As the Kritiq fashion show came to its booming, music-filled conclusion Sunday, the crowd, designers and models meshed into a sea of energy on the runway — fueled by the MADE MOBB and an interactive experience like no other in Kansas City, said Mark Launiu.
“Street wear and hip hop — they just blend together. They inspire each other,” said Launiu, co-founder of MADE Urban Apparel and the organizer of the Kritiq. “I just want people to express themselves. [The models] were in tune with their music and dancing and showing their feelings — over all, just having more fun. In a lot of shows I’ve seen, [models] are more uptight, they don’t smile, they’re more shoulders up. I just feel like they’re more programmed — like a robot.”
For MADE’s segment at the Kritiq, each model was asked to walk the runway their chosen spirit song, he added.
Organized at the Grand Hall at Power & Light and partnered with Goodwill with a portion of the proceeds going to the nonprofit, the fashion show featured designers from brands Hannah Kristina Designs and OTC Custom Creations, as well as returning Kritiq designers from House of Rena, Kyrie Eleison Couture, Champ System clothing and shoe company, Heartshaped Clothing, and the MADE.
The Kritiq allowed designers and models free range on the runway, said Wissal Grass, founder of OTC Custom Creations.
“I think it created a really cool atmosphere,” she said. “[The Kritiq organizers] told us our time limits … on the runway, and said, ‘That’s your time to shine. Do what you want with it.’”
Models for Champ System were told to act naturally, said Maurice “Champ” Woodard, noting that being more prepared this year as a returning designer allowed him more bandwidth for friendly interactions with the models before the show.
“I want people to understand that once you put on these clothes, it’s not going to change you,” he said. “You don’t have to be somebody else, you can still be you.”
“It was exciting to see [the models] in action. They really did a really amazing job,” Woodard added. “For some of them, it was their first time even being in a fashion show, so I was happy to be able to give them that opportunity.”
Champ System brought a unique vibe to the runway with the appearance of the Champ mascot and performance artists doubling as models.
The MADE team and its supporters — known as the MADE MOBB — felt unified by the sight of models carrying the store’s items, said Launiu.
“We’re so excited to see our pieces come down the runway,” he said. “Of course, the music had a lot to do with it, but everytime a MADE model came out, my whole team stood up, and everyone had their phones out. [We had] unity, we had fun, and we loved kicking it, and it shows through our segment and the show as well.”
Showcasing the culture
The Kritiq brought a variety of ages, nationalities, sizes, and people in many stages of life, into one joined experience, Launiu added.
“[That’s what] I admire so much about the Kritiq and fashion — it has been able to bring people together, this community together, and be diverse — everyone was there,” he said. “We are showcasing culture and just having fun, and linking all together under one roof and have a great time. [We can] network, shake hands, and put faces to people’s designs and grow as a community.”
One House of Rena model and longtime friend’s piece was specifically altered to show off her pregnant belly, said designer Eranne Whiters, noting the holiday collection was made to spotlight options for formal events.
“I love being able to see people showing that they can cater to everything,” added Woodard, who featured a preteen model during the Champ System segment. “Not just one race, not just one size — whatever you’re going through in life, somebody has something to cater to that.”
The young model was originally selected because of his outgoing nature and wildly supportive mom, Woodard said, with the boy ending up sliding toward the photographers on his side, and head propped up by a single arm.
“When he actually first said, ‘Hey, would you mind if I slid? I’ve never got to slide in a fashion show,’ I said, ‘Yes! That’s perfect! If that’s something you want to do, then do it,’ and so I was pretty excited about that,” said Woodard, laughing.
Despite the tagline of the show — “where streetwear meets high fashion” — the OTC designer won’t be limited by certain labels, she said.
“Obviously I had a very street art-inspired, graffiti look, but I do want to get to the point where I take a nice gown or suit and give it that little spice as well,” said Grass. “That’s what’s fun about fashion — you make it your own. That’s what’s fun about what I do too, to just take a blank canvas or any type of hoodie or a dress to make it something completely different with the paint.”
A platform for KC talent
“It was super fun to pick out the pieces and put my little twist on it,” she said. “It was pretty cool because the whole outfit, including the shoes, was only $16 or $17.”
“For my first show to be this one — it was the best idea,” she added.
The Kritiq is definitely raising its profile as a platform for KC talent, said Launiu, noting he was shocked to discover some designers — like Grass — had never before been on the runway.
Organizers are planning to expand the show in 2019, Launiu said, with the addition of spring as well as fall Kansas City showcases that will allow for a greater range of designers that specialize in summer wear or swim wear.
“We’re able to bring out more talent with different shows, and as the platform grows, I think the creative community does as well,” he added.