Conversation With Colm Dillane of KidSuper

Conversation With Colm Dillane of KidSuper

Ahead of the release of his third collection in collaboration with PUMA, we were able to speak with Colm Dillane, founder of KidSuper about his creative process, how the brand got its start, and why taking risks can have a huge payoff.


What drove you to start the brand?

I moved a lot as a kid but I moved back to New York when I was 12. When I was in high school in New York City, everybody was kind of roasting each other about what they were wearing. Everyone was asking, “Why don't you have Supreme or 10Deep or blah blah blah…and why are you wearing the same shoes everyday?” So I was like, OK, what is this all about? Everyone was buying clothing to be cool and I thought, I could probably make some of this stuff. So I started making T-shirts for people's birthdays or gifts. Then, me and a group of friends in high school got together and were like, “We're about to create the biggest brand in the world.” We dropped 3 T-shirts in our high school cafeteria. That got the brand started and then KidSuper came when I was in college.


Do you feel like a lot of your background informed your overall creative process?

I think what is cool about this being my story is I never had any expectations or arrogance or entitlement because I was really inventing it myself. I started so young as a full time hobby. There wasn't this business plan and stuff like that. So when success did come, I was so overjoyed. And when failures came, I was very much expecting them to come. So I never stopped. In terms of how I work on things now, it’s including a lot of bucket list things I wanted to do as a kid in my work. At my fashion company, as you've seen throughout the KidSuper world, there've been some hilarious projects and bucket list things for me, I think.


I would assume there's all these different sources of inspiration that come to you. Is there anything that you weren't expecting to be a source of inspiration, but it became one?

It's a good question. I think that one of the things I really, really wasn't expecting is the path that KidSuper has taken to go a little bit high-end and do these Paris Fashion Weeks and that world accepting me for my kind of crazy ideas or actually promoting me or supporting my crazy ideas. So that has been a source of inspiration in its own right.

As a kid, I really wasn't the ‘high fashion kid’ and I did not understand fashion shows at all. It's funny because when I was younger, I was like, “I don't understand. No one can wear any of these clothes. Why would you put this on a fashion show?” And now, I'm putting stuff that you can't wear on fashion shows. So that's a pretty good flip. It's all about showcasing your creativity and the brand identity. I remember being a kid and someone telling me that and me being like, “shut up.” So that’s a pretty cool change.

I have always had a good sense of humor towards this whole business and life in general, which I think has been a constant source of inspiration. Just not taking it all too seriously. And since I don't take it too seriously, I'm more able to take risks mentally. A lot of the stuff that I've done in fashion has been somewhat risky.

I think again, my mentality that started when I was a kid informed a lot of those decisions. I often think if it's a bad financial decision or a risky decision, it's like, “Colm, you didn't get into this business to be a billionaire. You got into this business because you really enjoyed making stuff. Let's keep that ethos of it.”


What's been the most fun risk for you to take? Looking back, maybe you were really nervous, but in the end it worked out and it was actually kind of fun.

Oh I have a million of those. But one great one that I think is very meaningful and impactful for the KidSuper story is that I got rejected twice from Paris Fashion Week and then I finally got accepted to be on the calendar, and COVID hit. Everyone was freaking out about what they're going to do and I thought, thank God COVID hit because I don't think I financially could have done another fashion show. But I decided to do this stop motion fashion show where all the models were dolls and all the clothes were miniature. I thought I was going to get kicked out of Paris Fashion Week because the clothes were unwearable. It wasn't actually anything real.

It ended up becoming this big hit within the fashion industry and the LVMH Prize reached out and said you should apply and Dover Street Market emailed me. It was cool where it was a super risk, I thought I was 100% going to get kicked out, and it ended up becoming one of my more successful decisions. Since I did that, it paved the way for KidSuper in the fashion shows because that was the one that got the most press and the most support. Now being crazy or outside the box thinking is at the heart and DNA of KidSuper.


This is now your third collection with Puma. Did you approach this one any differently from your other two?

I didn't want to change it up too much from my first two collections. I love the soccer inspiration because that was the main thing me and PUMA connected on. It's funny because when people ask what it’s like working with these big corporations, they think it must suck your creativity. There are limitations for sure with working with a big company, but the people behind PUMA have been pretty amazing and awesome and like taking risks, so that's great. Obviously, sometimes we're fighting over deadlines and what I'm allowed and not allowed to do and bringing back old silhouettes and all that stuff. But overall, they've been quite fun. The cool thing is, my ideas are what they're wanting to collaborate with me on. I've done a lot of silly, crazy things that have worked. So now it's like you got to let him do the silly crazy stuff!


Are there any moments that stick out that solidifies Puma as a great creative partner for you?

So for our first collection, I responded to them for marketing and said I always wanted to do a cartoon. They said it doesn't really make sense, the clothes are going to be drawn, it won't look too much like the product. COVID hits and they're like, “Please do a cartoon!”

They thought my cartoon was going to be a minute long little commercial, and I ended up submitting them a 30 minute pilot episode for a cartoon series called “Scram!”. It was awesome that they were flexible. Obviously COVID happened which helped move the cartoon idea forward, but now they want a second episode. That's the kind of stuff that I think is super exciting when you work with a partner where you can make whatever you're doing now last longer or be the building blocks for something else. I could have spent the money and throw a big party and had a musician perform, but that's in and out. Now, we have this cartoon series.


What was specifically the inspiration for this collection with Puma?

It always starts with soccer for me, and they sometimes don't want it to be so soccer focused. It's funny because when you're working with those brands, they want to KidSuper-ify PUMA, and I want to PUMA-ify KidSuper. So they say, “Let's put embroidery and art everywhere!” And I say, “Well, let's make this sporty!” It's very funny when you try to get the balance. The inspiration is always soccer for me for these collections, but we’ll see, I'm always picking crazy ideas.


The latest Puma x KidSuper collection will be available at Concepts Boston, and Saturday, April 13th.