Big news for Kidsuper’s Colm Dillane. As Louis Vuitton gears up for its next menswear show, set to take place January 19 during Paris Fashion Week, the house has recruited the New York-based designer to help design its AW23 collection.
With Louis Vuitton yet to announce who will replace the late Virgil Abloh as the house’s artistic director, a creative collective has been put in place to work alongside Louis Vuitton’s internal design team. Stylist and ‘Dazed’ editor-in-chief, Ib Kamara, and filmmakers Olivier and Michel Gondry (who’ve worked with the likes of Daft Punk and Björk) join Dillane in curating next week’s spectacle, where it is rumoured Rosalia is due to perform.
To get to know more about Dillane, revisit our interview with the designer from last December.
“If I could have any superpower, it’d be speed. I’m not trying to do too much. See, that’s why Superman sucks, because he’s just too good at everything,” says Colm Dillane as we chat over Zoom. “The best superpowers or heroes are pretty flawed.” Dillane is the founder and creative director of KidSuper, the Brooklyn-based brand pegged for his fantasy rapper name. At its helm, Dillane’s own spirit from day-to-day is what makes the American label so sui generis – a powerhouse in its own right. The 30-year-old designer had just had his wisdom teeth removed as we speak: “I’m as honest as I’ve ever been,” he chuckles. “You can really ask the hard hitting questions, here.”
KidSuper is an embodiment of Dillane’s inner child: “He is just me. He’s mischievous and always thinking outside the box, trying to do different things, trying to change or push what people think and what even I think is possible.” It’s truly a trying feat for most of us to hold onto that child-like whimsy and wonderment, but evidently that’s never been the case for Dillane. That doesn’t mean he’s lacking in maturity though, he’s simply managed to maintain the same adventurous and playful tenor that so many of us abandoned before we were even out of high school. But Dillane? He pulled up to his own birthday party in a hot pink Ferrari dressed as Paris Hilton – with the little dog and all. “I just don’t really understand why people let go of that childlike spirit – well, it seems “child-like” to everyone else but to me it’s just the best way of living life,” he explains. “I tried really hard not to lose it – and to be safe wasn’t part of that – I mean, how can someone grow up and be so irrational against fun?”
So, looking at the world with childish wonder as if for the very first time, he churned out KidSuper, a label that invites you to live in the echoes of youth that astonishingly survived adolescence. “KidSuper captures that mentality of when you tie a towel around your neck as a little kid and think of it as a cape and you believe you can actually fly.”
His SS23 collection, Breathing Life Into the Inanimate, was an ambitious yet clever conceptual project that transferred Dillane’s subversive, effervescent artworks onto sartorially swell double-breasted suits, twin sweat-sets, fairytale ball gowns and billowing trenches. The narratively rich designs were served up via a live-action auction, where audience members bid on the original on-canvas compositions just as the matching garments crossed the catwalk. Unlike an actual bidding war, however, it was situated at the polar end of seriousness, rife with tongue-in-cheek sentiments. Even as the fashion show was inevitably ephemeral, KidSuper went beyond, with attendees taking a slice of the brand home with them,
Since Shalom Harlow’s Alexander McQueen spray-on dress moment in ’98, and when Hussein Chalayan transformed dining room furniture into fashion at the turn of the century, true fashion spectacles have been fair and few, says Dillane. The “wow” factor has dissipated into the past and has been replaced by celebrity status and clout – which in Dillane’s words, “sucks”. But, the young designer’s abstract spring presentation once again looked at clothing as an art form.
It was rather refreshing, but Dillane says that the real reason he began to break away from the mould was to get more out of his money. “I was spending all the money that I had on these fashion shows. I couldn’t Uber back from my first one because my credit card had been maxed out,” he says. “My first show – A Bull in a China Shop – was quite bare, straightforward and conventional. I spent so much on it but still didn’t get accepted to Paris Fashion Week. I applied three more times before I was.” This compelled him to think, “Fuck what everyone else is doing because they clearly don’t care. I should be knocking things off my bucket list and trying to do the shit that I really want. If I’m gonna spend all the money I have on these shows, I better be doing something amazing.” So when the 2020 pandemic came crashing, all the conventions that had failed Dillane so far were no longer so superior. In fact, there were hardly any rules at all. Ergo, the auction was born.
For his upcoming AW23 show in Paris, he reveals that he’ll be hosting a never-before-seen catwalk comedy show. “Comedians will walk out and tell jokes while wearing the clothes,” he explains. “We’ll see how it goes, it could fully bomb. But that’s also what’s cool about some of the fashion shows I do, they’re risky. But I liked the idea of creating something that can last and be repeated and brought back.” Dillane adds, “At KidSuper we’re allowed to try and to fail and it doesn’t even matter if we succeed because we’re trying. That’s part of the ethos of the brand.” He mustered a visual interpretation of this at his SS21 Paris Fashion Week debut show and claymation catwalk, entitled Everything’s Fake Until It’s Real, printing his Paris Fashion Week rejection letters onto an effervescent shift dress, windbreakers and more. If you flick through his Instagram, you’ll see a series of stop motion videos too. One shows the KidSuper Kissing Bags on what appears to be the Hollywood hills getting hot and heavy down a lovers lane. “What I love about claymation is that it is the truest art form that represents what KidSuper is,” Dillane says. And he does it all himself from pressing enter on the keyboard to editing it on Dragonframe and hopes one day to make a feature film. “With stop motion, you take inanimate objects and you give them life. You can take anything, any object, any piece of material, and give it joy, spirit, soul, love, life, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. That is what I want KidSuper to be, that little spark in every moment – whether it’s your outfit, your personality or your day.”
