It’s the middle of the week, aka “hump day” and I’m back with another edition of “Have you heard of…?” featuring PANYC State. A Philly based brand that mixes socially conscious messages with one of a kind, hand drawn designs that let you both express your beliefs and look stylish while doing it. With meaningful designs and hidden messages, PANYC State has set out to influence a shift in the culture by encouraging the spreading of knowledge, positivity, and improving the world in any way possible. “We encourage everyone to be themselves, unique, and intelligent and to not always accept the status quo.” So jump in my boat as we set sail on another “Have you heard of…?” journey, where we meet Bryce (Managing Partner and Co-Founder) and find out just how PANYC State and the brilliance behind it run this brand like a well oiled machine.
First off, introduce yourself and tell me about your brand.
My name is Bryce Stewart, and I am the Managing Partner & Co-Founder of PANYC State. PANYC State is a Philadelphia based clothing brand that creates apparel with socially-, culturally-, and politically-conscious messages. Taking popular styles and themes from urban culture in large cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and LA, PANYC State seeks to bring a new age in streetwear fashion, where clothing lines don't produce clothes for just aesthetic appeal. Our designs have deeper meanings inspired by the things that we see around us on a daily basis. We speak to political, social, and cultural issues that are important to us and to what we believe should be important to young people around the world. PANYC State produces exclusive apparel in limited quantities because everything we design is original artwork. We encourage everyone to be themselves, to be unique and intelligent, to not accept the status quo, and to always search for the truth.
Tell us how PANYC State, unique name by the way, came to be the name of your brand.
The name, PANYC (pronounced “panic”) State, was originally created to pay homage to the birthplaces of the originators of the idea behind the company. PA = Pennsylvania and NYC obviously = New York City. In addition, at the end of 2007 when we founded the company, the country and the world were whipped into hysteria due to slumping economies, war, and whatever other “evils” that kept people up at night. In our opinion this was all being hyped by the media whose job seemed to be to stir up a state of panic domestically and abroad. Somehow, the name fit in every way, and it is definitely my favorite thing about the company.
Initially, what were influential factors in your decision to create your own t-shirt brand?
PANYC State actually started as a joke between my two brothers and me after an unsuccessful shopping day at the mall. We realized that none of us could find anything that suited our styles, and we kidded that we would be better off just making our own clothes. From that joke sprang PANYC State after we realized we had all the pieces we needed to actually get the job done. That being said, the most influential factor for us, is the support of our fans, customers, friends (obviously including our new friends at Word of Mouth!), and families. Without their support, PANYC State would still be a bunch of sketches in a notebook.
I read in your site bio that you created your brand in 2007, having been in the industry for awhile, what kinds of changes (positive, negative, or both) have you seen in the indie tee scene? Have these changes influenced or affected your brand in any way? If so, please describe how?
The positive thing about the indie tee industry is that a lot of companies and individuals have been given the opportunity to show what they have to offer as the popularity of the style has exploded around the world. I mean everyone wears tees, EVERYONE. That is the sick thing! The tee shirt is an awesome canvas for anyone to express themselves. The explosion of the industry has also led to some of its downfall in my opinion. The market has become saturated with brands, and it is often hard to find where one brand ends and another starts in the retail space. There is an overwhelming amount of brand jacking and a total lack of creativity even by some of the biggest, most established brands out there. Because PANYC State is new, and our style is so unique it has taken extra time for our brand to catch on and for us to build a strong following. There has always been pressure to produce a ton of logo tees and jump on board with what every other brand is doing to gain more fans and exposure. That goes totally against what we stand for at PANYC State. We are unique, and we want our customer- and fan-bases to be unique and stand out from the crowd as well. We are not afraid of hard work, and we are dedicated to our vision so you will never see PANYC State sell out, ever!
Spreading knowledge and relevant political, social and cultural issues are central themes you display in each of your tees; explain their significance and how they inspire your creative process when creating and designing your tees?
Most of the design ideas come from things that inspire me on a daily basis, and I always take time to analyze everything I come across that is presented by the media and our leaders because most things are much deeper than what they seem on the surface. This is consequently how we came up with the idea behind PANYC State in creating designs with hidden meanings and messages. That doesn’t mean that it will be all bad. As a matter of fact, unlike the news, we want to shine a spotlight on the good in the world and inspire our customers, fans, and whoever sees our designs to go out and lend a hand to those doing good and shape the world for the better. Our creative process usually follows this flow: I am inspired by a song, the news, a conversation àThe idea grows and gets written down àI take the idea to the creative department where it gets fleshed out moreàThe creative department creates an awesome graphicà We produce a dope shirt!
