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Noticing Neighbors Associated Humanity


Associated Humanity is making waves by asking the question: What if the clothes you wear could make a real, local impact? This company brings together designers and artists with a passion for streetwear, and blends their creativity into merch drops that give an extra spark to non-profit fundraising. With a portion of the proceeds going towards local causes, founder Makenzy Jean created a way for the consumer to give back and has been at the helm of the curated collaborations. This weekend, Associated Humanity is hosting a pop up at Cafe Cá Phê to promote their Love Heals collection, with 25% of the proceeds going towards The HALO Foundation. This organization supports Kansas City youth experiencing homelessness and every purchase at the pop up will make a difference. I got the chance to sit down with Makenzy to learn more of the story behind the company.


Hayley: For readers that have never heard of it, can you introduce Associated Humanity?


Makenzy:

Yeah, of course. So with Associated Humanity comes a story. Back in 2020, I left my role as a chaplain because of the pandemic. I just thought, you know what, money obviously is necessary in our day to day, but it's not a huge motivator for me. I really like seeing people and communities grow however I can.

I realized that one thing I did a lot prior to being super busy is give volunteer time. I just love the work that nonprofits do—they do so much great work with so many people. I was like, why are they not highlighted more in our society? Obviously people know they exist, but I wished that they would be highlighted more and celebrated more.

I was at H&M. I love shopping there, I love a good shirt. So I was just like: how cool would it be if things that were just a bit more mainstream supported the organizations in our society and that are giving back? The ones making sure that the least of these is being taken care of, could also look good doing it.

Hayley: What a neat idea, and it’s so true. Why can’t the look be a part of it? Makenzy:

Well with that, I just came from a nonprofit event and had a shirt. It was so ugly. Really, it was so ugly. I was just like, I will never wear this.


Hayley:

Right?


Makenzy:

I will never wear it! It has 150 sponsors on the back. The design is subpar. I would just never wear it. And so I was just like, what if non-profits actually had great design as a way of supporting their cause? So that's how Associated Humanity was started.

I want to make dope clothing that has a purpose, and clothing has to mean more past the purchase. We obviously know that fast fashion is destroying our world, and it's not going anywhere. So if it's not going anywhere, then we have to make that purchase mean a bit more. If you're going to purchase clothing from Associated Humanity, then you know portions of the proceeds are going directly to our non-profits. Regardless of how much you wear the shirt, it’s making an impact.

Hayley:

Like you said, it's something that's already in place. People are already doing it. It's just redirecting that impact a little bit.

Makenzy:

Yeah, exactly.


Hayley:

It’s also interesting that you're talking about connecting that access to good design. What are some of the local nonprofits you've worked with that we might know?


Makenzy:

Yeah. So Nurture KC was our first nonprofit. They are so freaking dope. I could go on and on about them, but they basically help reduce infant mortality in KC. So they work a lot with moms. Moms have a special place in my heart, and they work with the kids, and so they were our first non-profit. And then I've worked with Next Page Foundation. They are a new nonprofit in KC, and they're really taking off. They help support actors, dancers and models, achieve the dream of being a professional in those specific industries. Supporting the creatives is such a huge fabric of our society. Then currently we are working with Lead to Read KC, another really cool organization. They create reading confidence in kids by connecting mentors to read with them.


Hayley:

Amazing.


Makenzy:

As far as the stats on reading and literacy, as I work with different non-profits, I am learning so much about those specific causes. Then that just makes me feel like more people need to know. More people need to know that if the kid doesn't know how to read by the third grade, they're less likely to graduate from high school. To graduate from high school is such an important milestone in our society, which a lot of people don't think of, but it’s setting you up for a successful future. So if you're less likely to graduate out of high school because you don't know how to read and a lot of kids in the inner city and in these urban areas are struggling to read, that's one thing that we can easily address to help create more pathways to success. So super dope. I love what they're doing. Super humble crew.


