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Jan 11, 2010

Paul Budnitz Interviewed by MAD


[MAD recently interviewed Kidrobot Co-Founder Paul Budnitz about big moves in Kidrobot’s future.  Vinyl Pulse is happy to exclusively bring you this great read.]

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.

Posted by Jack @ 03:30 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (6) |


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wow. hey Mad thanks for slow pitching to KR and sidestepping the issues in the post by talking about the post itself...

Thanks MAD for the great interview. I live in Boulder, so I felt the need to respond to your question about Boulder affecting "street cred" or the "cool factor". Boulder is the coolest town. I've lived in some cool places (Southern Cal; France; Telluride) and I don't envision that I'll ever live anywhere else. There's not another community like Boulder. It's an incredibly educated community (more PHd's per capita than anywhere else in the USA), unbelievable views of the Flatirons, world class skiing within 90 minutes (not to mention Eldora 40 minutes up the canyon for some lunch hour turns), more professional athletes than anywhere else in the country, possibly even world. On any given day you'll see the Japanese womens olympic marathon team running the streets (all day long). That's one small example of the international base of world class athletes that call Boulder their "training" home. Everyone who lives here is outdoors oriented. It's a fit community. The weather is almost always perfect (yes, I'm biased). It's home to Pearl Street, a pedestrian street with all kinds of shops, restaurants and night life. I could go on for many pages, but I won't. I would recommend visiting Boulder to see for yourself. You might find yourself moving here! I'm off to send my resume to Boulder's newest and coolest company - Kidrobot!

This is all bull! Paul budnitz is an egomaniac that doesnt care of anyone but himself, he is loosing this company because his poor planed choices and because he has always taken advantage of talented artists from all arround the world and the whole "going green" excuse is just awefull.

shame on you Paul an all your lies

PLEASE. go green MADE IN CHINA. Who is kidrobot trying to kid?

Dude... what about all the european shops (except for KR London off course) that received their Xmas items and many other products in 2010 instead before XMAS 2009 ??

Paul you fucked up bigtime! The Kidrobot products are fantatstic but your service is so horrible i don't know where to start !!! and yes i do own a store and yes i do have an wholesale account with you guys, this doesn't mean we are like fucking puppy's that take every shitty thing you do !

Horrible shipping prices, Pre-ordered quantities that aren't being sent, communication is a joke.... and so much more

Let's hope 2010 brings us better things... i hold my heart for me and my fellow colleagues!

Amen to that!

Just for the record I recieved my Krunk a clause dunny yesterday!! :s and it wasnt even ordered at a lokal shop or something but at the Nr1 retailer in the Netherlands, Highland toys...

Those dunny's where christmas presents but the fuckers came 1 month (!) late.

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