When I was 3 or so I moved to Chicago and all I really remember was that Snap, Crackle, and Pop were in my pre-school class and that my mother, father and I all slept together on a mattress on the floor. I soon moved back to NYC where I went to anotherpre-school on Spring street. That is now a public bathroom. When I was 4 I moved to Mexico City; my father’s new job had stationed him there. The catch was that his employer had to pay for the house. Our first day there, they showed us the house we were to live in. And it was HUGE. Unreal. My parents were shocked. We’d come from the run down apartments in Chicago to living in this beautiful house. They shrugged and said it would work, but it wasn’t long before my father got a call from work telling him that they had shown us the wrong house. He argued that his wife and child had already moved in and there was no way we were moving out, so the house was ours. We lived there for a year and it was one of the strangest experiences. I remember one time I spent the night at a friends house, and because kidnapping in Mexico is so common, I was taken home by 3 cars: one in front, one in back, and the one that I was in, driven by a bodyguard with two guns. At the time, I thought that I was getting kidnapped, and I nervously thought of all possible ways to get out of the car. I remember almost grabbing the drivers gun haha.When I was 5, I moved to Beloit, Wisconsin, a tiny midwestern suburb. I stayed in Wisconsin for 7 years. Wisconsin was my childhood. I could run to a friends house, go swimming in the creek, and play sports all day. It was the ideal place to grow up. My father would do math questions with me before I went to sleep and my mother would do art projects with me during the day. My mother was an after school drama and Spanish teacher, so I was always involved in performing. My father was a soccer fanatic, and I followed suit. On a recent trip back to Beloit I realized that something about that place creates the most genuinely good people. When I was 12 I moved back to NYC for 8th grade. At the time I was so sad, but Wisconsin after elementary school is less of a childhood fairytale and more of a conflicted suburbia with lots of drunk driving and teen pregnancy. My dad was living and working in Seattle but my mother missed the city, so we moved back to downtown Manhattan to the apartment she had owned since the 1970s, my home in 91.The first year in NYC was very difficult. I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t know anything. I joined a soccer team but everyone lived so far away that every time I wanted to hang out with someone it had to be a set time and date. So for the first two years in NYC all I did was school and soccer. I was accepted into an honors program at MS 104, and on the first day an Asian girl turned around to me and asked ” Are you a boy or a girl?” I had long curly blonde hair as I still do. I said a boy haha.
Class there was so competitive. Everything was focused on grades and scores. My 2nd month there I had to take the specialized high school test. I had no idea what it was but everyone said it was important. In Wisconsin, there was one high school and everyone just went there. NYC was the opposite.
I studied for a month and took the test. I didn’t know you had to apply to high schools in NYC the same as you apply to colleges, so when the scores came out and I was accepted into Brooklyn Technical Highschool, I had to go. The first year there was the same as 8th grade: just school and back. It was a very math and science driven school so I took full advantage of any chance I had to express myself, like sophomore year when I had to build a Rube Goldberg machine. Mine had pulleys that filled cups with water, weights that unscrewed screws to pop balloons, marbles rolling to dip scales… it was amazing haha, and when I was done constructing it I decided to make a stencil of Che Guevara and spray paint Che’s face all over it. While I was spray painting the machine, I was wearing a white tshirt, so I decided to spray paint the face on my shirt. I THINK THIS IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.
The next time a friend had a birthday, my friends and I decided to make them a t-shirt. I liked making tshirts, and the more I practiced the better I got. I wanted to keep going, so my friends and I tried to think of a company name to make shirts out of. It was hard to choose and for a long while we couldn’t decide on one until a friend of mine, Joey Corcoran, thought of BOTS- Brick Oven T-Shirts. I was ecstatic when I heard the name… we had to make it! So we all made up the BOTS team: Colm Dillane, JoeyCorcoran, Demir Purisic, Jason Mei, Kareem Eid, And Jesse Trap. We were so excited that we doodled all day: during class, on the desks, at lunch, in the hallways, on the staircases. We came up with two shirt ideas and each chipped in a $100 and got them printed. We didn’t know anything about screen printing, but we wanted to be able to print ourselves, so in between selling the shirts, one a robot with a boombox head and the other an ice-cream cone whose expression got sadder with each scoop, we would all go to someones house and try our own printing. Screen printing is one of the hardest things ever, but we kept trying and trying. We got better at the whole t-shirt business but eventually we realized that the only kids buying our t-shirts were our friends and we hand to continue.
