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Esper is The A$AP Rocky-Approved Designer Putting Sustainability First

Esper of Come Back as a Flower is a multi-hyphenate, 25-year-old artist adding “environmental advocate” to his extensive CV. Having practiced most mediums, from drawing to painting and a bit of web design, his newest passion involves designing psychedelic garments with sustainable materials. With recent co-signs from streetwear icons like A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, Aleali May, and more, Esper is becoming increasingly identified as an artist who inserts passion into whichever medium he chooses to pursue. We met with the LA native in his hometown to discuss his thoughts on fashion, sustainability, and how he balances his multidisciplinary art practice.

Why Come Back As A Flower? Tell us a little bit about the name and how it started.

Well, there are layers to it. My mom and grandma played a lot of Stevie Wonder growing up and one of the songs on his album “Secret Life of Plants” is called “Come Back as a Flower”. Amazing song, I really resonated with it and felt like it matched the energy of the creation process for me. It has some spiritual connotations to it with the cycle of rebirth and it’s also like a metaphor for the death of your ego and coming back as a more humble, spiritual being. It’s about staying spiritually attuned.

That makes sense. Your about section on your site hints at that with “high vibrational”, “black owned”, and “artisanal”.

High-vibrational, yeah! When you look at the way the colors work, what you’re really seeing is a vibration. They each hold these different energies, and when you combine them in certain ways it becomes almost like a song. It becomes this entity on its own and so, high vibrational is really saying that the ways the colors are put together creates a vibration that contributes to things like your aura, in a way. When you wear a dyed shirt like this, you just feel really good, more in tune.

Another layer you often mention is sustainability, how is that incorporated the brand as a whole?

Ever since I started making clothes I’ve always kept in mind that the fashion industry is the second largest contributor to global pollution, second to oil. And I just really think this fast-fashion hole we’ve dug ourselves into, where the life cycle of clothes is really short just needs to be re-thought. And as a designer just starting out, I think it’s important that I don’t pigeonhole myself into that. It’s also important for my peers that are just starting out, I want it to be known that you can have a dope brand that is made of plants and stuff. And so I try to do that by working with this clothing factory in la that takes the waste from normal cotton production and create a fiber that makes the fabric that creates these cotton shirts. By getting these sustainable blanks and doing hand dye processes in small quantities rather than on the factory scale, we create this piece that defies the common ways of production. It’s a small step in the right direction, but as we grow we’ll continue to explore the ways we can be most effective.

Speaking of expanding, do you see CBAAF going beyond tie dye?

Yeah definitely. Right now we’re actually working on our very first collection. It’s all cut and sew pieces, in house, designed by myself. It’s my baby at the moment. The T-shirts were kinda like sketches for a larger painting. It’s always been that way, clothes as art rather than just things to sell to people. So now I’m working on some more commercial pieces that may hit retailers with the release of the first collection.

It’s funny that you mention painting and sketching because those are things you’ve practiced even before fashion, right?

Yeah, so I studied oil painting and graphic design at Art Center College of Design. That gave me the technical knowledge of art making and it really taught me how to work a piece until it’s finished. And so it relates to the shirts in that, I do a very arduous process for each shirt; some take hours. And so having that focus on the making of art as it’s happening allows me to really layer and work the t-shirt as a canvas. I’ve also been given the opportunity to work with some really cool art directors, graphic designers, fashion photographers, stylists, and I’ve just dipped my toes into a lot of different industries and gained a lot of knowledge that allows me to translate all these different aspects into clothing.

So, would you say being interdisciplinary is important to you as an artist?

I just get bored easily [Laughs]. When I use a different medium it sort of recharges my inspiration and when I approach a different medium it gives me a different understanding of what I’m doing. So whether it’s music, photo, designing, it all comes back around and let’s me say, “Oh, this can all go in the pot.” It all informs each other.

And so if you would, paint us a picture of where you see CBAAF in a year.

In a year from now we’ll be at Paris Fashion Week, and I hope to be debuting a menswear collection. Everyone is gonna love it, it’ll be one of the most talked about shows in a long time. We’re popping champagne, it’s a party.

Am I invited?

Um, maybe. [Laughs] Of course!

Stay tuned to Milk for more sustainable fashion.

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