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.
Cahmelan Porter, better known as CP, is the 29-year-old designer and “problem-solver” behind the Indianapolis-based streetwear brand, KOMÄFI. Starting out as a designer for apparel at Wabash College’s bookstore during his time as an undergrad, he decided to turn his ideas and designs into his own, unique brand.
What blossomed out of this became the KOMÄFI brand, its tagline, “inclusively exclusive,” meaning that when you buy something from KOMÄFI, you know it’s going to be individual and unique. If you’re looking for something that’s mass-produced, KOMÄFI is not the place to go. Each item is hand-numbered, and KOMÄFI typically doesn’t make more than fifty of the same item.
“When you have a piece from us, you know there’s not 5,000 other people walking around with the same piece,” he says. “We don’t design for a specific target, or a specific demographic. We really just design whatever we want. A good way to sum it up is: made for all, limited to few.”
This idea comes from his childhood, when streetwear had a different meaning where he was growing up in urban Indianapolis in the ‘90s—a time when streetwear belonged to people in urban areas of the city, and streetwear wasn’t looked on in such a positive light.
“Now, it has completely changed its face, where streetwear is now a global thing,” he says. “It used to be cultural, and it used to be for the black community essentially. There weren’t many people [wearing it] outside of that. But now you see it transcend to this global phenomenon.” He also credits social media for giving inspiration and more awareness to streetwear fashion.
While CP is the primary designer and genius behind the brand, KOMÄFI, he says he doesn’t really consider himself a designer, instead calling himself a problem-solver.
“Here’s a problem I see, and here’s how I can solve it. That’s how I go about design,” he says. “I very rarely do things for the aesthetic. It’s obviously a big part of it, but I never start a project just to make something cool.”
Until June 14th, KOMÄFI is popping up at 1035 Virginia Ave, as part of the St’Art Up 317 initiative to bring more local artists and entrepreneurs the recognition they deserve. Along with the Wishful Thinkin’ clothing brand, run by Alex Olla, KOMÄFI is showcasing its unique and one-of-a-kind clothing for Indianapolis residents who want something that they can’t get just anywhere.
For the future of KOMÄFI and how it fits into Indianapolis’ narrative, CP thinks there needs to be a better opportunity for creatives here to branch out into larger networks.
“It’s struggling for identity,” he says of Indianapolis. “There are a lot good creatives here with good energy, and good passion. In terms of an actual community that’s supported and recognized by the rest of the city, it is nonexistent. Artists here network with other artists, but there are very few times where the artists get to network with the head of a corporation.”
While he doesn’t know what the future holds for him in terms of a permanent location, he maintains that KOMÄFI will always remain in Indianapolis in some way or another.
“Whether or not I’m here physically, the brand will still be here and the store will be here. Something will be here to be a reflection.”
Check out the Cargo Streetwear pop-up until June 14th, and be on the lookout for a permanent location for the KOMÄFI brand in the next few months.