Produced by Sade Mckoy
Kid Super is Midwesterner who’s earned his New York stripes. He got booted from his NYU dorm for opening a store in his bedroom, went to lock-up for breaking into SoHo penthouses, sleeps outside underneath the train in Williamsburg, and wants to run for the mayor of the city.
CONVICTS sat down with Kid Super during a yard sale at his funky two-story live/work space. He’s got coders, musicians, and designers living upstairs and the Kid Super flagship store on the ground level.
We caught up with the t-shirt designer about the line between art and creativity, the advantage to being Midwestern, and the problem with travel.
Hey Colm. To start can you tell us who you are?
What’s up my name is Colm Dillane, some people call me Kid Super.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Manhattan. When I was really little I moved a lot, so I lived in Chicago, Mexico, Wisconsin and then when I was 12 I moved back to New York City. And I’ve been here ever since. I have a store and I am currently living in the backyard. Made it.
So tell me about Kid Super and how it all started.
I’m the founder of Kid Super. I started making T-shirts in high school, then I deferred a year before college to go play soccer in Brazil. When I came back I met someone at NYU who could make websites. My big ‘I’m a real company’ moment came through that when because people that weren’t just my friends started buying t-shirts. Back then there was no Instagram so selling to not your friends was this huge deal. I changed my dorm at NYU into a store. I spray painted the whole room, and then I kind of got kicked out of my dorm for doing it.
Then you moved here. How did this situation come about?
After about a year, the two floors upstairs, both moved out at the same time, so I called all my friends and was like everyone move in, we’ll have this whole building, and it’ll be like a creative building… and it happened. Now all my friends live upstairs. There’s a rapper staying on the second floor, a singer on the third floor, and there’s a coder, so we kind of have this little creative hub that’s magically come from a craigslist bathtub post.
Talk about the relationship between the store space and the brand.
The whole brand is about being amazing, so I decided I needed this store to be a space where every little nook and cranny makes you feel like you need to be working. There’s no hanging out, there’s no chilling. You go into there that’s the sewing room, you go downstairs that’s the recording studio, you go into the backyard that’s to play soccer, you go into the other room to paint.
Recording studio? How’d that come about?
Music and fashion are so intertwined. All the people that were first wearing my clothes were musicians, so I thought it was a good idea to build a recording studio. It was a great collaborative energy. It was really cool to see people making music in the studio that I built.
Are you musical yourself?
No, I’m as musically ungifted as a human can be and genetically my family on both sides are pretty unmusical. It’s been hilarious because I’m always in there with music people and I’ll be just so offbeat.
Has proximity to that creative music space inspired you?
I get inspired by people who work hard and have a clear vision. I like collaborating with them. The coolest thing about making Kid Super was that I’m introduced to all these different people. I’m introduced to designers, musicians and everyone wants to collaborate. Now if I want to do anything I have a network of people that I can call. My goal for the recording studio was to have creative people come into one location and then collaborate on different things.
Who’d be your ultimate collab right now?
It’d have to be something that no one was expecting. I tried to pitch a Space X, Elon Musk collab the other day. I try to pitch everyone, but I want to design the spacesuits for space travel.
That would be an awesome collab.
And I wanted to do a whole like documentary on space travel. How possible it is and what the timeline is for the average man traveling in space.
So you feel like you are kinda selling a lifestyle?
Yeah for sure. This is unique, the whole space is unique. The recording studio, the living in the backyard, the art, you can’t get that by just sending a box, even though when I do ship out I try to doodle on the packages. Another thing is meeting people in person: you get to potentially be friends or hate each other.
So how do you live this lifestyle? Tell me about an average Kid Super day.
I decided to start sleeping in the backyard recently because we brought in a cameraman and he wanted my old room. And I was like ‘Fuck it, let me just move into the backyard’, even though there is a very usable room right next door.
How do you manage to sleep with the train so close?
Now that I’m sleeping outside it’s like I don’t even notice. It’s constant so it’s kind of my rock-a-bye-baby to get me to sleep.
That’s some seriously New York shit.