But we kept getting into arguments about whose design to print, who was putting in more work, who wasn’t propelling the group, and at the end, it was the discontent that expanded, and we broke up. On graduation, Joey brought the shoebox we had been saving all the BOTS profits in and we distributed the money amongst its members. It was sad. We were giving in to the end of BOTS and the end of High School and we knew that no one could continue working on BOTS… it was just over. So we stopped working on it, but designing shirts had already become part of my, as well as the other BOTS members’ daily routine, so while we stopped working for BOTS, many of us splintered off to continue working on other ideas. I always had trouble coming up with names so I jumped around a lot, from stupid names like “Colm‘s Crew” to “Dope!”, and some other ones that I kind of still like, but none of them really stuck.
After graduation, I deferred from college and traveled to Salvador, Brasil to try and play professional soccer. I lived with the coordinator of the youth program for the professional team: Vitoria. I trained twice a day, everyday, and knowing no one and no Portuguese, I had a lot of time on my hands when training was done. I brainstormed for hours. I would draw and design, try to learn how to build websites, and write poetry and rap lyrics. I spent 6 months in Brasil and it felt like a 6 month long dream that taught me Portuguese, the samba, and how to truly enjoy life. I was in a world all by myself where everything I experienced was of this foreign seemingly utopian culture. Everyone was so happy, so easy to get along with, and everyone loved soccer, dancing, and good food. Brasil was a paradise I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around and deserves its own essay as well. When I went back to NYC, nothing about the city had changed. It was as if time had stopped and allowed me to go on this crazy adventure without missing a thing.
When I got back to America I had another 6 months before school started. I filled my free time with an internship at a start-up company named WAT-AHH. I was curious to see how much my personal input would really impact or help the company; I didn’t want to get coffee and do paper work, so I dished out tons of ideas. They liked some of them but never really paid my ideas full attention. They treated me like a child, maybe because I acted kidish and energetic, but I still think they lost a lot of potentially good ideas not being able to get past my goofy demeanor.
The best part of being there was being able to use their equipment. They had really good scanners, so I would scan all my doodles to my computer and design logos/potential t-shirts. One of the designs for KidSuper‘s first line was designed in that office. I could also bounce ideas off of one of their other interns, an animator, and ask him for help while I taught myselfPhotoshop and Illustrator. I kept making designs and logos and I knew that if I wanted to make a tshirt company I should have it started before college.
I tried my luck at a World Cup Tee Shirt. It would be the first shirt I would release on my own, and I took to designing it extremely seriously. It would be intricate. It was a 6 color job, and I had to order 72 of them. The 2010 World Cup was in South Africa, so the shirt featured a caricature of Nelson Mandela with a pattern of the South African Flag. My friend Jason Thompson and I stood out on Broadway/Soho/UnionSquare with the shirts for about a week.. and sold 13 of them. I felt like a failure. People would stop and say “Oh what a cool shirt” but never even consider buying it. I tried to sell to people standing on line at Bape and ended up screaming at the entire group of people… how were they about to buy a shitty shirt for 80 dollars? haha. I was bummed, but it meant that there was more to making tshirts than just having nice shirts, you needed a brand, a message, something that people could relate to…
I started creating the brand. From my first failures, I knew I had to be the only one making the decisions from designing to marketing. I also knew I had to have more diversity within the brand. I wanted it to be that even if people didn’t like one of my shirts they would like my hats, or a crew. As I began designing, each new idea made me dislike the one before it. College came around and exposed me to three things that became extremely important in building the brand:
1. A lot of people willing to help you
2. A lot of equipment you wouldn’t have access to otherwise
3. A lot of kids that are good at things thats you aren’t.
I knew I need a website. I had downloaded dreamweaver and tried to learn it myself, but i needed guidance. My best pal on the soccer team, Danny Weisbaum, told me that his roommate was pretty good at making sites. I had doodled a site and cut it up into dreamweaver but I needed help making it functional, and Daniel Fein was there to save the day. Not only did he help me build the website, he got excited by it all. We were already pretty good friends, but his energy and drive to get involved in anything that tickled his imagination is what really made him awesome. We bounced different ideas off of each other until we came up with something that we thought was both unique and functional. I doodled the layout for the site in my dorm room, and what we came out with embodies the KidSuper movement. I don’t know if I will ever change it.
When the site was done, I needed the clothing and I needed a hat manufacturer. I had searched the globe for anyone that was willing to help me get some hats made, but no one would help. People are very secretive about their manufacturers. After a year of looking I found someone that could make what I was looking for. I wanted my hat to be the piece that would make my brand stand out so I made it as unique as possible: white, vintage logo, floral underbrim with two color snaps. After all the designing was finished and the pricing was done I needed approximately $3,000 to start. My parents who had watched me put in so much time and effort were willing to spot me, but let me know that if I failed that was going to be it. I was nervous and excited, knowing the feeling of having a box full of shirts nobody wants but hoping for the best.
