As a customer strolled through the Sprint store waiting for cellphone service, three employees critiqued his “streetwear.”
“He had a T-shirt with the words ‘Trippy Mane,’ meaning ‘under the influence,’ ” recalled Mark Launiu, one of the now former Sprint employees. “But we were like, ‘Someone is paying to wear that? We could do so much better.’ ”
So they did.
Starting in February 2012, Launiu and his two colleagues, Jonathan Platz and Vu Radley, started meeting at Buffalo Wild Wings every Tuesday for six months, sharing ideas and plotting their next move. By February 2013 they were ready to launch MADE Urban Apparel. MADE stands for “make and destroy everything.”
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“We made what we wanted to and felt like we could kill whatever competition we had,” Launiu said.
Their first shirt was a guy flipping the bird.
“We were young and still kids at the time and wanted to do things our own way,” Launiu said. “As we grew older our designs matured with us. Now we have more timeless designs.”
Radley, 30, who had studied graphic design at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is the company’s creative director. Platz, 27, had been a manager at the Sprint store and is now head of operations for MADE. Launiu, 27, who attended Kansas State University, is head of marketing and promotion.
They went through the “grinding stage,” holding happy hour showcases and other events, grinding away to earn money. For the first three years they reinvested whatever they made.
“We panicked every time our bank account went negative,” Launiu said.
But then area retailers started carrying the products and sales surged. MADE merchandise is now sold in Halls at Crown Center, The Bunker in Westport, the Garment District in the Kansas City Power & Light District, Westside Storey, Houndstooth in the River Market and the Made in Kansas City shops.
Mega retailer Scheels in Overland Park also recently started carrying MADE products.
MADE also had a limited-edition collaboration with Gates Bar-B-Q and another one with the Kansas City Streetcar.
On April 15, the partners opened a MADE Urban Apparel flagship retail store at 1110 Grand Blvd., just across from the Ambassador Hotel Kansas City. A post on MADE’s Instagram account, which has more than 5,500 followers, showed fans spilling out onto the street on opening day.
The store also will have designs exclusive to that location, while some of its retail accounts will have designs exclusive to those stores. Some collections are made in China, while others are made in the Los Angeles area.
Products include Blackcats 13 hoodies for $50, a streetwear design that sells well on both coasts. It also has French terry short sleeve hoodies for $45, “Property of MADE Urban Apparel” crewnecks for $50, and rain jackets for $75, as well as pullovers, camper hats, coach jackets, joggers, T-shirts and beanies.
Its War Ready collection, introduced in January, features a navy and blue-gray camo jacket, and the new Memento Mori collection tells a story, that “life isn’t promised,” Launiu said.
With each new collection, MADE will have a local piece, such as crew shirts with the words “Kansas City” and T-shirts with “x KC x,” X’s to set their design apart from other KC designs.
Launiu was at a concert in early 2013 when he first saw someone wearing a MADE shirt.
“I couldn’t believe someone paid to wear one of my shirts. That’s crazy,” he said. “Now I see them all the time, and I always try to get a photo with them. I don’t tell them who I am, just tell them I know the guys who own the company.”