KidSuper’s Colm Dillane opens up about his career-bending collaboration with PUMA and Hector Bellerin.
Through conditioning, we all share the tendency to define ourselves and others by our careers. In the modern world, what we do for money is who we are, and so on. Such is the heavy weight of adulthood.
Colm Dillane is a fashion designer. Hector Bellerin is a professional footballer. But is that really the case? Colm Dillane is also an athlete, perhaps even foremost. He grew up playing football at highly competitive levels as a youth, won rookie of the year as a freshman in college for NYU, and even had a brief stint playing professionally in Brazil. Hector Bellerin was raised by a family involved in the fashion and garment industry, where, as a child he learned how to cut, sew, and tailor. Since his days as an academy member at Arsenal’s Hale End, he has demonstrated a keen eye for fashion, and has nurtured and grown his identity/brand over the course of his young career. Perhaps, he first thought of himself as a designer?
When I was asked to interview Colm about his career bending collaboration (the limited edition “King Super”) with Puma and Hector Bellerin, I was ecstatic. Colm is a budding designer, a known eccentric cool kid in NYC, and founder of the creative collective and brand KidSuper. Hector Bellerin is a footballer and a person I admire who happens to also play for my favorite club. While they have different experiences and world views, they also have a whole lot in common. A public school kid from New York City and Wisconsin and a famous footballer from Barcelona and London may seem an unlikely pair, but there are many overlapping lines, and as a result, a shared respect and admiration for each other. They have both faced harsh criticism for their failure to live their lives in one lane. They both have retained their keen interests from their upbringing and life experiences. They both press on in defiance of their critics, pushing the boundaries of what a professional in a challenging field should be. And why shouldn’t they strive to go beyond the limits of what their career dictates?
I met with Colm on a rainy afternoon, at his studio under the elevated JMZ subway line in Williamsburg. Between unexpected visits from the city electric company, a world famous boxing coach, and an employee coming in to discuss which articles of clothing to send to Wale and other assorted rappers, we spoke about his love for Ronaldinho and Roy Keane, childhood memories, his friendship with Hector Bellerin and his latest release—a reworked version of the infamous PUMA King boot. We bonded over our deep love for sports, and reminisced for a brief spell on our (still very active) childhood dreams.
Eight by Eight: Firstly, let’s establish some of your favorite kits of all time—what are they?
Colm: I think what determines a kit for me is the sponsor. AIG for Man Utd was an amazing era. I’m a big fan of the Galácticos Real Madrid kits. The ridiculous Mexican goalkeeper jerseys. The USA World Cup ’94 star kit. All of the older jerseys seemed to get away with so much more! I hate the new style. Juventus were like, “were doing a full rebrand” and they just put a “J” in Helvetica.
Football was a big part of your life growing up in New York City. What were some of your best and worst moments in your career?
I once got injured right before a final. I went to Pier 40 and sprained my ankle just messing around, and I had a semifinal for nationals the next day. I couldn’t play. I wrapped my ankle so hard, and they subbed me in. I looked like a pirate—my leg was a stick.
For best moments … when I was a freshman in high school, I played for Brooklyn Tech. They aren’t known for their soccer program, but we were the best in the city that year. We had this one match against Midwood High School. And in the last minute, I took a corner kick and scored. I ripped off my shirt, and everyone was like ‘What just happened?’ Some senior called me out and said, “Don’t ever do that again,” but I was like “Go fuck yourself”.
I was like 4’8″ at the time. That was good.
Did you grow up supporting a specific club?
My mom is from Madrid, so I grew up a Real Madrid fan. I’m not a big “over-dog” supporter, so it’s hard to root for them all the time.
My dad’s Irish. He’s a big Roy Keane fan. So I had to watch a lot of United games growing up, which I guess I didn’t really like. I read Roy Keane’s biography, though. He’s an absolute legend. From where he came from, to become one of the best players—it’s just sheer effort. No one wants to play against him.
**[In the background]
“He ended that guy’s career.”
“And plot twist, that was Erling Haalands dad!”
Who’s your five-a-side team if you could only pick icons?
I’m just picking 5 Ronaldinhos. Dude, all I’m trying to do in life is hang out with Ronaldinho, and I’m getting closer.
Every athlete has fond childhood memories in a different pair of boots. If you could resurrect any 3 boots in history what would they be?