I had been working for a while, and by now all of my friends had heard of KidSuper. It was the summer before sophomore year and it was time to order the line. I had planned the line for the summer, but I’m always a bit late so it was fall when it finally arrived. We were all so excited. We immediately got to work on a photoshoot for the site. Everyone I told seemed to want to get involved, and the more people that got involved, the more people that knew. It began to spread. A good friend, Travis Martial, got really excited about it all and contacted a hip-pop group called Upper West. They wanted to wear my clothing for a music video for their song “I Won’t Grow Up.” The title itself fit the brand, so I gave them some gear. Their video now has 250,000 views.
The site went live and we were all pumped. I never really thought about who was going to buy the clothing or how was it going to be marketed I just decided to go for it. The week we released the line, I messaged one of Mac Miller’s friends on Facebook and said that I thought he should check out my line, that I thought he would love it, and that if he was ever in the city I would give him some stuff. He responded…nearly immediately: “Yea for sure, we’re actually in the city now.” The next day I was with Mac Miller and company watching them shoot a music video and a couple months later, Mac Miller wore my hat for his album releasephotoshoot. For a couple of days it was the iTunes homepage. I was shocked. From then on I had the mentality that the sky was the limit… the next 4 months were slow haha But I kept with it.
KidSuper continued expanding and spreading and people really began to like the clothing and the ideas behind it. The first line sold out which meant enough money to order a new line. I kept designing; I wanted the second line to be a different. I designed two hats that I thought no one could find anywhere and I added cheetah print drawstrings to the hoodies. It was a good line and most of it sold out. I knew the third line had to be spectacular. My parents had moved to India when I started college. I wanted to use India and Indian fabrics as much as I could. My mom sent boxes and boxes of Indian prints not available in NYC from which I sewed the third and newest line.
GETTING A STORE
My sophomore year at NYU I roomed with four friends, and junior year we wanted to live together again. Owning my own store and living in it was always in the back of my head, but they needed a 4th person and I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun activities. We found a place that we all liked and we were ready to sign the lease but when a roommate’s mother, the guarantor, saw the apartment she refused to sign. We were all bummed at first, but it was a blessing in disguise. Everyone began to split up so I said fuck it… I’m doing what my little heart desires. I spent the whole summer looking for a cheap storefront that was both livable and in a decent location. We have so many funny stories about places we found. One was a warehouse with no windows on an orthodox jewish block, another in green point by the water that was segmented into little shifty rooms a la Taken, and finally one gorgeous roofless warehouse with no running water and no electricity. But it was fantastic. We were so high off of the possibilities it sparked that I offered the guy $700,000 (I was looking for investors) to buy it. He luckily said no because soon after I stumbled upon this beauty. 354 Broadway Ave, Williamsburg Brooklyn. One stop from Manhattan on the J, two doors down from Mishka, with a backyard, basement, kitchen, and bathtub. It was amazing. I went to war to get it and I got it. Its everything I could imagine. I was nervous though, so I only leased it for 2 years with an option of 3. If i could go back… I’d lease it for 10haha.
Getting the store really solidified the business. We had a storefront! It was real! Now that I had it I had to make it mine. I also needed a roommate to make it affordable. I charmed a beautiful female into living with me and we began work on the KidSuper store.
Building it was incredibly difficult. The basement was destroyed. The walls were falling apart and missing in places, the beams were rusted, everything had to be painted. It was a long list, but with an opening date set, everything had to be done quickly. The upstairs had to look KidSuper-y. I wanted the wall completely covered in art, the seats to be children’s seats, we would make everything by hand. I won’t go too far into detail, you know where we are.
Four days before the opening, nothing was ready. We hadn’t added any shelves or clothing racks. The basement where the concert was supposed to be held was packed with clothing and oddities. All we had really finished were two tables made out of doors found in Demir’s basement. We had so much to do. The wall had to be painted, the top floor had to be completely finished: lighting, clothing racks, chairs, everything. And the new line still had to be sewn. I spent 8 hours of those four days at Works in Progress screen-printing the Dream Team crew, go get supplies with Demir who had been bouncing all over the five boroughs preparing on his own, while my mother would come by and help us clean, and Toniann would tie-dye everything. It was non-stop working.
