Kid Robot is very much a big part of the growth of Vinly toy culture in both retail and the western world, its certainly the first retailer I had heard of, what was the original concept behind creating a retail outlet just for vinyl fans?
When I started Kidrobot there were a few tiny stores in the US where you could buy designer toys, but mostly you’d have to search on eBay. It was all very secret, very mysterious, and in a way it’s still like that because the toys are so rare and so few are made. I became addicted to the toys I was finding coming out of Asia and started Kidrobot so that I could make toys with the artists I knew.
Breaking ground in such a niche culture, how hard was it to get through those initial first few years of retail that so many people find hard?
I was pretty lucky, I think, because it just kind of worked from the start. A whole bunch of things worked — the stores are really special places, and the toy and clothing designs are pretty undeniable, in fact that’s part of our company’s founding principals, that everything we do, toys, events, whatever, it has to be totally undeniable or we won’t do it. Actually the struggle has always been that we make so much less stuff than we could sell. I’ve kept it that way, there’s something beautiful about having things that are sought after because there’s never quite enough out there
Of course, Kid Robot isn’t just a retail outlet, its one of the worlds best known creators of the produce themselves, this is something I’ve always wanted to know more about? Whats the process? Can you break it down for us novices?
We start out with a sketch of an idea, say a new toy. That sketch might come up in-house, or might be a collaboration with a famous artists or designer we know. Then we do turn-around — we draw the
toy from all sides, and send that off to the sculptor who makes a model in wax, usually. My favourite sculptor is a one-eyed elderly gentleman who lives in Hong Kong and doesn’t even speak English. But
he’s just amazing, he nails it every time. We work with sculptors in the USA too and occasionally even do sculpting using 3D modeling and rapid prototyping.
From the wax sculpt we go to a production prototype in vinyl or plastic, and then we get paint prototypes, which we correct until they are perfect. Meanwhile we’re work with the factory to get the packaging just right and from there, production prototypes and then final products.
The who process takes 6-9 months, sometimes longer depending on the design.
While Vinyl figures are a big thing in the US and western countries now, when Kid Robot first opened its stores it was dominated by Japanese companies and designers, the movement has grown very quickly though, and much of that is down to you guys working with such high profile artists, how did these come about, and whats been your favorite collaboration so far?
Well, we’ve done so many collaborations, it’s hard to say what is my favorite. We’ve worked with designers like Frank Kozik, Tilt, Tara Mcpherson, Gary Baseman, Tristan, Doze Green, and many others. And in the fashion world with Visionaire Magazine, Marc Jacobs, LaCoste. In music, Swizz Beatz and the Gorillaz. Generally these come about because we just love someone’s work, or they love our work, and we get to talking and decide it’d be amazing to work together.
Vinyl Toys and Streetwear are both big big parts of Street Culture, and are linked closely, when did you guys decide to make the move into Clothing? You seem to have concentrated on hoodies more than tee’s which so many people do.. whats your philosophy behind the clothing line? and where do you see it headed?
This next year we’re releasing a full line, not just hoodies and t’s, but jackets and bags and a ton of other stuff. It just feels like a natural evolution, and one of the ideas to avoid the normal, so we’re going super-graphic and blowing things up too big. In a way, the toys are an inspiration for our clothing, but we’re not just sticking toys on t-shirts. It’s it’s own thing.
Right now the clothing is only available at our stores, at Barney’s, and some very select small retailers.
In 5 short years, youve created a movement in the US, been responsible for much of the worlds most high profile figures, started a successful clothing line, and opened new stores.. whats next for Kid Robot?
More more more!
I can’t tell you, it’s a secret until it happens!
You can find out more about Kid Robot’s Stores, Toys, and Apparel at www.kidrobot.com, along with a selection of their products available to purchase online.