Hayley:

Could you walk us through? Using this as an example. When you meet the Lead to Read KC team, what have they needed that you've been able to provide?


Makenzy:

Yeah, so really our model is to simply get funding. We get to talk a bit more about what they do. That way we figure out, okay, are you using the money just for random things? Are you very focused on what you're using it for? Because we're looking for non-profits that can let us know: this is what we're using the money for.


Hayley:

Sure.


Makenzy:

Our model isn’t as effective if it’s going toward a general fund. It's like, no, we want people to know how money can powerfully help them in their work. So with Lead to Read, the funding is going to provide access to reading materials in classrooms. Hayley: Very cool. Makenzy: More access to books for the kids, more access to different resources for the kids who are reading, and support for those families. From the Lead to Read side, they've been an amazing partner. We've had opportunities to support the different events that they're doing, by doing things like bringing our merch, selling on their behalf, and giving them access to the design if they want it. We always give them that profitability. If you want access to design, you can have access to it. If you let us know, we'll just discontinue on our end.


Hayley: What are some of your top apparel designs? Which ones you see people using the most, or posting online?

Makenzy:

I'll see that it’s less about the apparel type, and more about the design.

Hayley:

Really?


Makenzy:

Yeah. So just the top three, we had our People over Profit green hat with orange letters. It was super fun.


Hayley:

That looks so cool.


Makenzy:

A lot of people loved it, and that specific color hat was so back ordered. So we had to kind of take it off our site and say, hey, it's coming back soon.


Hayley:

Too big of a demand.


Makenzy:

Yeah, it is. And then our Dreamers collection, we had a yellow windbreaker that said Dreams Thrive Here that just popped. Whenever we saw people wearing it we were like, damn, that is good.


Hayley:

How would you describe your design aesthetic?


Makenzy:

It's very much like a streetwear feel—heavier fabric that just looks kind of retro.

Hayley: I also like how easy the messages are to understand, like, people over profit. You don't really need to explain that. Makenzy:

Just be about it.


Hayley:

That's so cool. So if people want to support or work with you, what's the best way that they can support? Makenzy:

100%. So the first is obviously buying the merch, but if access to money or cash isn’t your thing, or maybe you're on a type of budget—sharing, posting on social media. If you're a designer, a creative type, or even, like, a model or someone who's wanting to be on camera. We're always looking for people to model clothing. We're always looking for different looks, and different people to bridge that gap between style and philanthropy. Hayley: Love it. Makenzy:

Some of the designers want to donate a design. Adrian is our head of design, and so we could connect with her and see how a new designer can fit into the whole landscape.

It also gives a chance for creators to really get involved in philanthropy together. Hayley: Through creating this company and following your goal, how have you seen goodness and positivity?


Makenzy:

That's a really good question. I could go so many different directions, but whenever people see me around, a lot of times I am wearing my own gear. When other people see me wearing Associated merch, they'll say, Oh, my gosh. Where did you get that? They’ll ask what the shirt means.


Hayley:

Yeah. Makenzy:

Then we get to have a conversation. It's created a slight sense of the buyer’s awareness of, like, my dollars mean a lot.


There's a reason why we have our Jeff Bezos, and we have our Elon Musk. We have all these really rich people because we have given them the dollars. Our dollars have been given to them, because they make great products. But at the same time, it's like, we can redirect those dollars to companies and people that are also building up our own communities.


Hayley:

You have more impact than you think.


Makenzy:

Exactly.


Hayley:

Wow.


Makenzy:

The thing is, too, non-profits actually work. And so for me, I’ve seen the good that has come out of there. Your purchase can affect the greater picture, because although we can't change overnight, tomorrow's going to come. Yes, tomorrow’s gonna come. So let's make it better for someone.


Keep up with the latest with Associated Humanity through their website and Instagram. All media originally published by Associated Humanity via their online platforms, with photographer credit to Leia Tabrie.


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