On KidSuper-opening-eve, Demir Purisic, Toniann Fernandez, Jason Thompson, Danny Fein, and I didn’t sleep. We worked until 8 AM painting, cleaning, sewing the new line. It was like we were a machine moving toward a common goal and none of us were going to stop until everything was finished.
The morning of the opening came. First to show up were Sean Abraham and the A.R.T.S.Y. Magazine crew who would shoot the day.
I climbed the entrance and hung the banner. 3 PM. KidSuper Grand Opening.
We had all worked so hard for the opening, it had been hyped up so much. Everyone around me had gotten an earful about the store, so the pressure was on. If it failed, I failed. It was like throwing a birthday party … and if no one came… it would have been the worst feeling ever, like my high school graduation party… hahaIn my mind I thought there would be a line of screaming fans outside waiting to get in. There was not. It started a little slower than I expected, which probably should’ve been expected, but the childlike dreamer inside of me kept my expectations high. When the opening hit, I was running around trying to get everything prepared and ready: getting food and drinks for the barbecue out back, shuffling in and out of the stock room, returning to the front door to greet people. I find it kind of funny that I’ve always thought that being the person in charge or the man of the hour was something to envy, but when it’s your turn there is a lot of pressure. There a lot of people to let down, and you can’t. It’s these moments that can make or break you I guess. At 3:30 we had about 5 unfamiliar customers. My mind was racing. The line wrapping around the block I had envisioned for 2:45 was shattered, but the very idea that unknown customers were coming to my store was exhilarating. In the next two hours, more and more people began to flood in, but the DJ had not arrived. I was getting antsy. I just wanted everything to work out perfectly, and the one thing that was out of my hands was two hours late.Johnny Grizz manned the grill and kept the back yard entertained with sausages and orange juice, but the basement showcase of Chi Nyugen’s art work was empty because there was no DJ. Everyone was asking me for the music and I had nothing to say. When the DJ finally came and the music started playing everything began to flow. My body interacted with people but in my mind I was a fly on the wall staring in awe at what I had created. Who thought that I could have my own store, and who thought the opening would be such a success? Friends, family, and newcomers came together to support, and at 7 PM when the performances came around everyone rushed to the basement.The performances were in the basement. Everyone was on the same level. There was no barrier between performer and spectator, and that is exactly how I wanted it. It was perfect for theKidSuper vibe, everyone working together to make a beautiful moment.Aaron Cohen was first to perform. We had met about a month before at a family dinner at the store with everyone who was to be involved in the opening. Aaron just has a good vibe to him: quiet, smart, and funny. When he spoke, everyone seemed to listen. When it was his time to perform, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. The DJ played the wrong song, only had 20 seconds of the right song, and the beat kept cutting out, but it created the coolest acapella performance where he and everyone that knew the words were screaming “I’m Helen Keller to the BULLSHIT!!” The energy was unreal. Aaron Cohen handled it amazingly, and we all felt like a part of the performance.
Next to perform was Perrion and the H.O.M.E. Team… they were 45 minutes late. Everyone was asking me “where is the next performer?” and I’m asking Tinyy, Perrion’s 6’8″ 300 lb DJ “Where is the next performer?” but as I anxiously walked back downstairs I saw a crowd of people huddled around Issa Dash of The Underachievers and another kid skating for the crowd. They had turned the basement into an underground skatepark. It embodied KidSuper; every fail turned into something amazing.
Perrion, maybe one of the most likeable people, shows up and gets the crowd going again. Everyone was in awe, he and his crew killed it. The way he raps is almost visceral… you feel his intensity with every word.
Last to perform were our headliners, The Underachievers. The moment I met these guys there was a natural connection. This duo from Flatbush comprised of AK and Issa Dash seemed like veterans on the microphone. Their confidence and poise put the crowd in a trance. Their sound is hypnotic but it is the knowledge behind the sound that makes them incredible. FlatbushZombies showed up to support during their performance and the whole thing was unbelievable. Watching them perform you’d think they’ve been doing it their whole lives. The whole crowd was chanting their lyrics.
I was nervous the entire day, but by the end of the performances I was in a completely different world and had forgotten about any stress over things not going right. The childlike dreamer inside of me was completely satisfied.
Its funny because everyone coming together that day is what created something beautiful. A lot of streetwear brands that blow up have this exclusive, too cool for school aura. But KidSuper is different, I am not trying to make a brand for the “cool kids.” I am creating a way of life. A brand that promotes and supports the simple idea of building together. I am able to do many things alone, but with help and collaboration we are able to move and change the world. KidSuper is not a brand, it is a movement, and all are encouraged to join.