Days after Colm Dillane presented the Louis Vuitton’s Autumn/Winter 2023 menswear collection he guest designed for the brand, the founder of Brooklyn-based streetwear label KidSuper brought the fashion world back together — and made fun of it.

On Feb. 13, 2023, the designer recruited model Tyra Banks, musician J Balvin and comedians Jeff Ross, Yvonne Orji, Stavros Halkias and Andrew Schulz to put on a stand-up show, which doubled as KidSuper’s Autumn/Winter 2023 show, “Funny Business” at the Casino de Paris. There, in front of an audience of around 1,500, the entertainers — dressed in the latest KidSuper collection — lampooned Balenciaga, fashion week, and made jokes about women, weight, diversity and Parisians. Schulz’s closing set started with a bit that mixed discussion of Alexander Wang’s sexual assault accusations and description of Dillane’s manhood. Nearly everyone commented on how silly they looked in the clothes, which included colourful suits, jackets, tracksuits and puffers detailed with Dillane’s prints, patchwork and embroidery.

After it was over, Dillane’s first thought was ‘how do I do it again?’

“There was this amazing fish out of water moment that everyone was a kid for a little bit. The fashion world didn’t understand the comedy world, the comedy world didn’t understand the fashion world and everyone lost their mask or armour,” recalled Dillane. “I couldn’t believe I created this world where Theo Von, Tyra Banks and J Balvin are riffing jokes.”

It turns out, he didn’t have to wait too long. On Sunday, Dillane took to the stage again, curating a “Funny Business: Fashion is a Joke” set for the “Netflix is a Joke Festival,” a week-long comedy event the streamer stages annually in Los Angeles. Comedians Joel Kim Booster, Trevor Wallace, Zainab Johnson, Mark Normand and Mark Gagnon took to the stage, naturally, wearing KidSuper head-to-toe.

The event didn’t draw nearly as large a crowd, but Dillane is hoping to make KidSuper comedy shows a yearly occurrence — and leverage the moment into fulfilling bigger Hollywood ambitions including a TV series based around the KidSuper brand and his story, which he’s currently pitching to studios.

Since his entry into fashion over a decade ago, Dillane has emerged as one of the industry’s buzziest young talents. While his design skills have earned him a joint-win of LVMH’s Karl Lagerfeld Prize in 2021 and a nomination for CFDA menswear designer of the year in 2023, his world-building prowess has propelled Dillane from selling shirts out of his NYU dorm to Louis Vuitton and beyond. In particular, it helped him to establish the KidSuper brand, which retails at Neiman Marcus, Ssense and Luisaviaroma — and has collaborated with Canada Goose, the NBA, Coca-Cola and Puma.

“Building your brand and your story is super important. If you have a great foundation you can scale it,” said Dillane.

Multi-Hyphenate Brand-Building

Dillane’s work has always been about more than just fashion.

The late rapper Mac Miller was one of his earliest fans, while the musician Russ recorded songs for his first platinum album “There’s Really a Wolf” in a makeshift recording studio Dillane set up in the basement of his first design space in Brooklyn.

In the years since, he’s continued to engage with music (Dillane just directed a yet-to-be released music video for rappers Quavo and Giggs, based on a song made for the soundtrack of his last show), soccer (Dillane is a hardcore fan whose love of the sport brought about an ongoing partnership with Puma) and art (he just did a show of paintings at Frieze), which makes it feel authentic when he brings his brand into those different venues.

“It’s not like, ‘I’m a fashion designer and I’m dipping into this other area,’ he is in those areas,” said Julie Gilhart, president of Tomorrow Projects.

Having built a following in New York, his star began to rise after his first presentation on the official Paris Fashion Week calendar in August 2020. Unable to showcase his designs in person due to the pandemic, he presented them in a stop-motion short film that featured tiny versions of his clothes on Pelé, Salvador Dali, Elon Musk, Naomi Campbell and Stephen Hawking dolls — and a fake Anna Wintour, Queen Elizabeth and Kim Kardashian in the audience. For his next collection, he made a pilot episode for a would-be TV show “The MisAdventures of KidSuper,” and was later signed by talent agency William Morris Entertainment.

Zainab Johnson in KidSuper at a fitting before her performance.
Zainab Johnson in KidSuper at a fitting before the show. (Courtesy)

Since then, he’s continued to push the envelope when it comes to presentation, with a runway at a mock auction — which he dubbed “Superbys” — of his own paintings in 2022. He starred in a self-written and directed play about creativity called “How to Find an Idea” for his Spring/Summer 2024 show in August. His latest runway, titled “String Theory,” featured Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho and a dramatic finale where a sweater unravelled as the model walked down the runway.

Getting tapped to design for Louis Vuitton in 2023 launched Dillane into a different stratosphere of attention, and the interest extends off the runway, too. In September, after Travis Kelce wore his “Bedroom Painting” denim set at the peak of Taylor Swift dating intrigue, Dillane renamed it the “1989 Bedroom Painting” set — which made it go viral.

“He’s just a bundle of ideas and creativity,” said Gilhart. “He’s different in terms of how he approaches fashion and the fashion system.”

The connection to comedy came naturally. Known for its bright coloured clothes featuring arty sketched characters derived from Dillane’s painting — his signature purse features a drawing of two faces kissing — KidSuper’s brand is centred around levity and creativity from the designs to Dillane’s methods in showing them. Dillane put on a few local shows in New York in 2018. Plus, he considers himself “a stand-up comedian in his head.”

Building his brand in adjacent spaces is a business move as well. Independent designers often have to find ways to make money outside fashion to survive now — and they increasingly have to build their own personas to get opportunities, said Dillane.

“[Collaborators] are like ‘What do you represent that can help the brand grow? It’s a tough time,” said Dillane.

KidSuper is self-funded (save his $150,000 LVMH Prize co-winnings), and Dillane is reluctant to give up equity. Instead he relies on collaborations — KidSuper has worked with Puma since 2020, Canada Goose on a capsule in 2024, Meta, The NBA, Stuart Weitzman and even bean bag and couch-maker Lovesac, toy company Superplastic and Starbucks in 2023 — to keep the bottom line growing while still being able to take creative risks.

He’s currently building out the brand’s ambitious headquarters, a 10,000 square foot complex in Williamsburg, “KidSuper World.” The storefront opened during New York Fashion Week in March, sells KidSuper goods with a supermarket-style check out, a library and laundromat-inspired shelving, an art gallery, a screenprinting studio, a Jagermeister-themed private bar and an ultra-detailed campsite-themed studio where comedian Mark Gagnon films his “Camp Gagnon” podcast. Still to come is a food truck and public outdoor space, recording studio and a soccer field on the roof, said Dillane.

Put altogether, it’s meant to build the dream — and sell the clothes.

“I’m biased, but if I was a consumer, I would be like ‘KidSuper is the best brand ever,’” said Dillane. “What other brand is doing a comedy show? Let alone the 10 other cool things I’m doing.”

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