From Paris To Seoul, One Slice At A Time
words by iqmall
images by panic pizza club
Pizza is delicious, customisable, portable, and inexpensive. The perfect food for a get-together. Gooey cheese, baked to crispy perfection and smothered lightly with a tomato base. Slice it 4-ways, 8-ways or 16-ways (if you have to). Enjoyable all the same. But those moments of joy are fleeting. When the last piece gets eaten, that’s when the fun ends. You’re reaching for another only to realize that there’s none. Panic sets in.
“Wow, that’s quick. I should’ve enjoyed that one too”
Those are the words of Jef, co-founder of Parisian but Seoul-based brand, Panic Pizza Club. A pizza aficionado who finds emotional comfort within the confines of that disc of dough founded the brand together with Woonbi in 2018. In celebration or within the middle of distress, a pizza is never too far away from Jef. It was on his way home from a dinner in Paris when he discussed with Woonbi about his inner turmoil that ate away at him after the last slice of pizza was consumed.
It was a great time (don’t get him wrong) but the epiphany that hit him, and eventually birthed the brand, was more bittersweet than anything else. “Did the night have to end?”, he retrospectively quizzed himself. Jef wanted to preserve the chipper atmosphere of a group of friends bantering about over pizza. A warmth and comfort that drops all social barriers. To the point where taking the last slice is no longer a social taboo. It also struck to him that it was a metaphor for cherishing every moment since you’ll never know when it’s gone. He wanted to immortalise those feelings into a brand.
Jef is French, born and raised. Having contracted the hip-hop bug from his cousins in his formative years, mixed with his natural affinity for fashion, led him into the glamorous world of fashion. Six years with Colette and a stint with Saint Laurent later, he was at a standstill in life. He’s learned from the best but it was high time for a change. The bright lights and heights of the industry eroded him to a point where he felt like he wasn’t himself anymore. His passion project, ifitsus, became more prominent and he finally had the time to explore the world.
Having grown up with anime, his inquisitive nature led him down the rabbit hole of East Asian media, cycling through every drama or variety show. While his social circle has attributed greatly to his knowledge of Japan, he didn’t know much about South Korea outside the silver screen. As a personal challenge and leap of faith, he travelled there alone. Jef is a beacon of positivity and champions comradery. A magnet of good vibes, he slowly built a great relationship with Grafflex, a highly regarded South Korean multi-disciplinary artist. With each visit, he forged longer-lasting friendships and he finally decided to book a one-way ticket to Seoul. His new-found family in South Korea embraced and supported his ideas, pushing him to improve himself.
“Yeah, even when we’re full, we’ll always find space for pizza”
Putting all of that into Panic Pizza Club, Jef and Woonbi built a whole universe around the brand. Leaving no detail untouched. Their graphics take inspiration from their everyday lives, be it art, music or fashion. A reflection of themselves so to speak. And, borrowing the blueprint of a real club, their insignias and ethos echo the same sentiment. They’re building a group you’d want to be a part of, something fun, something you would be proud of. And to an extent, that’s where their membership system comes into play.
Divided into three tiers: platinum, gold, and silver — each having its own set of benefits. Platinum is reserved for the founders of the brand whilst Gold tier members are hand-picked people who have been supporting the brand since day one. As well as people who could propel the brand forward. And silver members are normal customers.
The kicker? Gold members receive a physical gold card that entitles them to…you guessed it, more pizza. That’s what it’s all about, nothing too serious. Just a little bit of fun. You can tell that from their products that are unrelated to fashion. A pastrami jigsaw puzzle to mimic a pizza assembly process and a visor hat, the quintessential headwear for any pizza maker to name a few.
“Wearing Panic Pizza Club might be different for everyone but I hope they feel like they got a fam behind them. You are not alone. For me, I feel like whenever I’m wearing PPC, I’m not alone, I’m a member of something bigger than me. I’m a part and a member of a club. There are so many reasons to wear a t-shirt. But I hope when people see someone with a PPC shirt they will think that this guy is part of something and has something to say!”
For Woonbi and Jef, the community is of paramount importance. Living in this digital age, you could easily fall into the trap of loneliness. They hope that PPC could serve as a way out for them. With every pop-up they host, they welcome more and more members into their club. Building a community of like-minded creatives with the long-term goal of having everyone come together in the name of Panic Pizza Club.
A burgeoning brand, they’ve kept things relatively low-key thus far but with their appearance at this year’s Culture Cartel Con 2019, they’re poised to take over. One pizza slice at a time.