When I was young I always wore Puma Kings. I also love the R9 vapors. That vapor era. I always wanted the black vapors that Ronaldinho wore when he joined Barca, too. Those were my dream.
How did your relationship with Puma start? How are they to work with?
It started with a DM. At the time I’d made a one-off jersey with Nike, I’d done a customization thing with Adidas and with Converse, and a commercial with Puma. I was trying to drive it all towards soccer, and I would hit up all the brands. I’d tell them that none of the brands in NYC have really captured soccer from the city’s perspective.
[Working with PUMA has] been amazing. They’re the most willing to give me freedom on design, direction and product. I’m so glad we did it.
We’ve been emailing about the next collection already. They asked me if I wanted to control the creative, which I will. I’ve asked a lot of times to be made Creative Director. I also asked them to sign me to a lifetime contract!
You obviously worked on this boot with Hector Bellerin—what is your relationship like him?
The funny thing is we have banter. I feel truly like he is a friend. I like to tease him a lot about his lack of abilities, like “Get a fucking cross in some time man.” The other week he megged Sadio Mane, and I texted him, “Dude, watch out Cristiano”.
There are moments where I realize I know so much about him, but then again he also plays with and against my legitimate heroes. There are so many times where I think, “I wanna live your life for one day”—one Arsenal training session, or at least a kick around.
He’s such a fan of fashion and creativity, though, that he’s actually interested in the things I have to say. I took a trip to Iceland recently, and he had plans to head there on a vacation so he asked me for recommendations. I was like … “dude my Iceland experience is going to be so fundamentally different from your experience.”
**[In the background]
Door knocks. Legendary boxing coach, Eric Kelly, walks in.
Colm: Oh here’s our boxing coach, how’s it going?
Eric: Oh you know, Eric Kelly, everythings always good.
C: We’re doing an interview, you should tell them how good of a boxer I am.
E: I ain’t gonna lie to these people.
C: On record, Eric Kelly says Colm is the best boxer.
E: Listen, Colm reminds me of everything wrong with a man. This is what happens when your father don’t take his time with you. You know what I’m saying.
C: Thanks Eric.
E: Alright, listen, I’m gonna get out of your interview. Have a good one. See you mañana. [walks out]
Is Hector aware of his fashion influence and that he is the lost king of Bushwick?
Oh, has he heard that he’s a fashion guy [Colm grins]? He definitely loves fashion. That is his thing.
What I find funny is talking with him about the kind of abuse he gets from these English fans. Cause obviously they don’t understand. What’s so cool about him is that being a soccer player is just one of his things. It doesn’t define him. He has his podcast, a creative agency, he cares about the environment. He was in the locker room a lot with Flamini, who’s a billionaire now because of the biotech company he founded. So he’s gotten a lot of sage advice.
Originally, I designed them in black, especially given the abuse he gets. I wanted to avoid that. When I showed him the mock ups, he wanted them in white with some more color. The drop comes out with a three-part series that he and his creative agency put together. Hector is always pushing to make things bigger.
Was the plan always to tweak a classic, like the Puma King? It’s a nice contrast between something psychedelic and traditional.
Always. I fought hard for it. It was Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, KidSuper.
What other athletes would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Obviously someone like Neymar would be great to work with, but that’s a more obvious route. I’m more interested in curveballs. I’ve always wanted to remake The Longest Yard with Ronaldinho. It’s funny, now that’s literally his reality. I photoshopped a poster of it once, with me in the background.
What have been your favorite KidSuper moments or collections, so far?
Getting my own cleat is pretty cool. Usain Bolt in the cartoon was cool, too, especially because that’s not related to clothing. It shows how far we’ve come.
You grew up wanting to be a superstar athlete, but became a big designer. Is there still a part of you that wants to be an athlete.?
I never wanted to just be a fashion designer, it’s just a vehicle to get to do what I want to do. The Usain Bolt cameo is an example of how big our world has gotten.
My first Paris fashion week proved that you can do anything. We weren’t even on the official calendar, and it was really left field, but Vogue called it the best breakout show of the year. We were up next to Louis Vuitton, Hermes, etc. It was all unexpected and proved people wrong.
So, what lies on the horizon for KidSuper?
I’m trying to move studios and build a soccer pitch on the roof. I’m sourcing the turf right now. When it’s ready let’s play 8v8!