Q&A with Ev Bravado
Brooklyn’s streetwear royalty, Everard Best aka “Ev Bravado,” is the next big contemporary designer shifting perspectives in the fashion industry. Focused on pushing boundaries and inspiring the youth, his faith, and family values structure his overall message, guiding him towards success and prosperity. Throughout the development process of his fourth collection, “Rumors of War,” Ev and his fiancé, Téla, welcomed their son Judah into the world. While balancing parental duties and a clothing empire has been an adjustment, his aspirations and creative drive are seemingly stronger than ever. Ev’s colorful personality and knowledge of the streets earned him credit with designers like Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, working alongside them in recent months. Whether his clothes are seen on Quavo or Playboi Carti, having a genuine relationship with his street customers is what keeps his authenticity at the highest level. Specializing in denim and color theory, Best fuses his design aesthetic with bible scripture to shed light on his conscience. With antichrist propaganda, bondage denim, and tie-dyed garments, we sat down with the prodigal streetwear student to talk all things EV BRAVADO:
When did you create your brand?
My first brand was Lease On Life Society, which I started my senior year of high school. My best friend Tyler constantly told me I was the flyest kid in school, so we talked about starting a brand for two years, and I came up with the name Lease On Life Society. We did that from 2010 until around 2016, and in the summer of 2016, I started my brand EV BRAVADO. With Lease On Life Society, it was a lot of trial and error. I didn’t know what I was doing; I had a sense of what I wanted, but I didn’t have a clear vision for the brand. I made a lot of stupid decisions, so it was best for me to start over. It was kind of a turning point for me when I started my brand as well.
What were the beginning stages like in comparison to present day?
I think the design process is pretty much the same; whenever I get inspiration I reflect it into the garments, but I’ve become more structured with the way I do business. When I first started it was just me, I mean my dad was always helping me, he’s the reason I was able to do production, sampling and everything, so many thanks to him. But, back then I wasn’t structured because when I started Ev Bravado, I was coming out of my fake, “party like a rockstar” lifestyle. I’m more sure of myself as a person now, and I think that translates in the garments and everything that I do. Denim has always been big for me, even with Lease On Life Society, and even though I don't think it was great people always loved it. I look back at it now and think it looks kind of tacky, but denim is something that people know us for and we’ve done a lot of projects surrounding denim. Right now, I’m focused on doing things that have never really been done before and elevating the garments that we do overall. I get tired of just t-shirts and hoodies. I mean, that’s what the streets want, and I can never stop making them, but the goal is always to create at the highest level and create the craziest pieces that connect with people in the pit of their stomach.
How has the implementation of various color-ways played an essential factor in your work?
I’ve always been a colorful person. Since high school, that was always the way I dressed, and it connects to everything that I do and my message, so of course, that’s going to translate into the garments. In high school, I designed jackets for my friends and me; we had a group called “Foundation.” I designed the jackets based off of USC colors, Burgundy and Gold, which I loved. Besides all of that, our number one source of media is Instagram; you only have a split second to capture someone's attention and the way to do that is to pop color at them. I love wearing black, I wear black all the time, but when it comes to Instagram, I think, how can we capture someone’s attention? I always thought I was good with color, I don’t know if I am, but that’s something I might attribute to myself. My favorite color is purple, and I like to incorporate that into every collection.
Explain how the New York fashion scene has influenced your inspirational drive and work ethic.
New York keeps me going. At this point in my life, I don’t think I could be anywhere else in the world. Maybe Japan, but I don’t think I could do the level of output that I do here, anywhere else. I love LA, but it takes 40 minutes to get anywhere; you do that twice a day, and you're drained. I think the New York air pushes you to work. Just the beat of the city, it never stops. There’s always someone working harder than you, so it makes you want to work twice as hard. We start all the trends here in New York City. For example, the normcore Tumblr girls in mom jeans is a trend that started in Bushwick with all of the immigrants, and now all the models are wearing them. The street style here doesn’t compare to anywhere else. I like to call it the alt-left crowd because if you go to LES or SoHo, you see all the eccentric people in these crazy garments. Then two or three years later, it ends up on a runway. I think we’re in the epicenter of fashion. I’d even go as far to say that street fashion started in New York. Anyone can come for me; I don’t care. To be here in the early 2000s before SoHo was a hypebeast thing, it meant something to us. Going to BBC [Billionaire Boys Club], going to Bape, and all the other stores that aren’t around anymore, it meant something to the people that are running that culture now. To see SoHo fully transform into something that’s such a tourist destination, is kind of crazy. It goes to show the influence of the city.
