Cahmelan Porter started producing clothing in 2012 after receiving a startup grant as an undergraduate student at Wabash College. With the top selling college apparel of that time consisting of big name brands like Nike and Under Armour, he strived to create something different for the college-aged market. For the past three years, Porter has been designing and producing apparel for Wabash College’s bookstore, as well as preparing his own product for the KOMÄFI line which will soon be available for purchase.
McKenzie Price: Please describe the motive or message behind your brand.
Cahmelan Porter: The name KOMÄFI has no definition. I wanted to come up with a name that has no other word association with it. It actually comes from my brother’s middle name, Karmophy. I wanted it to be six letters for symmetry purposes and I wanted to incorporate the umlaut because it is a German character and I am a German citizen. KOMÄFI is small batch brand that produces hand numbered quality products that are as unique as they are exclusive. In the world of streetwear having what others can’t obtain is highly sought after. Our products are limited and hand numbered to give our customers the ultimate experience having a piece of clothing that is unlike anyone else’s. Even if someone else is lucky enough to have the same item, your number will be different from theirs.
MP: What prompted you to share this idea through your business?
CP: I originally started designing clothing because I noticed there was a lack of good design for college apparel since most of the top selling items were just big name brands like Nike, Under Armor, Adidas that just had the college logo on it. I wanted to design clothes with the character of the college in mind. I found myself working harder in school so I had time to work on my designs and learning about the process of producing apparel. I quickly realized that I has a passion for clothing and it has translated to Komäfi.
MP: What are some of the main challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
CP: Never enough capital! I do not have the luxury of coming from a background of wealth or even having any distant relatives with money so I have funded all of my ventures myself. No matter what goal I make in terms of raising capital there always seems to be another idea I need to fund.
MP: What is the biggest reward you experience as an entrepreneur?
CP: Seeing your creations come to life. There is no better feeling than to see an idea you have been obsessing over for so long become a reality. I constantly visualize my creations and it’s a great feeling once you finally get it in your hands and see all of the details you have been working so hard on.
MP: What do you think Indianapolis can do to support more local brands?
CP: I think events like the StreetExpo are a huge benefit. The problem it seems for a lot of local brands is exposure, so bringing people together is not only great to showcase what you’ve been working on but is also a great opportunity to network and collaborate with others that might excel at a skillset you struggle with or vice versa.
MP: Describe the kind of person who would wear your product.
CP: The person wearing KOMÄFI is an outlier. They don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing and they want to make sure not everyone can wear what they have on.
MP: Who is one person you’d love to see in your brand?
CP: Yes of course because of his clout and I am a big fan, but if I could get Barack Obama in KOMÄFI, I’d know I made it! He’s the ruler of the free world.
MP: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
CP: Get to work! You can have the best ideas ever but if there is no action then it’s pointless. I spent so much of my time waiting for the right opportunity and the right platform until I realized there is no right opportunity and you just have to start. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes. It’s all a part of figuring it out.
MP: How do you hope your brand will evolve in future years?
CP: My hope is that KOMÄFI will develop into a premium streetwear brand worldwide. I hope to embark on creating accessories and daily essentials to extend our collectible ideas into everyday items.
MP: How do you think celebrity endorsed streetwear is influencing modern street style?
CP: Streetwear has always been influenced by the celebrities that wear it. The only difference with celebrity endorsed brands are those celebrities are just directly tied in with those brands. Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger would never have been as big as they are without the hip hop celebrities that brought their clothes to the street.