Vlad Dragusin grew up in Romania, dreaming of American muscle cars and making his own toys. After studying architecture, moving to the U.S., and having kids of his own, he began imagining a line of handmade wooden toys that combined his love of mid-century design and vintage cars.
This vision became a reality when he launched Candylab Toys on Kickstarter in 2013, raising more than $100,000. He recalls the moment with the project really took off: "I was at my day job at the time, monitoring the campaign in a small browser window. When I first saw the huge traffic spike, I became so overwhelmed with emotion that I had to invent an excuse and leave early — I simply couldn't contain myself."
Candylab is now Dragusin’s full-time job, and he and his growing team recently ran their fifth campaign as part of Kickstarter Gold. For the new collection, he gave fresh paint jobs to some of his classic designs — from a race car decked out in WWII-era dazzle camouflage to a classic silver camper made in collaboration with Airstream. They’re the kinds of toys that parents might get for their kids and wind up playing with themselves.
Asked about the advice he’d offer to aspiring creators, Dragusin stresses the importance of staying true to your vision: "Respect your community and be prepared to make products and decisions that may only cater to a hardcore set of like-minded people. Compromising and watering down a product or design for the sake of a perceived larger slice of a pie can backfire dramatically."