Since his debut in 2011, Dillane has managed to situate himself and his brand on the cusp of what has traditionally defined high fashion; but in a good way, with the same ubiquitous craftsmanship, quality and clout, but sans the snobbery. KidSuper is on the inside – but is breaking down barriers with every endeavour.
In his formative years, Dillane was always on the move, migrating from New York to Chicago, back to New York, then to Mexico, Wisconsin and back to New York again, all before the age of 12. “Because I thought I was gonna move every year, I would say, ‘Let’s make the most of it!’ he recalls. “I applied that mindset to everything I did – just trying to make the most of every moment.” This conviction, too, reverberates through KidSuper’s collections ceaselessly.
Between moves, Dillane and his mother shared a special after-school activity wherein the pair would have creative battles with paint and pencils galore. This eventually lent itself to the T-shirts and hoodies he would make in high school. But while crafting clothing proved to be the boy’s passion, he wasn’t much of a dresser himself. “I was always more excited about making an outfit than buying one. I was painting my own T-shirts and shoes and wearing my mom’s pink pants because I was super small or buying baggy togs from Walmart in Wisconsin,” he says. “I was always dressed weird.”
In 2021, Dillane became the Karl Lagerfeld Special Jury winner at the LVMH Prize. 2022 saw him nominated for the CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year award and named in the Hypebeast 100 as well as the Vogue Business 100 Innovators. “When it rains, it pours a little bit,” he laughs. “I wasn’t getting any of these accolades and awards, or even press, a couple of years ago. Now it all kind of came at once. It kind of feels like they’re making up for the years that they didn’t give it to me.
“But your life doesn’t change that much with the press,” he adds, “You’d think, ‘Oh, wow, that person’s life must have changed overnight’ or something, but life just continues. I’m still just as hard working and as ambitious as I ever was – maybe even more now because there’s more opportunities. But it’s very cool to be recognised for what I’ve done, without ever changing my style. I have always been very true to the KidSuper spirit and very true to myself; I didn’t have to change that just to be recognised – it just took a long time.” He continues, “With every award, I don’t want to be viewed as someone that doesn’t deserve it. I want to always be the underdog – the people’s champ.” Dillane is finally receiving the approval from fashion sovereigns. “That really validated everything I was doing and turned it from, ‘Oh, Colm’s a funny guy doing weird shit’” to ‘Oh wow, Colm is potentially a genius.’” He chuckles at the notion that he might be a genius, but admittedly, he doesn’t deny it. After all, Dillane specialised in mathematics as a high school sophomore and then went on to major in the subject in college – he’s undoubtedly precocious, metamorphosing with ease from a maths major to a profound, multifaceted personality. He says, “I don’t think there’s many things I can’t do.”
KidSuper is often inspired by New York and the clothing worn by its everyday inhabitants, and in addition to the threads that the designer wants to wear out himself, Dillane’s looks are entirely uninhibited. “Us designers, we’re making clothing. We’re not chained up and we’re not doing heart surgery; there’s space to fuck around!” he declares.
“I like seeing my heroes wear KidSuper too; like Jay-Z, Seth Rogan, Héctor Ballerín, etc.” Lewis Hamilton has sported KidSuper as well, but while Dillane hasn’t actually met the F1 superstar, “I assume that when we do talk, we’ll be best friends,” he says.
“We need Ronaldinho to wear it too,” he continues, naming his absolute favourite footballer. “It’s been too long. I should just find his address and send him clothes every day for the next year!” Dillane admits that he’s been posting about Ronaldinho on his Instagram for years, to an almost awkward point, drawing birthday tributes and retirement acknowledgements – even making T-shirts when the athlete was arrested in Paraguay. “In 2017 I just randomly DM’d him, saying “I love you more than you know”, or something really ridiculous,” he laughs. Dillane could never have imagined that he would awake one morning only a few weeks ago, to a notification that Ronaldinho had followed him. “It was surreal,” he says.
A few weeks ago KidSuper unveiled an otherworldly collaboration with Louis Vuitton for its 200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries exhibition, a Coca-Cola Creations Dreamworld collab and Thom Cruiz campaign for a KidSuper x Suicoke link-up. Plus, in a gesture he never foresaw, Dillane reveals that certain leading fashion brands have reached out to him with regard to open creative direction roles. For the fantastical future of fun that Dillane most definitely has in store, he also reveals that a KidSuper Creative Factory will be opening in Williamsburg, NY, in the new year. The 10,000 square-foot space will house a KidSuper store, a rooftop football field, a café, gallery, cinema and live performance stage, a recording studio, media centre, plastic recycling factory and creative film-making room. The KidSuper offices, storage, samples and workspaces will be there too. Dillane will also have his own private office, painting studio and apartment in the multifaceted warehouse and maybe even an “innovation lab” where he goes full Edna Mode and makes science-y garms that “feel like superhero clothing”. Dillane explains that he’s “always loved these physical spaces that bring people in to me, to congregate, discuss and potentially collaborate.” When he launched the brand in college he even converted his dorm room into a live-in store and soon after moved into the back of a shop in Brooklyn and called all his friends to move into the two top floors. “Physical spaces are very important to curate and cultivate culture.” He adds, “I’ve always had buildings or spaces that were too big or bigger than I was at the moment so I could grow into them. This current building is definitely bigger than I am successful, but hopefully I will grow into it.”
Dillane concludes, “I’m trying to push as much of the creative stuff as possible, to see how far I can take this; if I can do films, TV, art exhibitions, Red Bull, SpaceX – as big as possible – et cetera. What is so great about KidSuper is that it’s not just a clothing brand, it’s a state of mind. It’s a sense of being, like a guru or a life path or whatever.” He adds, “However I do it, I just want to keep the KidSuper spirit alive.”
Photography courtesy of KidSuper.