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KidSuper and Cirque du Soleil Join Forces at His Paris Fashion Show


Tucked away on a side street behind Père-Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris and perhaps the most visited necropolis in the world, Colm Dillane, a.k.a. KidSuper, stood at the cyclonic center of a studio strewed with clothes, bags, shoes and props and crammed with models, stylists, photographers, videographers, the designer’s parents and the rapper Lil Tjay. Mr. Dillane looked for all the world like a man whose fashion show was far off in the future, not the following night.

“What’s up, what’s good?” Lil Tjay asked Mr. Dillane. The question was rhetorical. Lil Tjay, whose given name is Tione Jayden Merritt, knew the answer before Mr. Dillane opened his mouth.

“It’s all cool,” the designer said. Of course it was.

While some in fashion prefer to work in semi-clinical settings, surrounded by white-smocked assistants, and others in solitude, delegating to distant teams, Mr. Dillane is the embodiment of crowdsourced creativity.

If anyone around him, be it Wisdom Kaye, his stylist, or his 21-year-old assistant Clara West, who only recently graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, has a good idea, his ears are open. If a concept looks as if it may tank, he will improvise. If, for instance, the 6-foot-8-inch model cast to wear a headless costume figure in a fashion show designed in collaboration with the entertainment megalith Cirque du Soleil has legs too long for the available samples, order a pair stitched overnight.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do about feet,” Mr. Dillane said, referring to the model Kaylann Balde’s size 12 shoes.

“Don’t worry about it,” an associate said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Improvisation is a default setting for Mr. Dillane. Coming out of nowhere as a Brooklyn Tech nerd who went from selling T-shirts from his New York University dorm room to building a booming streetwear brand, he finds himself going head-to-head with the biggest names in fashion on its most competitive stage. The cliché has always held that moxie is a New Yorker’s superpower, the ultimate flex.

Whether that still holds, the reality is that with no formal training and only his abundant reserve of ideas and drives to propel him, Mr. Dillane has thus far managed to stage 11 fashion showings — two off the official calendar in Paris, one off-calendar in his hometown, four on the official roster of Paris Fashion Week and four films, also presented in Paris during the Covid-19 lockdown. One of these was a stop-motion claymation-style film featuring miniature replicas of famous figures.

It was most likely that film that brought him to the attention of the judges of the LVMH awards, who granted him the prestigious Karl Lagerfeld prize in 2021. That, in turn, brought him to the attention of LVMH, which handed Mr. Dillane the creative reins at Louis Vuitton for the label’s second presentation after the designer Virgil Abloh’s death.

“One thing I learned at LV was that they were just as unprepared as I am,” Mr. Dillane said on Friday, as models from a casting call that brought in more than 400 prospects for 31 available slots trooped into the studio. “Two days out from the big LV show, there was no choreography. They were chill about it. The difference is they had money. They can throw money and people at anything.”

What KidSuper has is talent and a vibe. That is why shows like the one planned for Saturday night tend to draw out celebrities, ballers and the hip-hop elite. It is why models forgo big money jobs to work for him.

“We don’t have any problems at all getting models,” the casting director Maxime Valentini said. “Everyone wants to work for Colm because of his energy. Models even try to crash the castings.”

“Fashion is like a Trojan horse for all these other concepts,” said Mr. Dillane, who views himself as a multimedia artist and who has variously staged shows imitating a comedy roast and starring real-life comics; a filmed “docuseries” on his life; a fake art auction; and a short of vignettes inspired by Wes Anderson. That one was titled “If the Plan Doesn’t Work, You’re Insane, If the Plan Works You’re a Genius.”

Whether his latest effort will be viewed as brilliant or crazy remains to be seen. Yet the elements are coming together, he said. He had already constructed a pair of giant hands using 3-D printers and choreographed a presentation with eight circus performers who will be manipulated on the stage of the Le Trianon theater as if they were marionettes. Earlier in the week, he rehearsed the show’s opening scene with a hair suspension artist.

“She’s a hair-hanging person, and the hands pick her up onstage like she’s on strings,” Mr. Dillane said, abruptly pulling off his T-shirt and walking around half-clad. “I’ve always liked that idea of fashion and puppetry.”

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