How has streetwear culture influenced you as a designer?
It’s all I know. I’m really just a student to streetwear. I grew up wanting to wear BBC and Bape, but could only afford Stüssy. We used to go to Yellow Rat Bastard and get two Stüssy tees for 30 dollars. I went to high school in Elmont, so kids that weren’t on that were dressing like Brooklyn kids in Polo and True Religion. I was wearing Stüssy and whatever BBC and Bape I could get my hands on with old Jordans. People would call me crazy for wearing ‘dusty’ Jordans, but by the time senior year came around, all the cool kids we’re trying to wear the old ‘dusty’ Jordans I was wearing. That pushed me to do what I do now. Coming up on 2009/ 2010, looking at the scene and seeing people like Dee and Ricky, and seeing them work for people like Pharrell, and Carlyle, working for Pharell and Kanye, really inspired me. They were doing it back ten years ago, and now to see that I’m in that position and that I’m inspiring the youth in the same way, really means a lot to me. Even though it’s a huge trend in the fashion world now, it’s going to be something that’s here forever. Streetwear is not going to die. We’re in a boom; There’s a million and one brands, but there’s going to be these big streetwear brands that have the cultural impact to play by their own rules for as long as they choose to, as long as they stay authentic. At first, I hated the term streetwear designer. Even when they called Virgil a high-end streetwear designer, I thought it was kind of disrespectful because the garments that he was making, even before Louis Vuitton, we’re still high-level garments. His womenswear, to me, has always been high-fashion. It’s a stigma that’s hard to break out of, being labeled as that, but at the end of the day, the garments speak for themselves. Someone may have started as a streetwear designer, but their legacy is far more vast than that. You really can’t say that Virgil is a streetwear designer anymore, he’s transcended that. It’s really up to the designer to break out of that box if they want to. Like A Cold Wall, I wouldn’t consider that a streetwear brand, it’s more avant-garde than anything else. When I think streetwear, I think Supreme and Palace. Would I say I’m a streetwear brand? Yeah, in a way, but it’s a little more elevated than that. It’s important to have different channels to reach different people because not everyone can afford an 8.000 Euro gown.
You have dressed a notable list of celebrities, Quavo, Lil Peep, Playboi Carti, and Joey Badass, to name a few. If you could dress anyone in your clothes, living or deceased, who would it be?
Jesus. Jesus, let me swag you out. We need him in a ‘Satan Sucks’ shirt. Other than that, I think Tupac would have been cool. If I had the chance to do something with him in the 90s, that would have been amazing. I like the universe to work and have God put people in front of me. I know the people that I want to reach out to and wear my clothes, but I’m not going to say anyone so they can get gassed. I love the people I’ve been working with, Quavo, Carti, and some of the regular kids in the street that are fly, and even the up and coming models. Those are the people I get excited to put clothes on because they’re the next big thing. Of course, celebrities are great, I like getting my clothes on them for that “clout” moment, but I love making connections with the streets because that’s how we remain authentic. I’ll see someone with a pair of one-of-one’s I made and that’s what makes me excited.
In more recent years, you’ve worked alongside Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston. How have these friendships served as a community in the realm of clothing and culture?
Shouts to them first of all for giving me the platform to collaborate with them. We have that communication and workspace, and it’s great. Virgil has shown me and offered me a lot of advice on how to move in this game and to see him work has inspired me, even before we started working together. It’s beyond me though; I thank God every day for the opportunity to work with them because I know a lot of people would die to be a part of that. To have a real connection and to be seen as a creative in their eyes, is so cool. Virgil had this Vogue write up for his SS19 collection, and he talked about how he saw himself in me, and it meant so much. My thinking is that if he sees me in that light; it’s up to me to take things to the next level. As they lend their hand to me, I have to do the same with the future up-and-coming designers that I know. That’s why I wear all of my friends’ clothes and try to do projects with them when I can and when it makes sense because we all deserve a shot. The culture can’t continue to blossom if the mentality isn’t that. I may not be the person to give someone their shot, but I can always assist. Shout out to Heron too, he forged the gap between Virgil and me, and Heron is the first person to ever really to give me a shot. The way that it happened was crazy. We were at Public Hotel, and I ran down on him, he came to my pop-up shop, and then we started working on a project together for Paris. That proved to be a turning point in my career. They’re great people and want to see the youth win. That’s what it’s all about, rather than just me as an individual, it’s about the community, whether that be streetwear, African American and black, or the odd kids, whatever. We have to put on for what we believe in, and what we believe in is pushing the boundaries.
While you’re notorious for denim, tees, and sweats, you have recently begun offering suits and outerwear. How do you hope to further expand in the years to come?
