With the recent news that Kidrobot will be moving their headquarters from NYC to Boulder, Colorado, I was hit with a bitter/sweet reality. "Bitter" cause many of my good friends that work at KR may no longer be there, but "sweet" because I think it's going to open up a whole new world of opportunity for the company to grow. I moved from LA about five years ago back to the Midwest (Kansas City) and have managed to grow my art, career, & business significantly. If anything, being in the Midwest has allowed me to focus my attention on my work, without the distraction of the never ending "scene". As an artist/designer who's been working with Kidrobot for a few years now, I thought I'd go straight to the source with some questions about some of the plans they have for moving into the new decade. So I shot over a few questions to the man in charge of it all… Mr. Paul Budnitz.
1. The word has leaked that KR is moving their New York headquarters out to Boulder, Colorado. and many are curious as to what the biggest reason/ motivation for this is?
Yes, we're moving Kidrobot to Boulder in in April, though we'll be leaving behind a small office in New York City, and of course our flagship store will remain in NYC as well, with Lisa still at the helm.
The motivation for the move is really simple — I kept finding that I was doing my best work outside the big city. New York is wonderful, and it can also be very distracting. There is so much going on, and that's good and exciting, but having our offices right in the middle of Manhattan for so long, it was also constant noise, noise, noise.
Several of us got together, and about a half year ago began looking for a new home for the company. We wanted somewhere that was an art and design hub, that is near a big city with a strong urban art scene, and that has access to a good airport. In the end Boulder won. It's 30 minutes from Denver, which has a tremendous street art community, and also one of the top art museums in the US. Boulder itself was rated #1 of best places in the US to be an artist a few years ago.
Some people also know that we're working on greening Kidrobot. We're exploring carbon offsetting, recycled packaging and plastics. We're already locally sourcing more and more of our apparel (we just switched to USA-made T-shirts, for example. We're working on having our cut-and-sew done in Canada). Boulder is the the #1 bicycle town in the USA. We're putting our offices in the center of town so our employees can bike or walk to work, and save the carbon from car commuting.
We want to show that you don't have to be environmentally wasteful to be cutting edge. The two things are not incompatible.
One of Kidrobot's company missions is to never succumb to fear, and to never sit still. We're excited because the move is letting us pull out a lot of the old wiring and look at things differently. We're inspired by change. It's like starting again!
2. Do you think the move will affect the relationships you have with the artists and companies you currently collaborate with? Will it be harder to pull in new talent/ projects?
The majority of the artists that we work with don't live in NYC. Many artists, like you (in Kansas), Filth (in Portland), Dalek (North Carolina) have moved out of NY or LA. Kronk is in South Africa. TADO in the UK, Huck Gee and Frank Kozik are in SF, Tilt & Mist live in France, Touma in Japan, etc. etc. We're an international company.
And, Chad will be staying in New York to hold down that connection, and as always many of us will be in and out of town for events and for meetings.
3. How does this move affect the "master plan" of the company or does it?
Kidrobot's "master plan" is to take over the world. I've said that for years. But, we won't compromise who we are in the process, though we may evolve and change.
I remember reading an article about The Clash (we're doing some work with them now! I'm super excited). In the late 1970's Mick Jones told the Ramones, "we're going to be the biggest fucking rock band in the world". I think that this kind of attitude, combined with the fact that they remained essentially punk rockers who weren't going to compromise their sound is exactly what Kidrobot plans to do, too.
We're going to be the biggest toy company in the world. And, we're not going to suck and we can take our time.
This doesn't mean we're going to please everyone all the time, and we are going to screw up now and then. We're going to keep making tiny edition art toys. But we want to influence the wider culture, too, to make things more interesting and more beautiful for more people.
Otherwise we'd be playing it way too safe.
4. Do you see the move affecting the "street cred" or "cool factor" of the product you make?
It may. I don't know. In any case, I can't spend time worrying about things like that. We're hardcore, and anyone who has worked with me knows that when it comes down to it I don't compromise. What more can you want?
5. With this move, where do you now see KR in 5 years, 10 years, etc…?
Oh, we're going to take over the world, as I wrote before. We're just going to do it our way, with badass art and pure love.
6. So, will we be seeing a KR: Boulder retail location?
No comment. 😉
7. Recently, an "Open letter to Kidrobot" has been setting the blogs on fire the past few days. Do you have any response to it?
I thought that letter was really fantastic. I'm in the process of writing him a thank you note. The blogger who wrote it was disappointed by some of our past projects, and I can see why. I don't necessarily agree with all of his likes and dislikes — but that's kind of subjective anyway. Frankly, there are other past Kidrobot projects that I personally can't stand — for example the Kidrobot 09 Candle. Do you remember that? I'm still totally embarrassed. What was I thinking? Haha.
So anyway, I can understand disappointment with Kidrobot, because we haven't stood still and we certainly aren't perfect. All I can say is that I'm proud of the mistakes we made, all of the things we've tried that both have and haven't worked.
We're a very lucky company, we have the freedom to experiment. Backpacks and handbags? Why not? We did a capsule with one of the top bag manufacturers in the world, who was a Kidrobot fan and wanted to work with us. I think those bags are amazing quality, and the designs risky and really wild. I carry my Tristan Tag-Team Dunny bag everywhere, and I still see people carrying our bags around NYC and London. Whookid carries his everywhere, too. But that's just my opinion. I've got no problem with someone who disagrees.
And, that's done now, and we're moving on to something else. That's the whole point.
God bless the critics.
Anyone who does nothing but hit home runs is probably only playing in the areas where they are comfortable. This is good business, but frankly if I wanted to make hammers I'd be working for Home Depot. That approach is way too safe to make real art. Remember, product, retail, promotion, marketing — it's all art to us. That’s what Kidrobot is. We're business as art. Not the other way around.
This year we've go so many fantastic new things coming out, I can't wait!
We're not sitting still!
I thank you for your time and responses. I truly wish you the best in the new decade! I know the projects we have in the works are amazing, and can only imagine what else you and the KR crew have in store for us.