If speaking openly about mental health isn’t already part of the culture, you have to put it in the spotlight, said Mark Launiu, detailing why his recent fashion show offered the best runway to address a silent epidemic within underserved communities.
Opening The Kritiq’s recent return to the Grand Hall at Power & Light — after a 2020 hiatus for the show, which ranges from high-fashion to streetwear designs — Launiu spoke candidly to the fashion-hungry crowd about the importance of self-care, as well as empathy.
“You never know what people are going through, and we want to let people know that they’re not alone,” Launiu shared, noting how COVID-19 and its personal and business aftershocks have also added stress and anxiety to lives throughout Kansas City. He made the remarks while holding his toddler daughter, herself born amid the global health crisis.
Click here to read more about Launiu’s MADE MOBB worked to pay for therapy sessions with Black mental health professionals in 2020.
Already delayed by the pandemic, the fashion show initially wasn’t set to return until 2022, he said, noting organizers felt compelled to make the event happen despite the odds.
“I give credit to my amazing team,” Launiu said. “They really stepped up this year, and we had very little time to plan the show. It wouldn’t have come together without them.”
The fall/winter 2022 showcase was The Kritiq’s largest-ever production, featuring 11 designers from over 40 submissions.
“It’s awesome to see the designers and models grow with our show,” Launiu shared. “Every year we’ve been able to expand the production, and that really allows us to share more dope designs with the audience. We’re about building the culture here in Kansas City.
Check out a gallery below from the first half of the Dec. 12 fashion show, then keep reading to learn more about the designers.
Ronesha Randolph, the designer behind Lephant LLC, used her collection at The Kritiq to combine high fashion with everyday occupations and activities.
“I wanted to look at fashion differently and go out of the box,” Randolph explained. “This line was very unique for me. Hopefully, [The Kritiq] will be an opportunity for me to move forward in the fashion world.”
Designer Kelso Martin of Iron Togs traveled back to the Wild West through old Spaghetti Western movies to find her inspiration.
Browse a gallery of Iron Togs’ runway appearance at the The Kritiq below, then keep reading.
“Seeing my whole collection together was unreal for me,” Martin shared. “It was the first time seeing all the finished garments together. It’s been about nine years since the last time I did a runway show. I felt so much energy when they all stood there together [that] I immediately forgot how tired and stressed I was. I couldn’t wait for my daughters to see their mom’s first runway show.”
The fashion industry has no down time, Martin added, teasing upcoming photoshoots and possible runway shows for 2022.
Sydney Bias used her line S. Bias to send a message: slow fashion and sustainable fashion will never go out of trend.
“With this collection, I really wanted to show people that we can buy and wear beautiful, unique pieces without causing harm to the world and environment around us,” Bias said. “We have so much influence with our purchasing power and we can make decisions that support sustainable fashion and a healthier earth.”
All of Bias’ garments for The Kritiq were handmade from recycled materials, she noted. Her statement bandana patchwork was inspired by the late entrepreneur and rapper Nipsey Hussle.
Click here to see how local creatives reacted to the 2019 death of Nipsey Hustle.
“I have a lot of respect for him as an artist and also a positive leader in his community, and the man always looked good!” Bias exclaimed. “I get inspiration from street style and pop culture, but everything I make is something I would wear, it’s my style.”
Check out some of S. Bias’ looks at The Kritiq below, then keep reading.
VIP audience members at The Kritiq received swag bags, which included an educational zine created by Bias on the importance of eco-friendly fashion.
“Most people don’t understand just how wasteful the fast fashion industry is,” Bias said, “which is why it’s important to educate on it.”
Bias’ biggest takeaway from her first The Kritiq fashion show: community.
“It was a positive event, and I am very grateful to have connected with my models and other designers,” Bias shared. “You can really tell that the people who put this program together really love each other and are happy to work together.”
Browse more designs from the 2021 Kritiq below.
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.