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Back the days when the word “supermodel” was first coined, and Kate, Naomi and Christie ruled on magazine covers, designer Todd Oldham was one of the New York fashion world’s biggest stars. His whimsical looks, which included pieces like the “Potholder suit” and hand-embroidered shirts earned him a coveted CFDA Perry Ellis award in 1991. After dabbling in television (he was best known as the host of “Todd Time” on MTV’s House of Style) and hotel design (including The Hotel in South Beach), Oldham stretched his focus well beyond fabric and hemlines. Today the 53-year old creates graphics, interiors and insanely cheerful art products for Kids Made Modern, a line of crafting kits sold exclusively at Target stores. And he’s having a blast. InStyle.com spoke with Oldham in his downtown New York studio about what’s inspiring him now.
Fans from your fashion world days may be surprised to see you making crayons and craft kits now. How did this come about? I have two incredible parents who were very great artists, and they spent all their time teaching my brothers and sisters and me how to make stuff, and I started seeing that attention to DIY slipping away. I thought it would be nice to show how creativity can be inspired, not copied, and to have the materials work for you.
Creatively, how does it compare to making a collection of clothes? When you do a collection you bring yourself to it; it’s your opinion. And in this, while it’s still my opinion, it’s also my obligation to get it right. Being able to get in there and make the crayons, and make sure they work as exquisitely as the finest German crayons, which are the very best, makes me really happy.
What is it like to see the things kids make with your products? It thrills me on every level. We get lots and lots of fan mail and lots of beautiful projects made with our supplies. What excites me the most is when we do live events—I see kids come in who are three or four or even twelve. When they first come in, and they’re all shy, and they won’t speak, and within five minutes, the joy is just erupting off of them. They’re chattering and telling me what they’ve done. I see the real effects of what creativity brings to someone.
You’re such a DIY-er. What are the Oldham holidays like? Well, my parents are incredible decorators. I’ve never missed a Christmas with my family since I was born. My parents go to town — their house looks like Santa’s workshop.
It seems like all things ’90s are having a comeback now. Do you ever miss the early days of New York Fashion Week? It was a fun week. It was Mark [Jacobs], Anna [Sui], Isaac [Mizhari], and I had the 8PM shows on Monday through Thursday many, many years ago. I just heard endlessly, and still do, about how much fun people had. I got to do it when it was really fun. I had the great privilege of always working for myself, so when it was no longer in my heart to do it, I moved away. I really don’t have any interest or itch to go back. I didn’t change from being a fashion designer to designing hotels or kids’ stuff. To me, it’s just what I do, and the mediums change. It’s felt very consistent, to me, and I still make clothes for friends like Amy [Sedaris].
Are there any current designers or lines that you find particularly exciting? Oh yeah. I still look at it and get excited by what I see. I’ve always been very intrigued with what Sarah Burton is doing at McQueen. It’s astonishing. I think Prabal Gurung is just incredible. I like when things look like they have no predecessor. That’s always really interesting to me. I think Marc Jacobs is still astonishing. He’s been astonishing for forever.
What’s your favorite thing in the Kids Made Modern collection? The things that I love are the very core supplies stuff. I really believe our colored pencils are amazing. The pigment lays down so smoothly, and is blendable. I’m very, very proud of them, and the fact they’re, what, $6 for 32?
You can see the full collection of Kids Made Modern products, including the Modern Holiday Stamp Set (pictured above, left) and Create Your Own Wrapping Paper Kit (pictured above, right) at target.com.