St’Art Up 317 Vendor Spotlight: Mike Neon

Photography by Tad 'Hadley' Fruits

St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.

This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.


Mikeal Neon has an eye for the bold and colorful, taking inspiration from popular culture of the 80s and translating it to wearable reworked fashion pieces. The art featured in Carson’s window shows decked out thrifted pieces that he finds around the city and repurposes to make a unique and vibrant statement on the revival of DIY art and mentality of expressing yourself through self-made clothing.

“My biggest inspiration for these current pieces is a lot of 80s commercials, Andy Warhol’s silver period, and the movie Mannequin. I loved it as a kid,” said Neon.

Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, Neon was drawn to the burgeoning music, art, and fashion scene in Indianapolis and decided to make the move in 2012. Wanting to become a part of the vibrant energy that he was so drawn to, he paved his way as an up-and-coming local artist in the past five or six years. In that time, he has curated a following on Instagram, where he features inspiration pictures or past work he’s done.

His website, 555neon.com (a nod to the classic phone number prefix used in Hollywood film and television that Neon grew up with), features blank pieces that clients can purchase and have Neon create a one-of-a-kind DIY’d garment. Currently, there are a pair of Levi jeans, blank white Vans and Nike sneakers, as well as a t-shirt and camoflague pants that clients can choose to be customized as original pieces.

His process for finding pieces to work on starts out with scouring the local “hole in the wall” thrift shops, a favorite of his is the Salvation Army. He then spends an hour or two adding items that are typically repurposed as well, or painting the clothing pieces to his or his client’s liking. Depending on the piece, it may take him a week to find the right item, or he may find it right off the bat. The fun is in discovering the piece and creating something unique and different. Though he works with a variety of clothing items, his favorite piece to work with is a “vintage cotton blank tee.” His reasoning? Because it’s entirely versatile, a blank canvas to work with, and everyone loves a comfortable shirt that works with everything.

“My main goal as a DIY unisex designer is just being innovative, repurposing materials, and creating a unique brand as result,” said Neon.

As a whole, Neon takes inspiration not only from the colorful, and advertisement-heavy era of the 80s, but also from the more relaxed, street style of Los Angeles. Among others, he finds inspiration in a few streetwear L.A. designers, namely Jerry Lorenzo, Shane Gonzales, and Virgil Abloh, the creator of streetwear brand Off-White.

“A lot of my artwork is a product of me being a cable baby, just being raised by cable television as a kid,” said Neon. “There was so much advertisement and art during that era that was a part of my life as a kid that didn’t really happen at any other point in history.”

Looking towards the future, Neon plans to maybe return to his Ohio roots and bring some of his unisex streetwear branding to the Columbus area and open up the art and fashion world there. While he still takes regular trips to Los Angeles, a large part of his heart remains in Indy.

You can catch some of Neon’s work in the Carson’s window display through the end of May.