Interview: The Superhuman Creativity of KidSuper
The cape is on, and the gloves are off, Brooklyn’s KidSuper is on a mission to destroy the status-quo. Armed with his latest PUMA collection (feat. a pencil-holster equipped PUMA Suede), Colm Dillane and his flamboyant entourage continue to fire death-or-glory straight from the hip. Fresh off his LVMH nomination, we caught up with KidSuper to discuss the mind-melting resale industry, the Héctor Bellerín cleat collaboration, and his omnipresent arch-nemesis: unoriginality.
Congratulations on your latest PUMA collection! Can you tell us how it all came together?
Right before I signed with PUMA, I had done some little one-off stuff with Nike and adidas. And I was like, ‘I think we’re getting to the level where we deserve our own shoe’.
Obviously, when you do Nike or any of these other brands, it’s really about what they have in their silhouette arsenal, right? No matter how good of a designer you are, if you get one of these popular silhouettes, it’s going to be a hit. So I was like, ‘Man, let’s see what PUMA will allow me to do’. And what was cool with PUMA, they really let me do whatever I wanted. So, a lot of the stuff that we designed was fully custom original shoes.
We did the Suede, which was actually our least original shoe. But I also thought it was cool because the Suede does have a cool history. But obviously, we wanted to be as original as we could be, with the colour, and the toe, and the laces, and the pencil holder.
You wouldn’t cash-in on a silhouette like the Dunk?
It’s not that I wouldn’t want a KidSuper Dunk, I just don’t think a lot of Dunk collaborations should be praised so much. But people are getting ‘best sneaker of the year’ for literally colour switching. Even if they gave you an Air Jordan or whatever that’s popular right now, and they’re like, ‘Hey, do you want to pick colours?’ You’d probably come up with something cool. There’s no ugly colour scheme really, if it’s unique.
You can’t really mess-up an Air Jordan or Dunk…
And even if you do fuck it up, there’s something cool about a fucked-up colourway, so you can’t even fuck that up. None of these are completely original shoe designs. You’ll always see ‘The Top 10 Sneakers of the Year’ and it’s the same every year; it’s the same silhouettes.
What were you wearing growing up?
I was a soccer player. So when I was a child, you could only catch me in indoor soccer shoes. Then I went to high school in New York City, in Brooklyn, and you couldn’t wear the same shoes two days in a row, or you’d just get absolutely obliterated. Which is pretty hilarious. So I had five pairs of shoes and I would just alternate. So you would never catch me wearing them twice in a row.
What kind of sneakers were they?
I wasn’t the hype beast type of guy, I would wear really weird outside-the-box shoes that people didn’t really have but were cool to me. But my school was like, everyone wanted the ‘Tiffany’ Dunks. Reselling was actually a huge business for a lot of the kids that went to my high school. That’s what they did for money: buying and selling sneakers.
Which has only become a bigger and bigger industry.
Now you can be a fucking millionaire off it. Actually, what’s really funny is, I went back to my high school and I wanted to do a collaboration. We were going to do a ‘Shark Tank’ kind of thing where all the students were going to pitch me ideas. And whoever had the best idea, I was going to give the $20,000 we raised.
I was going to be Mark Cuban of my high school. While I was there, they were like, ‘you should go to the entrepreneur club, they probably have some ideas for this whole project’. So I went there, and one of the kids was a sneaker reseller, and he had his own house. He’s in high school, he had his own house, a BMW, and over 100 employees. He would get all these little kids that were in high school to wait in line for him. He had a little friend that was super enthusiastic about KidSuper. I ended up giving him my car. He didn’t even have a license, it was awesome. But yeah, the sneaker reselling world, it’s super big. I just wasn’t so into it, because the money determined how ‘cool’ you were. I was always against that, and I was just always about making my own stuff. A lot of my shoes in high school were hand-painted and stuff, which sounds like I’m an emo dude, but it wasn’t like that.
KidSuper’s always been about making your own product. How does working with such a big brand change that creative process?
