Club Fantasy Interview with Joe Perez

by Drew Penner

Reaching beyond the cusp is all in a days work for Joe Perez, a freelance creative director and graphic artist based in Providence, Rhode Island whose work you’ve seen everywhere even if you don’t know it. He counts Zayn Malik, Ludacris and Adidas as clients and has put his touch on key productions from Kanye West and Travis Scott. After he attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, picking up a Film / New Media BFA, he put his Northeast LA-minted knowledge to work at Jack FX down by the ocean in Venice Beach. Perez spent seven years as lead art director at Kanye West’s design studio DONDA, and went through 325 design iterations in prep for the lauded Cruel Summer G.O.O.D. Music comp. He launched his own studio, which scored a “50 Greatest Album Covers of All Time” nod from Billboard Magazine for Nicki Minaj’s “The Pinkprint.” And trance bottle-poppers around the world take note, as he’s the man behind DJ Tiësto’s creative direction. 

Perez recently took on the art direction and graphic design on Lil Wayne’s “Love Me,” which features Drake and Future. In animated .gif form we see dark moths drawn to a pulsating neon sign crying out for affection, ultimately disturbing the repose of grey plant leaves. We see these sorts of not-quite-sinister but definitely-sharp-edged creations bleeding into his first apparel splash, with the inaugural “MASON” collection in 2017. That energy has continued with his arrival at Club Fantasy. It’s dark chemical magic with high-minded intent, featuring plenty of purple on violet patterning and low-ISO delivery. It’s a zoomed-in take on reworked 90s electronica CD liner notes, where it was okay for the subject to be out of focus sometimes. Make no mistake, this is casual enough for the track pant fashionista set, but experimental enough for the underground. For Endless Euphoria, Drop 1, we were treated to West Midlands teen streetwear sensation Leo Mandella (who counts Playboi Carti and Heron Preston amongst those keeping an eye on his Insta) rocking a wavy blue-and-black visage that could be screaming in agony, but based on the name of the line is surely in utter bliss. Perez tells us where he’s at, with the release of Drop 2.

Photo courtesy of Joe Perez

Photo courtesy of Joe Perez

How would you say the first collection’s title “Endless Euphoria” plays into the rebellious attitude seen in pop culture and how is that theme incorporated into the collection as a whole?  Are the pieces things you would wear yourself in that sort of environment? 

I see the title paying homage to the rave culture of the 90’s and early 2000’s art where corporate branding and advertising were re-appropriated in a jestful rebellious manner for rave flyers and t-shirts.

I already do wear this collection, I'd wear the pieces in almost any environment, but personally the mood I’m in usually dictates what I wear and why.

How do the designs in this collection stand apart from your designs for DONDA or MASON.

I see this collection as a departure from past projects interns of aesthetic, but there are some structures that have remained the same.

While at Donda or when I was designing for Mason, the majority of the work I created myself, but with  Club Fantasy I worked with designers that I’ve been following on Instagram who I felt best represented the rave culture with their designs or the typographical languages they have been developing.  

The designers I worked with on this first collection were:  Mikey Joyce, Baptiste Bernazeau, Ruben Martinho,  Jonathan Castro Alejos along with myself.

Seeing as you have designed some prominent album covers and merchandise within the music industry, does music have any influence on your creative flow or on the overall collection?

Absolutely.  Music is the glue and the main commonality that influences all of my work. I have a few curated playlists that I run during projects that call for a particular type of energy, etc.

In terms of Club Fantasy, Collection 1 Endless Euphoria’s foundation is EDM and rave culture, so it’s heavily inspired by that industry’s culture and art which is all based around the music and lifestyle. 

s there a certain mindset that you find yourself to be the most productive in and where do you draw inspiration from when designing?

I enjoy the research phase, which is life in general, but in terms of design, it would be when I head to the RISD library and dive into books rather than the internet.

I find the process of sitting down and focusing on one book, one page at a time, the most helpful because I never not stumble across inspiration at the RISD library.

What is the most unique thing about this collection in not only its design but also in its overall tone?

Authenticity.  We really tried to keep the purity of 90’s rave culture’s integrity intact.  I worked extremely hard to capture that spirit of art through the design team I assembled. Everyone on the team had been influenced by edm / rave culture in some manner and stylistically and contextually I’m extremely happy with the collection.

How would you describe the archetypal Club Fantasy wearer? What were some of your inspirations for the Club Fantasy Collection?

A person very much into individual personal expression.  A free soul. 

The inspiration for Club Fantasy’s first collection are rave flyers from the 90s / 2000s.  The art, the typography, the layout, colors, etc.   That was my bible for Collection 1.

Why did you choose Gully Guy Leo to front the first campaign drop?

For two reasons: 

1.  The UK had and still has a vibrant rave scene.  It was key in the development of the underground rave and evolution of what EDM is today.  As a US-based brand I wanted to have the rave scene in Europe represented equally from the start. 

2. Gully’s attitude and visual presence really embodies Club Fantasy’s first collection. 

You can just tell when a model has “that look” that fits your brand and it’s values as there is an energy and a balance.

What excites you the most about the Club Fantasy project and brand as a whole?

I’m excited about creating from a new palette, one with more colors and playful designs where rules do not need to apply. 

What’s next for you as well as well as the future of streetwear?      

What’s next for me is Club Fantasy collection 2 and directing music videos.  

I’ve had my hand in ideation in videos recently and I’ve had the bug to go back and execute some ideas I’ve had for a while.

As far as streetwear, I see a big push into cut and sow experimentation vs. the usage of blanks.   I’ve already seen kids learn screen printing and then the next month they’re learning pattern making and sewing.   I see the focus shifting to the essence of structure and infusing ones personality into that discipline. 

Photographed by Julien Bernard

Interview by BJ Panda Bear