In the last half-decade, the worlds of forward-thinking streetwear and home decor have started to bump up against each other with newfound zest. The highly influential designer and architect Virgil Abloh was tapped for an IKEA collaboration in 2017, and two years later, the legendary label Supreme teamed up with Knoll to produce a limited-edition Wassily chair. California furniture manufacturer Modernica has steadily racked up collaborations with well-known labels like The Hundreds and Brain Dead as well as graffiti artists like Futura and Stash. Younger and emerging talent has entered the fray too. Take Phil Panza, a 26-year-old artist and designer based in New York.
For Phil, moving into the home goods space felt like a natural progression. He started out making graphic-driven rugs. Then came his most ambitious piece to date: a hulking New York Yankees cap that’s part accent chair and part art object. Whether it’s the rugs or the quasi-furniture, all of his work feels wholly born from a razor-sharp streetwear sensibility.
Phil is emblematic of the multidisciplinary and increasingly unbounded world of contemporary streetwear. Since graduating from Columbus College of Art & Design in 2017, where he majored in fashion, the native New Yorker has built a career that seamlessly revolves through the worlds of jewelry, fashion, and interior design. His industry experience also includes a brief stint at 18 East, a nascent menswear brand beloved for its elevated streetwear-influenced clothes. Phil’s time there clearly left an impression. “I saw what is capable within a small, close-knit crew to create,” he says. “It really inspired and pushed me to do more things.”
The designer left in 2019, after helping the brand open its vibey Nolita storefront, to focus on his own practice, even if he wasn’t exactly sure what that was just yet. “I was really looking to get more into interiors,” Phil adds. “But I don’t have a background in woodworking or building furniture. I thought the best way of starting off could be tapestry or rugs.” It felt like a natural leap for him: Working with textiles was one of the things about fashion that excited him the most, and he figured he could carry that passion into this next phase. Plus, he notes, “it didn’t take too much machinery to create.” So, Phil bought a tufting gun (a practice that was already trending up) and got to work, eventually moving to Portugal to focus on this new craft. He lived and worked there throughout the pandemic until returning to New York this past spring.
His earliest rugs featured the type of in-the-know imagery you see on the mood board accounts that dominate street culture’s corner of Instagram. One features a BMW M3 (a favorite car of tastemaker-musicians Tyler, the Creator, and Frank Ocean), and another a particularly hyped-up sneaker (Nike’s Chunky Dunky shoe). Over time, Phil’s work grew more ambitious in scope and scale. He made an eight-foot, multi-piece skeleton rug that you could move around and rearrange to interact with the other furniture in a room. Another piece was a BMW dashboard outfitted with fluffy dice.