Back to the Ancestors
Celebrating the legacy of Spanto and Born x Raised.
What makes a brand distinctly Los Angeles? In a sprawling city full of so many different cultural pockets, is it really possible for a label to embody the city so wholeheartedly? Perhaps the answer lies in Chris “Spanto” Printup, co-founder of label Born X Raised, whose life was tragically cut short this week.
The brand was founded in 2013, but Spanto’s journey begins long before that. In a December 2022 Instagram post he outlines all the hardships he overcame way before he even started his brand. His dad was homeless and his mother was mentally ill, and he spent much of his childhood in and out of juvie. His time in the system stretched to early adulthood, and the idea to start a clothing line actually came to him while he was locked up in isolation at a supermax prison.
But even after he got out and started Born X Raised with partner Alex Erdmann—better known as 2Tone—Spanto was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He valiantly battled the disease for over a decade, building BXR on one of the strongest foundations a brand can have: a community that legitimately fucks with you. From OGs like UNION, photographers like Estevan Oriol, and celebrities like Danny Trejo, Born X Raised represented the realest things about Los Angeles (of which there are few and far between) and told their stories through its collections, all the way until Spanto’s tragic death this week in a car accident.
From the jump, BXR championed LA and the people who really make it what it is. Their Spring 2019 lookbook was shot by photographer Fabian Guerrero and featured multiple generations of families from Venice Beach. Their collaboration with the Los Angeles Rams might have put artist Buddy and Danny Trejo at the forefront of the lookbook, but proceeds went directly to the Brotherhood Crusade, a nonprofit that helps Los Angeles youths in need.
And Spanto’s last project to release before his death was arguably one of the brand’s biggest, a collaboration with Levi’s that paid homage to and deeply explored his native roots. Spending much of his youth on reservations, Spanto’s dad also died in a car accident. The collection was a way for him to revisit the ancestors and reconnect with his heritage.
“I tried to take elements of my dad’s style, my grandpa’s style and my mom’s style…and incorporate that into stuff that we do now,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “Being able to fuse these things together, it’s something that I think is very unique and very specific. It’s a part of me.”
Indeed, the clothes and campaign pay much respect to Spanto’s Seneca and Apache heritage, and in addition to featuring his mother Carolina Cruz, also cast numerous native artists and activists in the collection, which heavily features motifs from native tribes.
But clothes and collaborations were just one of the ways Spanto and Born X Raised brought people together. Another is the annual BXR Sadie Hawkins Winter Formal, a streetwear prom that began in Los Angeles but has since expanded into spots like New York and Paris. The tradition began in 2014, just a year after the brand was established.
“My thought was, there’s just a lot of women in Los Angeles that have dresses that they don’t get to wear,” says 2Tone to The New York Times. “We told everybody what the rule was — to dress formal.”
BXR’s annual event brings out so many people from the community, and in many ways is the antithesis of The Met Gala. Forget pretentious fashion types, celebs dressed in borrowed luxury clothing, and a pompous red carpet—the vibes at Sadie Hawkins are much more down to earth and mostly everybody is just down to party and have a great time for the sake of celebrating togetherness and the creative community.
“When I grew up in LA, it was a huge melting pot for all different cultures,” said Spanto to Vogue about last year’s event. “That’s what we’re re-creating with everyone here in this room. It’s the most well-rounded mix, and it’s the party I want to be at.”
And with Spanto’s untimely passing occurring before this year’s event, one can hope the affair continues as a lasting part of his legacy. In the same way he was able to bring numerous people together out of a genuine love for the city and the diverse community of creatives that spawned from it, perhaps the BXR Sadie Hawkins Winter Formal can live on as one way to celebrate his genuine appreciation and zest for life.