Everard Best has been working in streetwear since he was a teenager. Before he was collaborating with Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, the designer worked on his first label Lease on Life Society, which he launched while still at high school. But Best wasn’t dropping the standard graphic tees and hoodies that make up the bulk of most streetwear startups’ output.

Instead, he made entire collections — customized denim, color-blocked jackets, and elevated basics — which sold out immediately and placed him firmly among the ones to watch in the streetwear world.

But as Best was starting to make a name for himself, his personal life was foundering.

“I was living this fake rock star lifestyle,” the 25-year-old designer remembers. “I was going back and forth from LA every couple months and just partying and doing all types of crazy things. The amount of substances that we were abusing and so on, I was going down a path that I could’ve really died.”

Ev Bravado Highsnobiety Heron Preston OFF-WHITE c/o Virgil Abloh
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

This eventually started to have an impact on his designs. “I was so focused on being this socialite and being out all the time that I didn’t focus in on designing,” he admits. “I would just make clothes and be like, ‘You know what? They’ll do well, or people will cop them because I’m lit.’ But that wasn’t the case at all. People can see right through that.”

Eventually, Best realized he needed to get sober, for his health and his work. “I really changed the way I was living, the way I was doing, and just focused on myself really — and then that’s what started the new brand,” he says. “With Lease on Life Society, I got to a point in my life where a lot of the stuff I was doing for the brand was trial and error. It really didn’t have a clear direction. It was just me just trying to be a designer.”

Best realized that he wanted to focus on the artistic aspect of his work rather than “just making something I thought was cool.” And that’s how current label Ev Bravado was born.

The brand first made headlines with its “Make Amerikkka Suck Again” collection, released just before the election of Donald Trump. The brand’s style is ostentatious, with eye-catching slogans outlined in rhinestones, something that pops up in collaborations with Heron Preston and Joey Bada$$.

In terms of design cues, Best’s work is most recognizable for the meticulously distressed and customized denim that straddles the line between punk and hip-hop aesthetics. The designer has the process down to a fine art, sometimes taking days to distress each pair. “The denim is a very intimate thing because I do each sample by hand,” he explains. “The process is a pain but the outcome is always beautiful.”

Virgil Abloh, for one, is a fan. He chose Best for a panel titled “The Next Generation of Design” and has even called him “the young version of me.”

For OFF-WHITE’s SS19 show, the duo collaborated on three pairs of denim featuring Best’s artfully placed rips and signature embroidery. “He’s very hands-on with everything, so that’s one thing I was really impressed with,” Best says of the experience of working with a designer he describes as his mentor. “As many projects as he has, he pays attention to every detail of what’s going on.”

Best’s garments follow a maximalist “more is more” school of design, but the excess isn’t random. He thinks through every tear, rhinestone, and word that adorns his clothes. “Everything is really message-based, and part of the design process is figuring out how we’re going to put this message forward,” Best explains.

Slogans are central to his work and often come from a personal place. A case in point is “do you think I’m crazy,” which is something Best finds himself asking his fiancée Téla D’Amore while working together on creative projects. The phrase “NEXTLVLHIGH,” meanwhile, came to him when he got sober. “‘NEXTLVLHIGH’ isn’t something that’s about drugs,” he explains. “It’s about finding happiness in yourself.”

Whatever personal significance they hold for Best, he wants his designs to be open to interpretation. “I don’t like to be, ‘Oh, this means that, this means this,’ because at the end of the day, everything means something different to someone else,” he says.

Ev Bravado Highsnobiety Heron Preston OFF-WHITE c/o Virgil Abloh
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

What are less open to interpretation are the religious references. Looking through Best’s collections, they’re hard to miss: crucifixes embroidered on jeans, hoodies featuring a crossed-out 666. But Best isn’t using Christianity as an aesthetic reference. He is actually deeply devout.

The brand’s first full collection, “Rebirth,” took inspiration from the designer’s radical change in lifestyle. “That collection was me rededicating myself to God and also rededicating myself to the art,” he says. “Within that collection, there’s a mantra: ‘God forgives.’ Because I just felt like I needed forgiveness for all of the messed-up things I did.

“I always gloss over that, but people need to hear that message as well. We’re living in a time where a lot of kids are abusing substances and overdosing on fentanyl and stuff like that. I was at a point where that could’ve happened to me, but it really took God opening up my eyes and giving me second and third chances for me to be here.”

Ev Bravado Highsnobiety Heron Preston OFF-WHITE c/o Virgil Abloh
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Best is aware that speaking publicly about faith isn’t exactly the norm for designers, and that it might even lose him some fans, but that’s a risk he’s willing to take.

“Because I’ve been in deep, dark places and the only thing that saved me was my firm foundation in God,” he explains. “If I could go through that, then why would I be selfish with that information when I could help the next person who’s been going through deeper, darker places than I have? If I could help them, then that’s worth way more than being in Barneys.”

But Ev Bravado is stocked at Barneys Japan, and due to his sheer dedication to his craft, Best’s career is taking off. Abloh shout-outs and collabs aside, Best has partnered with Grailed, given customization workshops in Paris and Tokyo, and earned write-ups in Vogue and Complex, with the latter stating he’s “changing the game.” Like the slogan suggests, the stage is set for Best and Ev Bravado to reach the next level.

News & Culture Editor

Berlin-based writer and Rihanna enthusiast.