Fashion entrepreneurs at Sunday night’s Kritiq fashion show shared many of the same struggles on their ways to the runway, Mark Launiu said.
“One of our designers here was asked, ‘What’s your inspiration?’ And I think a lot of us can relate,” said Launiu, co-founder at MADE Urban Apparel and lead organizer of the event. “She said, ‘I was poor.'”
Many of them grew up like Launiu, he said, wearing hand-me-downs from siblings and other family members, often cutting their own clothes to make them appear different. That shared experience, as well as a collective passion for fashion, helped shape the MADE man’s desire to start the show, now in its third year.
“Some of us grew up in the inner city, in broken homes. We don’t have the money to go to bigger shows,” he said. “So the Kritiq was intended to keep our young, hungry designers here at home.”
It also was envisioned as a way to showcase the culture and creativity already growing in Kansas City, he said.
“We all know what we bring to the table. We know our nieces, our nephews, our siblings. We know they are so talented, yet the outside world doesn’t see that,” he said.
The Kritiq featured eight designers, including Champ System (Maurice Woodard); Heartshaped Clothing (Corey and Christle Reed); Melanin Connoisseur (Royce and Latanya Handy); House of Rena (Eranne Whiters); Steana Clothing (Steana Walker); Kyrie Eleison Apparel (Esmeralda Lole); Roger Figueroa (Roger Figueroa); and MADE (MADE Mobb).
Joining the Kritiq for the first time Sunday as a designer, Esmeralda Lole said she was excited to be a part of the community-building vision.
“It’s amazing what they’re doing for the culture and for Kansas City, bringing out street fashion and seeing where all this goes,” she said.
Designing since she was 10, Lole’s Mexican American heritage helped shape her line from Kyrie Eleison Apparel, she said. The pieces all reflected various ethnic cultures throughout the U.S., she said.
“Just with my own personal struggles to fit in, that’s kind of what inspired this line,” Lole said, noting her father is a first-generation American. “I want to tell everybody it’s OK to be who you are.”
Launiu estimated Monday that this year’s Kritiq nearly doubled attendance from the previous show, saying more than 700 people packed the event space at the Sprint Center’s College Basketball Experience.
“The show was just what we expected to be. A lot of culture not only throughout the audience but the designers,” he said. “This morning my phone been going off from awesome feedbacks not only from the people, but the designers as well. The night was iconic, I think. The Kritiq is a hidden gem within the city, we’re waking people up now from a creative standpoint as a whole.”