Alex 2Tone of Born x Raised

Self Portrait: Alex 2Tone

I’ll be honest with you, the vast majority of streetwear brands bore the face off me. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s done well, it’s great but, for the most part, there’s very little which inspires me within the realm of streetwear. I think it is due to a mixture of creative stagnancy and the vast amounts of money that are there to be made; why create something which has conceptual grounding and is difficult to execute, when you can whack a weed graphic on a tee or collab with some hip-hop has-been and guarantee some cash in your pocket. This is pretty much a long-winded way or saying that LA’s Born x Raised aren’t like that. They are, in fact, one of the few brands who have, of late, engaged me on a level of “oh, that’s a nice tee, next…” If you’ve seen their promo videos, succinct but solid collection, or even glimpsed their pretty brilliant instagram, you’ll have probably gathered that they’re cut from a slightly different, paisley patterned cloth.

Anyway, we recently got a chance to chat with Alex, one of the men behind Born x Raised.

Let’s start with the important stuff – what were there first pair of sneakers you ever bought?

That’s tough. I’m guessing Nike’s Adidas Canvas. I used to fuck with K-Swiss in HighSchool, just because not a lot of people were fucking with them and I could get them for cheap…

You know what though, let me be honest, most likely the 1st pair of shoes….we used to buy these 2 dollar slippers off the boardwalk, these ninja shoes, basically black cotton with thin brown rubber soles, they used to call them “Jap-Slaps” (this was the 80’s before political correctness).

What were your early creative influences?

Dogtown Skate Graphics, Graffiti, BC, then AWR, then MSK, Gang Graffiti via V13, VSLC, VBWL, VWB, RP, Ice-T’s Early Album covers, Jean Paul Goude (via my dads art books), Cheech Wizard, Spraycan Art, Comics, Robert Williams, Jim Phillips, R Crumb, Rick Griffen, Bulldog. SMA Skateboards, the cassette for “Sticky Fingers” sticks in my head for some reason, my dads cartoons… 

Is this your first proper season? It’s pretty hard finding info about you guys on the net. Can you explain a bit about Born x Raised and how it came about?

Spanto came up with the idea when he was incarcerated.  He was working at it for a year or so and he came to me to ask my advice on a few things.  I came up with an idea to shoot a piece for BXR about Venice.  After that we just started pushing BXR together.

Your videos and graphics certainly show a grittier side to LA. Could this be interpreted as a glamorization of certain topics, such as violence, or is it just ‘real?’ A lot of brands reach for that level of grittiness and controversy, from my perspective at least, this aspect of Born x Raised doesn’t feel contrived…

Naw, there really isn’t anything glamorized. Any more than things are glamorized by those things being filmed. The first video were all people that Spanto and I knew growing up, neighborhood guys, mostly his gang friends. The second video was a narrative, shot on a stage, but all the people were real, non-actors. For example, the kid getting a tattoo of the Snootyfox, is getting tattooed by Juice, who is the son of Jessse Martinez, an O.G. skater from Venice, the Cholo and girl kissing are a real on again off again couple,  the scene with Spanto shooting the lazer pointer is a re-creation of how he would do his late night work in Venice. It’s all pulled from true stories.

It’s funny, because despite the grittiness of a lot of your tees, Born’s logo is almost the antithesis of this. What was the inspiration behind the fox in the top-hat?

Well the fox in Top hat comes from one of Spanto’s 1st tees, which is based on a motor hotel in LA, called the “Snootyfox”  This is a hotel you know if you were into straight-shooters, Glass Roses,  strawberry’s, double-ups, quarter pieces,  and also most likely if you were a player in the 70’s.  Its an institution of Vice.

You rep LA pretty hard. What’s the best thing about the city? What differentiates it from other major cities?

I love LA. I do. I also Love NY. I feel like the difference between the 2 is that NY is condensed, and the architecture is old and elegant looking And the mass transit works, and everyone’s apartment is shit, so everyone is outside all the time..

LA is spread out, and you really don’t know what’s happening unless you’re privy to certain social circles, but with NY you can step out of the house and come home the next day without having made any plans.  Same can happen here, but in NY there is more energy.  LA though, if you know it, and you know the right people, is amazing.  I think LA and NY kind of set the tone as far as America is concerned and that shine has been passed to LA after about a decade of NY dictating trends. It’s just the way it is. There’s been a mass exodus of people moving to LA from NY recently.  LA is where you wanna be when you want some more comfort and ease of living, NY is where you go as a kid, to hustle and make your bones. This is of course, excluding the townies,  like Spanto and I, who have never left LA. We’ll just wait it out until it gets hot again. I hate moving.

So how did the relationship with Union come about? That’s a pretty big deal so early in Born’s existence to have such a reputable stockist.

We know people who know people. Those people introduced us to those people. Now we’re all friends.

This isn’t your first venture into clothing. You’ve been involved at other brands right? Tell us a bit about that. 

I’m looking for the emoji of a crying smiley face with a gun to its head.

You also direct videos too. Tell us a bit about that; it certainly has provided Born x Raised with some really unique promotional content. It’s a welcome change from just a simple minimalist lookbook – I find the Born x Raised videos a real work of art.

Fuck, thanks man. I really appreciate that. Sounds corny, but recognition for my work is my biggest paycheck at this point. Directing is my life’s goal, and I’m still working at it. The apparel thing is a fun hobby compared to the amount of energy it takes to direct.

You have also dabbled in tattooing, has this informed much of your design aesthetic when it comes to Born x Raised?

Yeah, it all contributes for sure. At the end of the day, the thing is it doesn’t matter how good you are at illustrating or rendering something. It’s all about the message. If the message works, the art works, no matter how it’s executed. You can have the best illustrator in the world render something that’s irrelevant and you just have a well-executed piece of fluff.

Where do you see Born x Raised a year from now?

I see us holding down the same stores we have now. Union, Colette, Supply Headquarters, Slam Jam, The Hideout, and expanding our sales slowly in America, while continuing to evolve the message via film and whatever else we need to get the job done.

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