The evolution of the Kritiq fashion show — from a one-night event to a full weekend showcasing up-and-coming artists and fashion designers in streetwear and high fashion — was an intentional effort to reflect Kansas City’s booming creative landscape, said Mark Launiu.
“The culture [of Kansas City] is changing and we have to be a part of that,” said Launiu, co-founder of MADE Urban Apparel, as well as founder and organizer of the Kritiq. “The creative scene has changed so much and the Kritiq mainly highlights fashion but we wanted to [bring] entertainment and a marketplace in that. I feel like fashion, art and music are connected.”
Sunday’s fall fashion show at the Grand Hall at Power & Light capped the Kritiq weekend, which brought connected sectors of creativity under one roof through marketplaces and networking events, Launiu said.
“You’re not alone. We’re here, and if you ever need help or a platform — we can uplift you,” explained Launiu. “And whenever you’re ready, we’ll try the runway or we’ll try one of these events we have.”
The show debuted such newer designers as Melanie Deliqht of Uzuri Closet, Mike Conley Jr. of Urban Jungle Life Clothing, and Nujaod Designs, as well as Kritiq runway veterans like VVS Star Clothing Co., OTC Custom Creations, House of Rena, From The Bottom Clothing, Hannah Kristina Designs, and the MADE MOBB.
Click here to see fashion from the fall 2018 Kritiq show.
Gathering KC creatives
Melding new elements and tradition, the Kritiq takes on an element of a homecoming for designers and their fans — especially for those associated with Made Urban Apparel’s MADE MOBB, said Launiu.
“It feels good to come out on the runway and see your family there. Front row, standing up and taking pictures,” he said. “Our whole team… we’re so close to our families — it’s in our upbringing and it’s so important to have our family in the audience. It’s so important [considering] all the work we put in all year in production of this show.”
The Kritiq again partnered with the Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas to kick off the show with a segment dedicated to upcycled clothing from Goodwill — featuring pieces altered by each designer with primarily children models walking the runway, said Launiu.
“[Goodwill] is about giving back. That’s our priority [too] not only to highlight creators but also to give back to our community,” he said. “With the Goodwill segment [in previous years,] we started filling it up with kid models and as time went on, we just started calling it a kids time. I just feel like it’s important to expose youth to something like a runway with the atmosphere of art and fashion.”
Proceeds from art auctions during the Kritiq show and other weekend events are slated for a Kritiq Scholarship Program created to help Kansas City’s children pursue art in all forms, Launiu said.
“We can conquer so much together if we just work together,” he said. “[We can] inspire, grow Kansas City, and influence the next generation.”
An outlet for change
Several artists utilized Sunday’s fashion platform to make statements about such prevalent issues as gun violence. Wissal Grass from OTC, for example, showcased variations of bulletproof vests — in one case, featuring a child model carrying a backpack with the words “These are bulletproof now?” emblazoned on the back — as well as other powerful words discussing climate change, and a cry for peace and unity.
“I just wanted to go into a different direction and bring my art to life,” said Grass. “Violence, not only in our community but everywhere, is becoming a very big problem — especially for youth. I just wanted to shed a little light. Just for people to wake up a little bit and walk with intention and purpose.”
“I think it’s great that other designers touched on [powerful issues] as well. I think people are realizing that this platform, especially in the creative realm, can just be so powerful,” she added. “I think it’s really awesome that people are using their platform to really speak up on different issues.”
Despite some dark subject matter, the entire show had the energy of a celebration, Grass said, laughing.
“I think this was my third Kritiqm and it’s just gotten better and better every time. I think I just got here about a year and a half ago and just in that short time I feel like seen and grown so, so much,” she added.
Continuing to grow remains Grass’ priority as she develops her creative process throughout the next year, she said.
“[Kritiq] has just helped me break down my own barriers creatively and push boundaries that I guess I kind of created for myself so they’ve just really pushed me to think outside the box and so it’s been really awesome,” Grass said. “I just want to continue to grow in every way I can.”
Exposing new creations
A new designer, Mike Conley Jr. hopes to expand the presence of Urban Jungle Life (UJL) Clothing through the Kritiq and other fashion shows in Kansas City in the next couple years, he said.
“The reason I do it is for people to look at it and love it,” said Conley. “It was great knowing that people actually like what I’m putting together. I had people in the intermission coming up to me like ‘Oh I loved this!’ or ‘Man, I need that sweater!’
“I loved getting the exposure — that’s really what I needed,” he added. “I had a few offers before [for other fashion shows] but I got the chance to do this and I picked this one first to see how it went. But, I would love to be able to get into other shows.”
The potential impact for the show inspired him to create an entirely new line just to showcase at the Kritiq, Conley said, noting a month of planning went into the designs.
“I design clothes all day, everyday — it’s all I do,” he laughed. “I actually planned on not doing anything special for the show and I was like ‘… That’s kind of stupid. If I’m going to showcase it to this many people I might as well think of something new.’”
Melanie Mfuh of Uzuri Closet was excited to bring African fabrics into the mix with her bold, Cameroonian dress-inspired designs — a look never seen before in the Kansas City fashion scene, she said.
“I just love how the crowd was really receptive because I don’t see African fabrics being used a lot in Kansas City for fashion so I was really excited how the crowd liked it,” Mfuh said.
Her heritage-focused clothing was born out of a desire to update the traditional dress and patterns that are prevalent in her culture, she said.
“Over the years, I realized that there weren’t really a lot of [clothes] that I wanted to wear — I thought the designs were kind of old. So I figured, maybe I can put my finger on it and make it modern and something that I would wear, and maybe others like me would want to wear it too,” Mfuh said.
Mfuh recently moved to Kansas City from Maryland and found the transition challenging in a city without much connection to her family or friends, she said.
“I would say that it’s been really different and it was a bit difficult to adjust when I moved here, because I didn’t really have any family or anything here but having more events to go to and things going on — and finding out about we have something like the Kritiq where we can showcase our items was really exciting,” said Mfuh.
The next year for the Kritiq is expected to include spring and fall shows and a full weekend of similar events, Launiu said, noting the MADE MOBB team and brand is allowing room to continue to grow and take inspiration from the culture that surrounds them.
“2020… Man, that’s crazy,” he laughed. “We’ll definitely do two shows and just implement events throughout the year for Kansas City. “
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Forever grateful !! 5 years strong. This year was hectic. We transitioned into 2 shows. From S/S & F/W Showcase but we also implemented a whole weekend. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. Our volunteers, glam squad, volunteers, sponsors but most importantly my team. If you missed it, recap on @thekritiqkc. #mademobb #thekritiqkc #kc
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.