Everywhere we look in Southern California these days it’s about getting rich quick. It’s G Wagons and McMansions and often that becomes the reason we work our asses off. But starting a business in order to get rich rarely works out. On the opposite end of things, there’s Born x Raised. They’re known for strong words and imagery offensive to some but a beacon of hope for others. And Born x Raised stands for something much bigger: community. They wear it on their sleeves, designing for a cause. They believe in something and express it through clothing, giving a voice to Venice and other communities going through similar growing pains.
I rolled into BxR’s offices one day to find everything I could imagine and more. Spanto and 2 Tone were sitting in an early 90s diner-looking office designed by Alexis Ross, surrounded by artists, interns, foreigners, and gangsters all just hanging out. Spanto is the real deal; everything I had heard about him is true, the good and the bad. He’s not afraid of his past but it’s also not the person he is today. The idea for BxR came to him from prison, and after five years of hard work he launched the brand in 2013. Then just a month later he learned he had life threatening cancer. Four years and countless chemotherapy sessions later, Spanto is in remission and at the helm of a burgeoning lifestyle apparel brand. For the first time in his life, he’s ready to tackle this journey with a clear mind.
How did Born x Raised get going and why?
Spanto: What's been happening in Venice had been breaking my heart for years and seeing all that change was sad. I don’t think anyone knew it would get to this point. Being able to say you were from Venice was not a right, it was a privilege. So when people would move here and start saying they were from Venice we were like, motherfucker you were not born and raised here. So it started kinda out of frustration.
How did you get connected?
2 Tone: When I met Spanto I was directing music videos and had worked in apparel previously. He was telling me about all the shit that was going on in Venice and I had seen all his stickers around town – ‘Gentrification is Genocide.’ There’s so much mindless trash out there so to see something that made sense was inspiring. Do you feel that the best way to beat gentrification is to monetize it?
2: Here’s the deal: we didn’t make it for them but we’re in the business of selling things. The culture we live in today allows for anyone to consume it. It used to mean something for you to dress a certain way. That’s how we defined each other and ourselves. I’m annoyed at gentrification and the fact I can’t live in the neighborhood I grew up in, but I don’t want to be there anymore. I don’t know anyone there anymore which is sad.
But you can’t blame people for wanting to move close to the beach?
2: Gentrification isn’t new people moving into a community, it’s developers coming in and squashing a neighborhood. It’s capitalism gone wild. You can’t be mad at a bunch of white kids moving to a black community, they’re just making it work. Families moving here aren’t the problem. S: The way I was raised was that if you stepped into someone else’s home you’d take your shoes off. There’s no regard for anyone anymore.
Is there any hope left for Venice?
2: Venice is a wrap, there’s no stopping the gentrification, it’s done. The only thing that will stop it is a tsunami or an earthquake. S: Fuck Venice now. I’ll never be okay with the way it is. But I still live there and I hope to never leave Venice. My family has been there for over a century and it’s my home. Whenever I cross Centinela on the way home a sense of calmness comes over me. I love my neighborhood more than I’ve ever loved any woman.