Mark Launiu, along with Jonathan Platz and Vu Radley, founded MADE Urban Apparel, a Kansas City streetwear brand in the heart of The Midwest, in 2012. Launiu was born in American Samoa, a group of small islands southwest of Hawaii. He moved to Kansas City in 1999 and split his childhood between the island of Tutuila and KC. He attended elementary, middle and high school in South KC in the Hickman Mills District.
Growing up, Launui wanted to play in the NFL. “That’s our ticket off the island; all we knew was playing ball. Towards the end of my high school years, it just didn’t work out and as I’ve gotten older I enjoyed working with numbers,” Launui says. He eventually studied architectural engineering at Kansas State University and landed a job at Sprint. It was there he met Platz and Radley. They saw customers coming in wearing t-shirts that were, in their minds, sub-par and thought, “We could do better than that.” The three decided they would create their own version of streetwear, unique to KC, but that could appeal to both coasts.
They decided on a brand that would be influenced by midwest moxie, constructing a lane for the hustlers that won’t accept no as the answer. MADE stands for “make and destroy everything.” MADE MOBB works to build onto the growing streetwear scene by pioneering their take on midwest streetwear. Each piece by the brand is created with Midwest values in mind: hard work, craftsmanship, culture, and community. They started selling at First Friday’s and at pop-ups. Then retail stores started carrying their line and the brand exploded. By 2017, they opened their flagship location downtown. In 2018, their second location inside MADE In KC on The Plaza launched. This year, a third location in The Crossroads District opened its doors. With this success, Launiu was able to concentrate on something very important to him - the community. He wanted to give back to the city that had supported he and his company so openly.
“I grew up in South KC. I just wanted to show kids no matter where you come from regardless of limited-to-no resources, you can still make something out of yourself. We’ve spent last couple years hosting community events that donated 300 filled book bags to kids in South KC. Last week, we hosted “The DistriKC” alongside other entrepreneurs and CarMax. We taught kids the basic skills of car maintenance: how to change tires, change oil, and replace brakes. I believe the change you want to see starts with you. I just never wanted to forget where I came from,” Launiu says. He and other local entrepreneurs and influencers teamed up to create The DistriKC to carry on slain rapper Nipsey Hussle’s work, combining their resources together to pour back into their communities.
Another way Launiu gives back is through The Kritiq fashion show he founded. While attending Magic (a massive fashion trade show event) in Vegas, Launiu was taken aback when companies from LA and New York made comments to him like, “Kansas City has fashion? We thought it only had BBQ and a crime rate,” Launiu says. It inspired him to build his own platform to showcase Kansas City fashion. The Kritiq showcases about ten up-and-coming entrepreneurs/designers from the metro area who are just starting in the industry and partners with Goodwill to show you can have affordable fashion on a budget.
When asked about the Maker movement in Kansas City, Launiu says, “Everyone is coming together. The maker community is working together as a unit versus competing. It’s not as saturated compared to the West Coast, so I think we see the bigger picture here and are building it together.” Launui loves shining light on their community work. He believes “Makers” are born in every part of the city no matter which part it is. “The people in Kansas City are amazing! They’re very supportive of the huge, creative community here. We’ve worked with a lot of them and are very excited to keep building this community together.”