The Wild Artisanal Streetwear Of EV BRAVADO
On his son’s first birthday this past April, Mr Everard Best posted a picture of his boy looking at the camera, wide-eyed, a little excited, and maybe a little confused. “I grew up with my dad in a tailor shop,” Mr Best wrote in the caption, “and I hated it, wonder how this one is going to feel being dragged around the world in this industry – either way happy first to our first born, Judah!!”
Mr Best is, of course, now prepared to allow that his own childhood, spent in and around his father’s Long Island tailoring shop (“Just hours and hours of watching and learning”), was incredibly formative. It was akin to learning a language that he didn’t know he could speak, that is, until he launched his own clothing company while he was still in high school. In his recollection, his adolescence seems to have been more about self-expression – wearing singular clothing of his own creation, say, for which he was teased at school – than about rebelling against his father. In fact, it was his father that he turned to when, after graduating from college, Mr Best formalised his line and the business under the name EV BRAVADO. His father’s advice was crucial, he says, not only in the construction of garments, but also because of the encouragement it gave him to think beyond the one-off, embellished denim Mr Best was then making, fanning the flames of his ambitions.
Those ambitions have been evident since at least 2009, when Mr Best was a 16-year-old in Elmont, New York, silk-screening his designs on T-shirts, gobbling up inspiration from the streetwear brands on the scene and, as he says, “looking up to gods such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, seeing how they dressed.” In high school, he was thought to be a kind of creative outlier by his classmates, many of whom encouraged him to make something of his expressive dressing and interest in clothes. Aided by the accelerant that is Instagram, Mr Best became a kind of street-style supernova in very short order, drawing the attention of some of those streetwear divinities, including Mr Heron Preston and Mr Virgil Abloh, with whom Mr Best has been collaborating on denim designs for Off-White. Mr Abloh has called Mr Best one of the most exciting young design stars on the scene.
It is this emboldened and increasingly thoughtful Mr Best that MR PORTER meets now, thinking bigger, making plans to parachute into the fashion week calendar in Paris this June with his first presentation. His plans have changed, he says. “For a while I’ve been making clothes that I wanted to wear and now I’m just like...” he trails off. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a jerk, but I just want to make clothes that people, when they see, they have a feeling. They’re like, ‘Wow’. Even if they might not be able to pull it off, they’re still interested. Hopefully they’ll see them as art pieces instead of just everyday clothes.”
(Not that anyone is at risk of thinking Mr Best’s madly labour-intensive, vibrantly-coloured, crystal-flecked and heavily embroidered pieces as “everyday clothes”. His jeans have been described as DIY couture and Mr Best still personally individually hand-festoons each of his denim prototypes with the jewels and tears and florid paints and scarring that make them so desirable.)
I just want to make clothes that people, when they see, they have a feeling. Like, ‘Wow’. Hopefully they’ll see them as art pieces instead of just everyday clothes
But here, again, Mr Best pauses, because it is on this point specifically where, he says, his father has been really instructional. “He’s always taught me to think big picture,” he says. “‘Don’t think a hundred thousand dollars, think a million dollars.’ And that’s something that we kind of fight about because I’m like, ‘No, it’s the art. It’s the art.’ But he’s like, ‘You know, it’s so much more than that. Fashion’s a trillion-dollar industry, you’ve got to capitalise.’”
As if on cue, Mr Best’s fiancé, Ms Téla D’Amore, and little Judah come over for a visit. A little while later, Mr Best goes on to say, “It’s hard… Having a child and having to think creatively – you still have to think financially. It’s not like you can do whatever, you still have to think of the repercussions that making a certain piece will have.”
This is where he really lights up. As thrilled as he has always been about turning the canvas of a pair of jeans into a singular work of art, he’s now really jazzed about how to scale that vision. “So, we’re moving, in terms of branding, for the next collection,” he says. “Because, for a while, the brand has been synonymous with my person, but how do we separate the two and have me be my own entity and the brand be its own entity?”
Even today, when we all could be forgiven for confusing someone with their social media avatar, Mr Best’s interest in separating out his identity from that of the brand is well-founded. At the beginning, the designs were him, worn by him, even made a little famous by him on Instagram, and coloured a good bit by his notoriously raucous “fake rock star” lifestyle, as he has described it – a full-time party persona and a health regimen from which he has since retreated from entirely, ergo the divide. Mr Best is not EV BRAVADO and vice versa. These days, the designer is more devout than debauched, regularly attending church with his family; he’s titled the collection he created exclusively for MR PORTER “Divine Inspiration”, because it is inspired by the rainbow that Noah saw after the flood.
In explaining this growing distinction between himself and the brand, where it now falls and where he’d like it to move, he describes the way his design and production process has changed. “My approach in the past has been like, ‘OK, let’s make pieces, make pieces and make pieces, and hopefully it comes together.’ But now, maturing as a designer, it’s like, ‘OK, you can’t think like that. You have to think of the overall collection – what’s the story that’s being told?’” If it sounds a bit rote for a designer to talk about focusing on storytelling and zooming out to see an entire collection, with Mr Best, it does feel like an evolution from the super-micro approach he’s had before. After all, the designing part, the making part is the thing he knows gene-deep. As, perhaps, will his own son.
But he isn’t really worried about Judah growing up to be a designer, or hating what his father does, right?
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about much,” Mr Best says. “I live my life day to day, leave my life in the hands of God, so I do believe that he is the author of my feet. So, whatever comes my way, I’ve got to roll with it. I can’t speak for my son, but I’m not going to push him into the industry or anything like that, but if he wants to do it, then our resources are his. But, there’s so much more to life than clothes, and that’s something that’s always been a part of me: talking to people and just trying to figure out, ‘How do we make the world a better place?’”
Well, maybe a better-dressed world would be a good start. “Maybe. Right now, to get the message out, the medium is clothes,” he says. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”