but while having fun with it at the same time.
The thing I most appreciate about BornxRaised is that they have their friends involved in their projects, they never forgot where it is that they came from, they embrace the talents and personalities of their homies. They have become a massive part of Venice and LA culture. It’s everywhere. They embrace what Venice is all about and share it with the world in a very cool way.”
GILBERT TREJO, SCREENWRITER
“To be honest, I have no idea what it’s like growing up in LA... I grew up in Venice, which was basically a three square mile amusement park with its own ocean. When I was little, my dad used to work out at the weight pit every day, kids weren’t allowed, so he’d drop me off with the guy that juggled chainsaws, or the dude that balanced the chair on his chin, or Luis offer with the giant horns and the iguana... like, ‘Watch my kids!’. That was completely normal.
All those dudes are off the boardwalk now... the city’s done everything they can to change it, tone it down, and monetise the whole strip. It’ll never be what it was like when I was a kid. It was ghetto Disneyland. Don’t even get me started on what the punk scene used to be...
I haven’t really felt comfortable in Venice since the Whole Foods went up. When I was young it was biting. No one cared who you were, or what you did, how much money you had in your pocket. You had these banged out dudes hanging with the high art hippy crowd, filmmakers and musicians... bullets flying through the windows... but if you belonged, you belonged. It weeded out the weak, and the phonies. I’m sure Venice is still like that in a sense... just with a tapeworm.
I think BornxRaised will always represent the old Venice. Spanto, 2Tone, and all of them have that down to a science. They carry it everywhere. They’ve become a sort of surrogate for everyone that feels displaced by all the bodysnatchers moving into our neighbourhoods... that dress like us, talk like us, get the same tattoos, and fool a lot of people. They don’t fool Spanto or 2Tone and that’s something people can see. They’re the vanguard of not fucking with lames.”