Everyone asks me this question and, I think back in the day, companies didn’t give you so much creative control. But nowadays, having an unhappy creative working with a brand is just such negative press.
It’s in the brand’s best interest to have me happy nowadays. So it was funny, I don’t know if you saw that J. Cole wore the KidSuper puffer jacket. I had to fight so hard for that jacket. I was like, ‘Guys, this is the standout piece, this is what we need to make. This is the piece that people are going to want to wear.’ They,’re like, ‘No, it won’t really sell that well, it’s releasing in February, it’s not that cold.’ And then it ended up being the piece that J.Cole wore, so it’s funny.
Speaking of big names. You worked with Héctor Bellerín last year for the cleat.
That was probably the coolest shit I’ve done with PUMA, and maybe in my life. What’s cool about Héctor is that he pushed almost as hard as I did for it. Did you see the video on his channel where he’s talking about making the shoe with me? So, he did that all himself, that’s him and his creative team, which is kind of nuts, right? So he pushed super hard for it. And I mean, I’m such a fan, it was funny because he’s asking me streetwear questions and I’m like, ‘Dude, why the fuck are we talking about clothing?’ I was like, what’s it like playing with Iniesta and Xabi?’
Do you feel like New York City has developed more of an appetite for soccer?
New York City is a complete exception, because everyone here is an immigrant. A lot of people here are soccer-first. So it’s not that shocking. I mean, basketball is definitely still the cooler sport, but we’re well on our way. And I think I’m solely responsible for it, completely alone in this battle of making soccer cool [laughs]. A lot of the time, people have roots in countries that love soccer. So everyone is connecting with their roots. My Mum’s from Spain, and my Dad’s from Ireland.
Is designing more football cleats something on the KidSuper agenda?
I literally beg PUMA every day.
How close were you to actually playing professional soccer?
When I was 17, I was playing youth professional, basically for a team. Could I have made third division somewhere? Yes. Would I have been a superstar? No. I mean, even now, I feel like sometimes I play and I’m like, ‘Oh shit, I could be professional’. And sometimes I play and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m fucking horrible’. But people keep asking me to design jerseys for teams.
You created the original KidSuper Sidekick shoe. Would you ever revisit the idea of making your own sneakers?
The KidSuper Sidekick was my rendition of the adidas Stan Smith, a simple shoe because I never do anything like that. But I was like, ‘Look, let’s just make this a real classic KidSuper thing’. And everyone loved that shoe. I think it was just an easy wear and looked cool. But I didn’t feel like it was a huge achievement, as it was a pretty standard shoe. It wasn’t like I reinvented the wheel on that one. Right now, I’m making these Crocs. They look like they’re made out of clay-croc material.
The Crocs are popping-off in a big way right now. Are you a fan of the Yeezy Foam Runners?
Kanye really need to be given his flowers as a designer for shoes. I mean he shaped the way we even desire sneakers. Who else has been able to create a generation-defining shoe that isn’t already a popular silhouette? Only Kanye West.
When preparing your KidSuper SS21 ‘Everything’s Fake Until It’s Real’ show, did you consider making miniature Suedes for the models?
Do you know the brand BTS, the Korean superstars? So, I bought their doll set and they came with really intense sneakers. So I was like, ‘Okay, these look like fucking Jordans’. I just popped those bad boys on and called it a day. That was the hardest, most physically demanding project ever. So, making sneakers was not on the top of my list.
What’s in the pipeline for KidSuper?
I have this fashion show that’s happening now, which is super difficult, and I’m working on it as we are talking. But after that, the LVMH award gets announced in September, so in September, my whole life could change. We’re working on a KidSuper mixtape, so I’m going to DJ Khaled and bringing people together. Music is such a big part of KidSuper’s success. I really like unexpected collaborations, so I really want to get Shania Twain featuring Young Thug. But, supposedly, Shania Twain’s retired.
If anyone can get Shania Twain out of retirement, it’s KidSuper.
That’s what I’m thinking. Shania, we need you. I love you Shania.
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