When Joe Perez was young, he and his friends would go to a derelict masonic temple in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. The 75-year-old, unfinished building was a sanctuary for street kids, skaters, and graffiti artists in the city. “It was really cool because it was this historic structure but the interior had all this graffiti,” says Perez, a creative/art director and former member of Kanye West’s creative company Donda. “You can tell everyone left their mark and put their artwork there.”
Years later, that same masonic temple has inspired Perez’s clothing brand Mason, which he’s launching this month. “The temple was a place where the past and present converged through art and lifestyle; the same sentiment which permeates every stitch of Mason,” he explains.
Perez served as an art director at Donda for seven years. During that time he created album/single covers and logos, he also worked on West’s The Life of Pablo and Yeezus merch and Pusha T’s King Push Tour merch. But he was limited in what he could design. “There was a lot of inspiration from my youth that I wasn’t really able to interject into the art I was creating,” he says. “I was always bringing someone else’s vision to life. I loved the process of creating merch and I always thought creating clothes is a statement, so I figured it was the right time for me to do my own line.”
The first Mason collection, titled “Resurrection,” is rooted in Perez’s interests in punk, skate, metal, and hip-hop. Many of the graphics, including a serpent and hanging skeleton, were inspired by a book of rituals from the 1800s that Perez found at the Fleet Library at Rhode Island School of Design. A few pieces are also emblazoned with a Mason logo that resembles a fire that was designed by illustrator/graphic artist Mark Riddick, as well as a few hidden messages such as quotes from Perez’s favorite author, Latin text around symbols, and more. “I always like to build out a bigger narrative,” he says. “Everything should have meaning.”
Right now, the brand is mostly comprised of T-shirts, sweaters, accessories, and jackets—all constructed by Kolby Harwood and Kimberly Tong at Noble and Ready. But Perez wants to expand Mason to include other ready-to-wear pieces, such as denim, and is currently in talks with select boutiques to carry the brand in-stores. From Aug. 10 to Aug. 13, he’s opening a pop-up shop in L.A., with plans to set up temporary stores in New York City and Providence later in the year. The first collection will be available online starting Aug. 14.
“I want to educate people about the appropriation of metal culture in rap,” he says. “I feel like the Yeezus merch was the best appropriation of metal because it made the most sense. Yeezus was Kanye’s rock album. But I want to bring that into a new light because I feel like everybody has taken some of it, but no one’s really creating anything that feels authentic, that’s new from that era. I’m excited and curious to see how [Mason] will be digested.”
8649 West Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA
Aug. 10-Aug. 13
Opening night Aug. 10 at 8pm