Meet Bryan Espiritu: artist, designer and owner of clothing label, Legends League. For any streetwear connoisseur, Legends League has been the nucleus for the movement, continuing to resonate with old and new clients through the personal experiences and stories of Bryan. The man behind the brand hopes to provide solace in being a voice for others, emphasized by the reopening of his brick-and-mortar store in 2022.
Introduce yourself and describe what you do.
My name is Bryan Espiritu. I’m a painter, graphic artist, and product designer. I’m also the founder of The Legends League — a Toronto-based apparel brand and shop dedicated to distributing much of my creative outputs.
How did you get started and why did you choose the industry/career you’re in?
I’ve always been one to express myself creatively, whether it was through writing, drawing, dancing, painting, sculpture, graphic design, or fashion, so the “start” of my practice has actually been the duration of my entire life. There was no intention to aim for success as a creative, as I had to get by doing whatever I could from a fairly young age. Creating was just always something I did, so when I started to get paid for it, I noticed small windows of opportunity get slightly bigger the more I delivered. And eventually some of those windows blew all the way open the better I got at making stuff that clients and supporters wanted.
The decision to focus more on design and fashion than on writing and painting came from an analogy I used to use, where if you get jumped by 5 people, you’re not gonna beat them all, so you better grab one of them by the face and fucking kill them. The subtle version of that is a “jack of all trades, master of none” idea. Putting graphics on shirts was my quickest way out from the life I had, so I went with that because I knew it was my best opportunity to give me the runway to eventually do the other parts of my practice at a higher level.
Legends League and Bryan Espiritu are two very different brands. How do you decide which to focus your time on and which one is more important to you? Will the two ever collaborate (MF Doom T)?
If I had to describe the difference between the two, I’d say that LL needs to work with some level of structure, and Bryan Espiritu works best with absolute freedom to just make shit. So the decision to focus on LL is based on providing product just as much as it fulfills my personal love to design. My time spent on my own art is solely based on feel. I never press myself to create art against my spirit to do it. I’ve been doing this for so long that it all feels like second nature rather than an active decision to index higher on the business and design vs the personal side of my art.
As far as importance goes, they’re equally important to me because they’re both huge representations of who I am as a person. I’ve always wanted the ability to do everything I get to do now. Factoring in financial responsibility, I wouldn’t be able to have one without the other at this point, and I can say that if the time ever comes to bring LL to a close, I will still continue to make and design products while exploring my own art practice because of how much I love what I get to do.
When I started LL 15 years ago, it was very much about my personal experience, and expression focused mostly on my design and writing practices. After 2015, it started to drift more into a brand with less of my personal story attached to it, but I was still doing 90% of the creative output on the apparel and marketing side, and my spirit was very much still embedded in the brand messaging. Separately I started to draw and paint way more, and the idea of me as a brand and LL as a brand started to run parallel with only some overlap. The plan moving forward is to shorten the gap between those lanes, and to bring more of my art into the design sensibility of the brand.
What’s next? Anything cool you’re working on? When will LL reopen?
2022 will be the official 15 year anniversary since I started LL as a MySpace blog, and sold some tees online. There’s a lot I’ve got coming that I’m excited to share, and I’ll be sure to post it all on my channels when I can talk about it all. Other than that, the main focus is the redesign and rebuild of the shop at 9 Camden Street. The plan is to be ready to open the doors by March 2022. The intention there is on some rebirth shit from our March 2015 grand opening, and March 2020 being the last time we were open to the public.
I’m stoked to get to interact one to one with people who mess with what I do, and to share a space that’s open for like minded folks to meet, shoot the shit, and take in whatever work I’ve got going on in real time. It’s been way too long.
Photographed by Nathan Legiehn
Check out Bryan and The Legends League on Instagram at @bryanespiritu.