#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
Whether he’s sharing nudes on Instagram, attempting to sue Atlantic Records for stealing his idea, or collaborating with A$AP TyY, 25-year old KidSuper designer Colm Dillane is always up to something.
Although KidSuper is best known as Colm’s clothing label, he prefers to brand all of his creative ventures under that moniker. KidSuper is a creative collective that designs and makes clothing, paints and does art shows, records music, and makes music videos all out of Colm’s Brooklyn studio.
KidSuper has racked up a passionate following on Instagram, which has led to opportunities like making ski goggles for A$AP TyY and exhibiting his art and clothing at this year’s ComplexCon.
The Insta-fame has also had its downfalls – most notably Atlantic Records listening to his pitch for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s “Drowning” music video, stealing his idea and cutting him out of the process.
We caught up with the designer to chat about what KidSuper means to him, where it all started and where it's going.
Where did KidSuper start?
As sophomores in high school my friends and I started making T-shirts for our friends’ birthdays as a sort of creative outlet. Pretty soon we decided to start a T-shirt brand: Brick Oven T-shirts (BOTS for short).
Once I started doing that I got addicted and it became a part of my daily thought process. When I got to college Danny Fein made me a website for me to sell my clothes. That was the first step towards people that were not my friends buying the clothes it just took off from there.
Where did the name KidSuper come from?
The name came when I was joking around and freestyle rapping on AIM with one of my friends. I love the idea of rappers that name themselves whatever and figured mine would be something to do with a superhero. Like Super Kid. So I sent that to my friend, Demir, and then he wrote back Kid Super and I put them together with no space and really liked the way that looked. KidSuper.
What is KidSuper’s message?
Enthusiasm is contagious. Whatever you do, give it the utmost enthusiasm because people respect that. Even if you’re not the most talented or gifted – if you come with the most energy and the willingness to work 10 times harder than others, people will appreciate that.
When you’re little you believe you can do anything and that everything is possible – you’re young and you’re free. The idea behind KidSuper is to maintain the feeling that you can do anything.
What/who inspires you?
Honestly, I respect anyone doing "it." I know how hard it is to start anything and how hard it is to make it to the next level. If they get there then they deserve it. I also like Salvador Dali’s ability to to do many things at the highest level.
How was ComplexCon and everything that came with it?
It was an unexpected success for me and my brand. It’s hard to compare what KidSuper experienced with other brands’ experiences at ComplexCon. Some people complained that the event itself was too much about reselling and hyped products but that wasn’t what I saw.
When people came and looked at our stuff it was them seeing our products for the first time and learning about KidSuper. For us it was all about gaining new and more fans and I think KidSuper was a breath of fresh air in that scene.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned while starting your own business?
For me the most important thing is having a story that people believe in and can get behind. My story is authentic and I try to embody the KidSuper mantra as much as I can. I called the brand KidSuper so at all moments I have to be a superhero, which provides great motivation.
How helpful has social media been for you?
Instagram has definitely helped my business but I use it differently to other brands. I use KidSuper’s Instagram as an extension of myself personally so people become fans of the brand because they like me and what I do.
Maybe operating like a “brand” would mean we get more followers but then I wouldn’t be receiving messages where people say I’m an inspiration, or I wouldn’t be able to meet up with strangers through Instagram stories.
The best thing that has come from all this is the people I have gotten to meet and the opportunities. Instagram has definitely helped that.
Instagram keeps taking down my naked pictures. I keep posting them though – I don’t really care. They’ve also missed a few, my dick is definitely out on the 'gram. Let me be free! (laughs) I’m joking, it’s not that serious.
You’ve worked with Nike in the past. What was that like and when is the first KidSuper sneaker coming?
The first time I worked with Nike I was put on by a friend who works there. They invited a bunch of artists in to draw their interpretation of a Nike shoe. But instead of just drawing a shoe I made one from scratch and filmed a video on how to make a Nike LunarEpic. Basically, I went in there thinking “I want my own Nike shoe in the future, so I’ve got to blow them out of the water.”
I only got paid around $300 for that but my main goal was to be memorable so that when they want to design a crazy shoe, they’ll call me.
The closest I got to getting my own Nike shoe was when I was invited to customize a blank Presto in NYC. I made it pink but I’m still waiting for that official collab.
I think Nike really needs to rethink how it does its collaborations. They wait too long until someone has “made it.” If they gave me a collaboration soon, I’ll love them for it and will stay loyal to them but if they wait until I’ve made it I’ll be collabing with New Balance and adidas already. Also – if a sneaker looks good people will buy it, regardless of who designed it. C’mon Nike, put me on! (laughs)
How do you continue to stay original and how important is that to you?
It's a huge part of my identity. If you want a blank, normal T-shirt - go to Old Navy, H&M or ZARA because they’re doing it better than I ever could. But if you want something special, if you want something hand drawn or out of the box come to KidSuper.
KidSuper is not the place for normal – it’s not a sales-driven business. I make stuff that I would wear, I make statement pieces and things that display my artistry.
Has anyone ever stolen your idea? What happened?
For sure. Did you ever see A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie's “Drowning” music video? Basically Atlantic Records stole my idea for his music video.
What I did was I had the idea: A Boogie playing piano under water. I wanted to pitch the idea but no one responded so I just went and shot it with a toy piano and a GoPro at a friend’s pool.
I put it on my Instagram and woke up the next day to an email from the Senior Director of Marketing at Atlantic Records saying they loved the clip. I sent it to them and they shared it to A Boogie’s Facebook. Then they asked for a treatment but after they got it, I never heard anything from them again.
Then six months later my music video came out and I didn’t work on it. Now we’re in the process of checking out what our legal options are but they completely robbed me.
Missed opportunities because someone stole from you is better than missed opportunities because you just didn’t do it. I have a million ideas and someone stealing one shows that my ideas are good.
What was your favorite thing about collaborating with A$AP TyY?
This whole collaboration came about because I worked with Beast Coast back in 2014. So word of mouth helped me connect with A$AP TyY, showing me how important connections and networking is.
The funny thing about A$AP TyY is that he wears ski goggles to ATV but has never been skiing before. So after we had collaborated on the ski goggles above, I called him, picked him up the next day and took him skiing. And that was a beautiful collaboration.
Not only did we make a piece, but I got him to do something he has never done before, something he really appreciated too. It was bigger than just a pair of goggles, which is why it’s so special.
How has being in NYC helped you?
I couldn’t have done what I'm doing if I wasn’t in NYC. If I didn’t move back here when I was twelve I'd 1 billion percent not be doing this. NYC is a city of ambition and desires; no one moves here to chill, they move here to make their dreams come true.
When I first moved here I was so mad at my parents. I loved Wisconsin because you could just run out into the forest and sleep over at your friend’s house. That freedom was gone in NYC but it has an edge in that all the people are super competitive and ambitious and want to be the next big thing. So I combined the freedom from Wisconsin with the mentality here to operate under the KidSuper brand, which I think I’ve done up to this point.
Where do you see KidSuper in the future?
The HQ in Brooklyn is turfed for soccer, has a recording studio in the basement and I want to have an artist-in-residence on the top floor. If I can get that mix of creativity and art forms to work in Brooklyn, I’d love to bring it to different cities.
In Los Angeles I could have a dance studio or somewhere to shoot films, in Vancouver the KidSuper studio could be an ice hockey rink.
I also see my future in media, maybe a TV show...
Next. meet Giana, the 8-year old artist on her way to social media stardom.