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Bryan Espiritu’s Toronto is a playlist of personal style

Oct 04, 2017

We invited three different tastemakers from across Canada to take us out in the Toyota C-HR and show us where they find inspiration (including really great food of course), in their cities.

Bryan Espiritu in front of toyota C-HR

For Bryan Espiritu (aka ESPIRITUSUCKS) - founder and creative director of the effortlessly cool clothing line Legends League and The LL Sweatshop store - breaking through in Toronto means finding a community that supports you.

Espiritu had been making art since his teens as a means of expressing emotion and representing the diverse influences he found within the city’s streets.

“The best thing about Toronto is our acceptance of people from all walks of life. People here allow you to be exactly who you are without having to conform to some vanilla level mediocrity. This means that no matter what your race, religion, gender identification, or sexual orientation, Toronto embraces you. You can be yourself here and people recognize that,  it’s really just a matter of finding your fit, and owning your piece of the city as home.”

Like Espiritu, the Toyota C-HR is all about breaking through, creating your own path, and finding the right people to take along for the ride.  Recently we asked the fashion mogul to drive us around his version of Hogtown. What we came away with was an insider’s perspective from a true innovator.

LL Sweatshop Toronto

We started the day at Espiritu’s LL Sweatshop (9 Camden St.). The location serves as a retail store for Espiritu’s fashion line, but operates like a think-tank. It’s the home of Espiritu and his collaborators’ artistic output.

“The LL Sweatshop is a workspace and a retail space run by real, relatable people. We function like a playlist. If our following likes one of our products a lot, we keep it on the floor. When they’re over it, we remove it from the shop. If we want to reinvent or remix an old item, we do. I didn’t build this brand off of products. I built it off of relating to people. That’s what we have here.”

Espiritu prides himself on putting individuals first.  “I want people who wear our products to feel like they’re being represented by a company who care about the betterment of people while making things that look really dope. I have never forgotten what it feels like to have less, so I will never act like my brand is only for people who can attain more.”

Livestock Toronto

After leaving the shop, we asked Espiritu to take us to his go-to style spots. For shoes he pointed us towards Livestock (116 Spadina Ave g1), and for a haircut he recommends Fitting Room (1389 Dundas St West). All these  locations were run by longtime friends who had supported him from the start. “If I’m gonna put money in anyone’s hands,  I want it to be the hands of people I care about.”

You can be yourself here and people recognize that,  it’s really just a matter of finding your fit, and owning your piece of the city as home.

From humble beginnings, Espiritu has broken through in Toronto because of a constant hustle and the support of fellow artists. As he’s gotten more successful, part of that hustle is knowing how to relax and reflect.  For Espiritu the best place to do this is at The Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St W). “The AGO, and galleries in general, allow me to explore the minds and expressions of others in silence. I’m getting old, and I’m trying to make sure I leave a legacy of work behind me. The AGO allows me to see what it’s like to realize that dream for others.”

Collective Toronto

While Espiritu has been designing/selling graphic tees since his early teens, the artist isn’t content to stay in one medium, always pushing to find new ways to express himself. Doing that means constantly getting new supplies. “I use art as a means to get emotions out. Art stores, to me, are like candy shops for kids.” For Canvases he hits up DeSerres Art Supplies (130 Spadina Ave), while for spray paint it’s Toronto Collective (389 Spadina Ave).

Toronto Apt 200

After recharging at the Gallery, the LL sweatshop founder took us to some of his favorite bars and restaurants.  We took the graffitied staircase into the intimate rec room style of Apt 200 (1034 Queen St W) where other Toronto creatives like KID Studio host their own DJ nights.

Later we swung by Kensington Market’s secret alleyway bar Cold Tea (60 Kensington Ave) for dumplings and cocktails on their huge patio. And finally we ended the tour at Espiritu’s favorite place for reasonably priced, and reasonably fancy food 416 Snackbar (181 Bathurst St) which boasts a delicious menu of small share plates like popcorn chicken and a signature steamed bao.

Finishing up the Toronto tour in the C-HR we reflected on the unique locations we were shown, but for his part Espiritu encourages people to find their own slice of the city.  “Toronto is a place that has big city aspiration and small town love. It provides you with everything you can possibly want if you know where to find it. We embrace everything short of ignorance with open arms. There are different pockets and communities everywhere, so it’s really just a matter of finding your fit, and owning your piece of the city as home.”