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Within a decade, Colm Dillane, the New York-based founder and designer of streetwear label KidSuper, went from selling T-shirts to fellow students out of his New York University dorm room to winning the Karl Lagerfeld Special Jury Prize at the LVMH Prize in 2021 and designing a one-off menswear collection for Louis Vuitton.
But it wasn’t a straight shot to success. The now 32-year-old has had to learn the ropes of fashion the hard way, maxing out his bank account, and taking risk after risk to figure out how to transform his creativity into a bonafide business.
Through it all, Dillane has focused on community-building as an end goal.
“It’s always funny when brands reach out to me, and they’re like, ‘We love the community you created’. I would always be like, ‘They’re creating community to sell product. I was selling product to create community. What are you doing this for? If it’s not to meet interesting people?” says Dillane.
This week on The BoF Podcast, BoF founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed sits down with Dillane to discuss his journey as a designer and his lessons for emerging fashion designers and entrepreneurs.
- Dillane came from outside fashion, and from the start, has used his creativity to get the industry’s attention. “When I was young, [I felt] the fashion industry was the most elitist, stand-offish, impossible thing to break into,” he recalls. But in navigating his way further into the industry, he saw that “creativity and new ideas are embraced and supported and championed more so than I thought they would be.”
- When musicians started asking about the brand, Dillane didn’t simply ship off his T-shirts, hoodies and hats to them. Rather, he wanted to build a relationship. “I always wanted to meet people, so I would never send clothing; I would send myself,” he says, recalling how meeting the late rapper Mac Miller in person led to one of the brand’s first breaks — with the musician sporting a KidSuper hat on an album cover.
- Even amid the big breaks, perseverance is critical, he says. In 2019, he thought his brand would catapult to fame overnight after receiving a rave review in Vogue following his first show, a hastily produced off-calendar event during Paris Fashion Week. The reality was different. “I get this amazing review … I’m now a superstar designer. [But] nothing changes in my life,” recalls Dillane. The designer didn’t give up — “I’m not a quitter” — and by 2021, KidSuper held its first official PFW show, “Everything’s Fake Until It’s Real.”
- Dillane believes young designers can look to KidSuper for inspiration. “I’ve never deleted an Instagram post, so you can scroll down and see like me buying my first sewing machine or and kind of chronologically follow how I got here,” he says. “I think it’s pretty cool for how far I’ve gotten.”