Kurt Scholla, who owns the Bunker, has his own quality-of-life index for his fellow Kansas Citians: T-shirt sales.
In recent years, his Westport clothing boutique has seen demand rise for locally themed apparel. So last year, he decided it was time for the store to make its own local mark. The result: a simple but edgy logo centered on the letters “KCMO,” designed by his wife, Krista Scholla. It did well on hats, so now it’s on T-shirts, hoodies and beer cozies.
As Kurt Scholla sees it, two factors fuel the local love: the post-recession shop-local trend and the national attention that Kansas City’s cultural scene has earned over the past few years.
“People love the KCMO items, and we’ve found it’s all due to a strong sense of KC pride,” he says.
Throughout the city, designers are adding their voices to the T-shirt uptick.
Dan Mahaney and Pat Egger love everything Kansas, Missouri and Kansas City. Together, they form Normal Human, a Mission screen-printing shop with an extensive collection of fresh tee designs to prove it: archery arrows aligned to form the state of Missouri (a nod to the state’s Native American history); the word “Stateline”; wheat and stars alongside the letters “K” and “C”; and an “Ad Aspera” design for those who want to show off their Sunflower State pride.
“Through our designs, we’re paying tribute to the city that raised us,” Mahaney says. “The arts resurgence here is really exciting to us, and we seek to incorporate that in our work by going for a hand-done, artsy look.”
While many cities have a well-known tee – think “I 鈾?NY” – Mahaney and Egger focus on local themes to land on different designs.
“Kansas City is known for its innovation right now, and we’re looking to innovate good ideas,” Egger says. “We’re always trying to find the best design. We’re not just putting a ‘K’ and a ‘C’ on a shirt.”
Three years into Normal Human, Mahaney and Egger are ready to expand their relationships with other local small businesses. A trip to buy sausage turned into a gig designing shirts for the Local Pig, and they want to continue building business organically.
If all goes as planned, Normal Human will soon move from Mission to a spot in the Crossroads – in the thick of a like-minded, growing niche. “There’s this cool ecosystem of printers down there. We’re excited to be part of it,” Egger says.
Maker Village KC T-shirts – including a “Makers Gotta Make” tee, picturing an eagle stamped with “KC” – embody the local handmade-goods movement.
“The logo is a little rough around the edges, but I think that is what feels so industrial about it,” says shirt designer Roberto Camacho. “It fits Maker Village KC so well. Everyone is unique, and most are rough around the edges, but all of them share a passion for creating things that make them and the city of KC feel very proud.”
The shirts feature the Maker Village logo: an eagle signifying American-made products as well as the strength of the industrial movement, along with a ball-peen hammer and a claw hammer to honor makers’ works.
Camacho designed two gray shirts for Maker Village KC founders Nick Ward-Bopp and Sam Green, whom he counts as friends. (Camacho works a day job at Willoughby Design outside of his involvement with Maker Village.) La Cucaracha Press screen-prints the shirts.
Those involved in Maker Village are rehabbing a building into a member-based workshop where engineers, entrepreneurs and designers can access woodworking and metalworking equipment and shop space. Ward-Bopp took a break from power washing the building’s floors earlier this month to speak with The Pitch. The shirts, he says, have raised funds as well as serving as thank-yous.