Back in July, the KidSuper founder Colm Dillane decided to make a raft from plastic barrels in a Home Depot parking lot and set sail on the Hudson River. Dillane and his fellow KidSuper crewmembers Adham Foda, Safa Gaw, and Eric Madonna hopped on the raft in New Jersey and took their chances. "We couldn't test it—if it broke, it broke," Dillane says. And sure, they could all swim, "but no one wanted to go in that water." In the end, before they set off, someone with a boat offered to help tow in case anything happened.
The resulting footage, as seen on Instagram, is glorious and triumphant. In it, the four men, dressed in clothes from KidSuper’s Spring 2022 collection What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?, raise their oars with the Statue of Liberty's own torch aloft behind them. The adventure felt whimsical and adventurous, backed by a go-hard-or-go-home ethos—and it felt uniquely and quintessentially KidSuper, a brand defined by risk-taking and moving forward, according to Dillane. This is, after all, a label originally inspired by the idea of a superhero. "Sometimes it’s like, should I do it, should I not; dude, you called the brand KidSuper, you got to do it!" he says.
The roots of this carpe diem attitude, infused into his designs and other creative projects, can be traced back to a peripatetic childhood. Born in New York City, Dillane spent much of his childhood moving through Chicago, Mexico, and Wisconsin with his parents. As a kid, he would tell his friends, "We got to make the most of things, because I don't know if I'm going to be here tomorrow!"
Moving back to New York at the age of twelve challenged his understanding of teenage hierarchy after his years in Middle America. He enrolled at Brooklyn Tech and realized that what propelled kids to the top of the social rankings was fashion. It baffled him. "I was like, 'Why do clothes make you cool? It should be your personality, because you can always buy cool clothes.'"
In defiance of this system, he started making his own clothes, inspired by his mother, an artist, who taught him to draw. Later, when he headed off to NYU for college to study mathematics, he started creating clothing again, this time under the KidSuper moniker. As in high school, it was less of a deliberate plot to achieve commercial dominance and more a project devoted to creative exploration. "It wasn't like a make-it-or-break-it thing," he says. "It was like, this is what I like doing, let's run with it."
In 2013, he decamped to a store and workspace in South Williamsburg, where he convinced a few friends to move in as well. It was there KidSuper had the chance to become what it is today: not just a fashion label, but more of a creative studio where part of the output happens to be clothing.
Indeed, the creative process at KidSuper may be a little different from labels that are strictly about fashion. Dillane can sew, but he prefers to use Photoshop and design on the computer. He often paints the artwork for the pieces and then returns to the computer to create mockups. If the designs aren't being made in-house, they get sent off for production. The process can involve a bit of back-and-forth. The result: an æsthetic rooted in painterly vignettes and a color palette that spans the worlds of both Wong Kar-Wai and Wes Anderson.
Little wonder his pieces have caught the eye of the fashion world. After two shows off-schedule at Paris Fashion Week, he got his first official invite in March 2020 to present his next collection that June. But the pandemic had just started, and he decided to go digital. "I love the idea of virtual because you can do anything," he says. He took the opportunity to experiment and created a claymation runway show filled with social luminaries such as Steven Hawking, Naomi Campbell, and Bernie Sanders, all wearing plasticine versions of KidSuper clothes down his miniature runway. Now he’s been nominated for the LVMH Prize. "I've come from such an outsider's perspective," says Dillane. "[The nomination is] more meaningful for me than people think because it's like a final acceptance from the real fashion world."
Fashion, for Dillane, has always served as a way for him to meet people. That sense of community and connection continues to play a defining role in KidSuper today. Many people he works and collaborates with are friends, and even his parents modeled in his first show in Paris. In the works right now, behind his current studio, is the next KidSuper site: an entire building he hopes to turn into a community center. With KidSuper, he says, he always wanted to create "a cultural thing that pushed people forward and inspired and facilitated them. Because that was what I was looking for when I was fifteen: someone to help me dream about the world."