Jo Hartley might be different from the typical designer featured this weekend at The Kritiq Fashion Show.
She’s also the type of creator who organizers of the Kansas City runway experience want to brag about — the type they credit with helping grow the fashion show that’s been organized each fall the past four years. Now The Kritiq is expected to play host to its first spring show 6 p.m. Sunday at the Airline History Museum, Hangar 9, 201 Northwest Lou Holland Drive.
Click here for tickets to Sunday’s show.
Hartley is debuting her line of fashion clothing for adults and children. But this isn’t her first career, or even her second. Hartley retired from the medical field about 15 years ago. Bored without work, she became a photographer specializing in editorial photo shoots. When renting clothing became too expensive, she took matters into her own hands — literally.
Hartley started tailoring her own designs and eventually founded Little Jo Designs out of her Olathe home. This weekend she’ll display a line of Great Gatsby-themed dresses for women and fairy designs for children.
“I love making things,” Hartley said. “I get the idea in my head, and when I’m putting it together I just get so excited when I see the end product.”
Hartley is among 10 designers whose fashion designs will be featured Sunday. The show also will feature Champ System Clothing & Shoe Co.; Naava Swim; From The Bottom Street Apparel; House of Rena, LLC; VVS STAR Clothing CO; Created by Cocoa Butterfly; Steana Monae; OTC Custom Creations; and MADE MOBB.
Click here for photos from The Kritiq’s fall fashion show.
Since 2014, The Kritiq fashion show has continued to grow. Before this spring show, for example, the model casting call drew nearly 600 people, said Mark Launiu, co-founder of MADE and an organizer of The Kritiq. That’s a long way from the first show, which Launiu said “started from us not knowing what we were doing.”
“A lot of entrepreneurs are popping up,” Launiu said. “Everything is starting to bloom on the creative side. As they start to bloom, we start to reach out to them.”
Launiu said the show’s success is driven by entrepreneurs in the city’s creative community — people who’ve always been here but now have somewhere to showcase their work. The key for organizers has been to reflect the city’s culture and be flexible toward designers, not the other way around.
“The runway has allowed them to be authentic to who they are, not so much of having to cater to a certain fashion platform,” Launiu said.
The diversity is evident.
While Hartley’s fashion will reflect a different time and place, Wissal Grass’ designs for her brand OTC Custom Creations will feature bold statements on streetwear. Grass moved to Kansas City from Minnesota about a year ago and first participated in the Kritiq fashion show last fall. That show created connections and networking opportunities, Grass said.
“That’s really awesome, especially being new here in Kansas City,” Grass said.
Kritiq is again partnering with Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas, with a segment of the fashion show devoted to children showcasing clothing from the organization’s area stores.
“For us, it’s being able to team up with people who have their hands in the community,” Launiu said.
So, while Kritiq is a celebration of fashion, it’s also about service, promoting entrepreneurship in the community and keeping creators energized, organizer say.
“What I like to brag about more than anything is the new designers,” Launiu said. “We need more brands on the scene. We need the community to grow.”
This is appealing to first-timers like Hartley, who say a big reason for Kritiq’s success has been its ability to create opportunities for new designers.
“I think for a first fashion show, this is really the one to be in,” Hartley said. “Everyone has gone out of their way to be kind and helpful.”