The Kritiq fashion show is a runway of representation, said Mark Launiu, describing the origins and evolution of one of Kansas City’s premiere creative showcases.
“I just wanted to see people that looked like me, designers who don’t have the opportunity to showcase their skills and their talents,” The Kritiq founder and co-founder of MADE MOBB told a crowd gathered at Union Station’s Haverty Family Yards for the event.
“I was like, ‘Man, I want to do my own thing, instead of complaining about it and talking about it.’ I said, ‘Let me go build my team,’” he continued. “The first year, we didn’t know nothing about fashion shows, y’all; never did one before. And now it’s been eight years.”
In between collections from 10 local designers that blended high fashion with streetwear, Launiu said he also uses the fashion show to shine a spotlight on the importance of openly communicating about mental health, especially among men.
“I like to talk about things we don’t talk about much,” continued Launiu, who started a basketball league where opening up about emotions after games is encouraged. “Because I feel like somebody right here, right now is going through something that they’re not talking about. Y’all be living in the same house, sleeping in the same room, but we don’t know how to communicate.”
“So for me, I like talking about these things,” he added, “because there’s somebody in this room right now that wants to scream; you know what I mean? And so for me, I pray a lot. I walk with my daughter a lot, just to help me deal with things that I deal with.”
Launiu especially encouraged fellow entrepreneurs in attendance to seek out community, as the loneliness of the journey can take a toll on mental health.
“A lot of times, you’ve got to find your village,” he explained. “It’s hard to find the people that think like you, so it always feels lonely. We can’t talk to our family a lot of times or our significant other because they don’t understand what it’s like to build your own brand, your own business from the bottom up. Find your village and connect with other business owners. That’s how we grow; we connect, we collaborate.”
The Kritiq — hosted by Jacob Louisius with DJ Jahreezy and sponsored by Fresh Karma and Savvy Salon KC, which provided hair style services — showcased collections from Space Camp Studios by Rebecca Hollar; Little Jo Designs by Jo Hartley; Narues Distinctive Girls Fashion by Shanice Garner; Iron Togs by Kelso Martin; Crush Model Studio by Sarah Beth Houser; 79Roze Dress Shop by LaToya Rozof; Artelvia Clarise by Steana Monae; Studio Rae by Rachel Hughes; Linen Souls by Chris Johnson; and MADE MOBB by Vu Nguyen aka Vu Radley.
Designs ranged from evening wear to streetwear and western-meets-heavy metal to crochet couture.
Johnson noted that he sees Linen Souls as a staple of sustainability as he focuses on resurrected garments.
“Every piece that’s vintage is unique and to be able to put that together into something new is something really special,” he said. “I like doing that.”
As always, the MADE MOBB collection designed by co-founder Nguyen closed out the show with a runway dance party. The Crossroads-based streetwear brand and one of Startland News 2023 Startups to Watch is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and according to Nguyen, it wouldn’t have happened without the backing of the local community.
“MADE MOBB is all about having fun and that’s what we’ve done for 10 years,” he explained. “And we still get to do it with the support of all y’all and we appreciate that. It goes to show that it can happen in Kansas City. It’s different than any other city, and because of you guys, we get to do this every day.”
Check out a photo gallery from the runway show below.