I’m a New Yorker, but I have a midwestern hospitality which makes me a good person underneath this hard exterior.
The city must have be an important part in the creation of the brand.
I had moved here from Wisconsin, looking back if I had stayed in Wisconsin I don’t know what I would have done. It doesn’t feel possible cause you don’t hear anyone around you doing it. That’s a huge thing about New York City. The magic of New York City is that the person you want to be is probably twenty blocks that way. It makes it feel real.
You have any good NYC adventure stories?
I used to climb up scaffolding and go to people’s penthouse roofs in Soho. I got arrested when I was 17 or 18 for doing it. The cops were like, ‘So where’s the vandalism? What did you steal?’ and I was like ‘Well, to be honest, we were just kind of like looking at the view and loving the stars and hanging out’. So we got arrested.
What happened then?
That in itself was a wild story. I spent twenty-seven hours in central bookings actually because I didn’t go to court the second time. I think everyone should do it because your priorities completely change. I had so much to do the next day and I actually couldn’t leave or move. Then there’s all the people, different stories, all in there for different reasons. That alone could be a movie. Everyone should try and get arrested for twenty-four hours. It was an eye-opening experience, and definitely a great story. If you ever want to write a book or movie, just go to jail.
Speaking of jail, what does escape mean to you?
It’s funny cause I think people look at what I’m doing as kind of an escape from the normal life, but I don’t see it like that at all. This just seemed natural, like the obvious next step. The t-shirts have led to this, which has led to videos which has led to this, which hopefully will lead to making little short films and stuff like that. So I don’t want to escape, you know what I mean? I always say when I fall asleep and dream, my dreams are always worse than my reality, ‘cause I’m always like trying to kiss a girl in my dreams and she always denies me. Not that that’s not happening in real life, but you know what I mean? The dreams are worse, so I’m not trying to escape.
Do you travel much?
My parents are from Europe so when I was little, I was moving every year and traveling a ton. Now I hate traveling. Not that I hate traveling, but I realize it only matters who you are going with and the people you meet. I have a weird idea that traveling is running away. When I was younger I felt like my parents were always running away to a new spot or a new job to better themselves and I was like ‘You could have conquered it there.’I haven’t conquered enough to travel. Once I get this perfect, I’m going to travel more.
Coffee or tea?
I don’t drink coffee or tea. I have a palette of about a four year old. So I don’t even like alcohol really.
If you were having a stressful day, and need to chill out, what’s the one place you go to? Where’s your go to place?
My bedroom. When I am stressed or having an existential crisis and asking ‘What is life, what are we doing here, blah blah blah?’ and my head starts getting really warm, that’s when I start doing things. I start painting, I’ll start drawing, writing huge to-do lists, and it’ll calm me down.
How would you feel about being called a traditional artist?
Just saying artist out loud is hard because it’s so pretentious and has a weird connotation to me. I didn’t go to art school, I was a math major. I realized that one of the important things of going to art school is being able to talk about work because art school kids had critiques and are constantly trying to pitch their artwork. I am horrible at talking about it. Art can literally be a brick but if it’s explained well you want to buy it. So until I can sell artwork, I don’t really consider myself an artist. I consider myself a creative.
How does being a math major play into your art?
I love problem-solving. That’s why I like math so much because you are constantly problem-solving and you get a feeling of satisfaction when you figure it out and I find that with art as well.
How do you view t-shirt design in terms of the art world?
A t-shirt is one of the hardest things to design. I would love to have a world competition of all the top artists to see if they could make good t-shirts cause I have a feeling that a lot of them can’t. A painting is pretty easy, all you need is a really beautiful white wall and good lighting. That’s the funny thing about art: its context matters a ton.
Last question, any upcoming projects or future plans in the works?
We were thinking the other day about trying to run for mayor of New York because you need fifteen thousand signatures to get on the ballot, which doesn’t seem that impossible. Every day we are trying to do ridiculous things. That’s the great thing about the Kid Super brand: the more ridiculous and outrageous and amazing things I try to do, the more it helps the brand. So if I try and do a Space X collaboration while running for mayor, that’s still on brand.
We’d vote for you. Good luck, man.