Being in the indie tee industry for awhile, you become quite familiar with both obstacles and achievements regarding your brand, what are three pieces of advice, you wish someone had given you, that you would pass along to others interested in creating their own t-shirt brand?
1) Create a budget from day 1 AND follow the budget every single day! 2) Never skimp on quality to save a couple pennies. Our first run ever is a golden example of this. Terrible prints and cheap blanks produced garbage tees. That is a mistake that I regret to this day. 3) You CANNOT do it alone. Without my partners and our team, PANYC State would not exist, period. Even though PANYC State is a pretty new brand, we are gaining some great exposure and momentum through hard work, and I talk to owners of newer brands on a pretty regular basis who are seeking advice, want to collaborate, or just want to talk. I love talking with new and established brand owners. It is great to see where everyone is at, and I am all about trying to prevent someone from making some of the same mistakes we have. If you are a brand owner hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on our Facebook Fan Page (PANYC STATE) or Twitter Account (@PANYC_STATE).
You mentioned a desire to partner up with charitable and philanthropic organizations one day, what types of organizations would you be the most interested in partnering up with?
We really want to partner with organizations that share our values and especially those whose causes relate to our designs, but our main focus, at least to start, will be forming partnerships with organizations that advocate for educational equality and access in the US and around the world. We are currently working on a partnership with a small educational program in Philadelphia called 12+ which provides tools to help students complete high school and look to further their education in college. We would also like to partner with large organizations like WWF.
Ultimately, where do you see your brand in the future?
From a creative standpoint, our goal is to continue to produce tees, hoodies, hats, etc, but we also want to move into producing what we call “Urban Sophisticated” apparel. As we grow and expand we want to dabble in a little bit of everything including jeans, button downs, sweaters, cardigans, sneakers, and basically anything else we can get our hands on to spread our messages. We would also like to place our exclusive apparel in boutiques and small stores around the world that share our vision and values.
What sets PANYC State apart from other indie tee brands?
We create dope designs that stand out aesthetically, but that also have hidden meanings and messages inspired by the world in which we live. Everything down to our logo has a meaning behind it, and we encourage everyone to seek out what we are trying to say with each design and find their own conclusion. (Hint: Our website www.panycstate.com has descriptions for what each design means to us.)
You’re walking in the park and you see something shiny behind a park bench, you investigate and find it’s a magic lamp. You take a chance, rub it and a genie pops out saying he’ll grant three wishes. What would you wish for?
1) Equality and Freedom for all on every possible level. 2) World Peace (cliché, but all this fighting needs to stop!) 3) I am going to be a little selfish here…every sneaker ever created (and I guess a place to store them) in a size 10.5. (Those who know me will understand lol).
What is one piece of clothing you are never seen without?
If you could choose three celebrities to sport your tees, who would they be and why?
Easy. Common, Lupe Fiasco, and Black Thought (Have to show Philly LOVE!). All three are prominent rappers whose music is positive, thought-provoking, and inspires me.
What are some of your favorite indie brands?
Verde Styles, Rich Weirdo, Annie Mulz, Ragnarok Watches, Ugmonk, and the list goes on!
Now for a quick round of “this” or “that,” ya ready?
Pullover Hoodie or Zip-up Hoodie
Starburst or Skittles
This question is hilarious to me because I used to HOARD both when I was little, but, if I had to choose, I’d say Starburst.
Vintage fixer-up or Brand new
I’ve never been a fan of vintage unless it comes to kicks. I pretty much abide by what Kanye and Rhymefest said…Brand New Brand New Brand New!
Hip Hop or Rock
Pat’s or Geno’s
I’m from Philly, and these two are OVERHYPED!! Ishkabibbles on South St. is my spot!
Crew neck or V-neck
Tricky! Honestly it depends on the season…Summer = all V-necks. Other than that you will pretty much exclusively catch me in crews.
Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right
Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White used to be hot, right?
Vinyl or Digital Downloads
Digital Downloads, if I can’t rock it in the car it is useless to me.
Mac or PC
My little brother (Head of PANYC State’s Creative Department) would kill me for saying this, but PC!
Vans or Chucks
I love both brands, but Vans definitely takes the cake in quality and versatility.
Early Bird Gets the Worm or Night Owl on the Prowl
Definitely EARLY BIRD! I like to get up and get work done before anyone else opens their eyes, and I am for sure much less productive after 2 pm lol.
Any shout outs?
I’d like to give a shout out to the PANYC State Team, and our friends at Verde Styles and Elephant Squad.
There you have it peeps, another edition of “Have you heard of…?” featuring PANYC State. Be sure to head over to their store and check out all the dope tees they have to offer, available now!