In the next collection, I want to introduce more womenswear. Me and Téla have been conceptualizing the womenswear idea for a while now with the ATW [Against The World] project, which is now the parent company, in a sense. Womenswear is something we’ve wanted to dive into, so we’ll start doing a couple of looks, but it’s hard to break into because there’s so much to incorporate. If I were a girl, my closet would be a whole room, like my mom, her closet is the entire basement, and upstairs. My dad built her a whole walk-in closet in the basement. That’s what I aspire to have. We definitely want to have womenswear clothes, it’s just about translating our feel into the garments, whether that be suiting or denim. We’ll probably start with denim because that’s our biggest market. Other than that, we want to delve more into structured garments, like outerwear at the highest level. We’re hoping to switch production over to Italy to “up” the level of output because we’re limited here in New York in terms of fabric development, and everything is so expensive. For suiting, I’ve always had an affinity for it, going back to my Tumblr days when I was wearing blazers and bow ties with Margiela’s. I think that trend has made a resurgence in a way, with structured trousers and matching blazers. Overall, we’re focused on branding right now. For example, I see Rye [Decker] focused on his branding, and that’s something I’m trying to work on too. Working alongside Virgil, and seeing how he brands, I realize the importance of it. Now, you’ll see the “MRDR BRVDO” everywhere, and some people know that’s me, it’s Ev Bravado’s brand. You’ll see, “NEXTLVLHIGH,” and what’s that? That’s EV BRAVADO. You’ll see a crossed out “666”, what’s that? That’s EV BRAVADO. So it’s all about creating these overarching logos and trademarks and intellectual property that fall under the umbrella of EV BRAVADO.
With the release of your fourth collection, “Rumors of War,” there are recurrent themes of bondage-inspired denim & pants, internet coding & microchips, and tie-dye. What was your creative process for this collection?
I wanted to debut it in January [of 2018] in Paris, but our denim was messed up, and there was no way we could debut without the denim. My process for this collection was all over the place because Judah was still in the womb, and I really couldn’t put out a collection at the time, so I focused on making it a strong collection. Now that I’m a father, my whole process is entirely different. I’m always thinking of ideas. I’ll be sleeping, and in the middle of the night, I’ll get up and start jotting down ideas. This collection was a very chaotic time in my life because I was readjusting. I couldn't even describe my process to you for collection four because to explain the process, I would have to include all of the doctor visits with Téla, Judah being born, showing in Paris, it was this whole new life-changing experience. I had to take my time while traveling to design because I had more time to think with a clear head. Tomorrow, I leave for Japan so I’ll use that time to plan for my next collection. I showed this collection in June, but it took time for me to conceptualize it because I was trying to find a balance between being a dad and having this company. I had been sampling since the end of collection three, which was November, so it was a year in the making. “Rumors of War,” is based on Bible prophecy. For this collection, you see a lot of, “peace and safety” and “ sudden destruction,” which comes from passages and scripture where they talk about the last days proclaiming peace and safety and warnings that there will be sudden destruction. The matrix coding kind of falls into that ‘Mark of the Beast,’ overarching theme and it connects to the microchips. All the t-shirts are propaganda, and a lot of people ask me what the shirts mean, and it’s all propaganda for the antichrist. If the antichrist were here on Earth running a campaign, these would be the shirts. The presentation we did in Paris explained everything. For example, the six zero’s three times, comes from this sermon that my dad preached, when the ‘Mark of the Beast’ comes, it won’t be “666,” it will be six zero’s three times, and with that you could number every person in the world; we could each have our own 18-digit number. So that’s the premise of it. In terms of the theme for the “Hell on Earth” denim, you see, “peaceandsaftey.co,” which is going to be our blog, to preach our message. The Matrix rhinestone and embroidery was something me and Téla had been sitting on for a while. We brought it to our manufacturer to do, and she said “no,” basically that she couldn’t do it, but maybe it was lost in translation because I came to pick up the piece and it was done. That’s all on the suiting, and that will be out shortly, but it’s not going to be cheap.
What can we expect from you come 2019?
More clothes! We’re doing a project for February during fashion week. Other than that, collection five in January 2019 in Paris. End of this year, we have something coming with Patron of the New. We also have ComplexCon. I have some other things planned, but I don’t want to talk about them until they’re finalized. I’m leaving for Japan, where we’re doing a Barney’s pop-up and then we’re doing a pop-up with GR8, but that’s this year. I’ll leave the rest up to God.
To see more by EV BRAVADO, click here.
Photographed by: Phoenix Johnson