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Ask Indy: Does Indianapolis Have A Streetwear Culture?
Indianapolis has a reputation for hosting world-class events, transforming the sports industry, and being a vibrant city to live and grow your career. But have you heard about our growing streetwear culture? The Indy region is packed with unique streetwear brands that have gained global recognition for offering some of the most exclusive threads.
These creators come to Indy because our city has plenty of pathways for networking, entrepreneurship, and upskilling in the fashion industry. You can apply to join a business accelerator program, attend a sewing class, or get connected to streetwear influencers through local events. The possibilities are endless for those looking to get connected to the community.
In this Ask Indy feature, we sat down with Anthony Murdock II, J.D. and Milan Ball to discover why Indianapolis is truly a place for every fashion lover—whether you’re a hypebeast, a thrifting enthusiast, or a designer looking to make your mark.
Anthony Murdock II, J.D. is a lawyer by trade, a university lecturer by occupation, and a business coach by passion. He is the founder of Murdock LLC. and Circle City Storytellers. Through his businesses, he facilitates workshops and community events that help others learn to leverage the power of their story to build a brand. Murdock also currently teaches two Business Experience courses at Butler University’s School of Business.
Milan Ball is a fashion mogul and recent Indy transplant. She currently serves as the Director of Development and Marketing for Be Nimble Foundation—an organization which aims to close the racial wealth gap through technology careers and entrepreneurship. Be Nimble offers accelerator programs, upskilling solutions, certifications, career placement opportunities, capital investments, and mentoring for creators of color.
Q: How is Indy reminiscent of other local fashion industries—and in what ways do you think it might be unique?
Milan: I was pleasantly surprised by the fashion scene in Indianapolis. I was coming here for grad school and philanthropy, but I was really lucky when I got here because I started working in a graduate assistant position with Pattern Magazine. So, I got plugged in right away. Pattern was great because they had all these different events and opportunities to convene with the fashion community. So, it was a win for me. Meeting all of the creatives in Indianapolis, just off the bat, was fun to explore.
Q: Where are some of your favorite places to shop in Indianapolis?
Murdock: Right now, in case y’all don’t know, we’re in a beautiful Black-owned establishment—the MELI Showroom in the heart of Fountain Square. I actually got it on right now, “More Equality, Less Ignorance,” in a long-sleeve statement tee. Then, right down the street, you have to go to Cargo Streetwear. Inside of Cargo, you’re going to find a number of different brands from across the world that they source in that boutique. You can also find two flagship brands there—that being Komafi and Wishful Thinking. I have on some Wishful Thinking right now too. Shout out to my brother, AO. I would probably also go to the Stutz, and I would go and support We Don’t Run From Adversity because I’m not going to run from adversity. Shout out to my brothers Mike G and GP.
I also would go to Nap or Nothing, for sure. Right now, Nap Or Nothing ain’t on me—it’s in me—because it’s always Nap or Nothing. My brother Maxie is a mighty Black man, and what he represents for the city is so, so, so important. So, those would be a few different brands that I’m rocking right now, but there’s so many more that I can mention that I don’t have on.
Murdock: I heard the Mayor say a number of years ago that Indianapolis is the world’s largest small city. When he said that, I think he was attempting to balance the intimacy of this city, being so few connections away from the connection that you need, but he was also talking about how gargantuan of a platform that we have. I think that Monty Matuka from MELI and his mindset are so much bigger than this world. But at the same time, because of how he represents the city, he provides opportunities for other people.
Milan: It’s amazing how much talent is here in the state that has global recognition. I think down the street, Howl + Hide is also here. That’s one of the few brands that I knew of when I was living in New York City because I would see the bags everywhere. It’s a different aesthetic, but I just love everything that Christian is doing as well. I mean, I’m in leather today, and I’m a big leather fan.
I think there’s also a really interesting market here for thrifting. That was one of my favorite pastimes when I first moved here. The Toggery Boutique in Broad Ripple is one of my favorite places. I was just there yesterday. It’s actually where I got this sweater. I feel like I have to throw some things out there for the girlies that are also into streetwear, but might be a little in-between. I’ll still throw a sneaker on with a dress, and I like thrifting threads and kind of mixing and matching different pieces.
Q: Speaking of, where are your favorite places in town to thrift?
Murdock: You made a great point! Number one, Naptown Thrift. Shout out to my brother Aaron Marshall at Naptown Thrift. Number two, for all the sisters out there, Joi-Lyn Thorton of EnJoi Vintage, that’s an amazing place to thrift. And I think she’s purely e-commerce, too.
Q: When you think about people that inspire how you see fashion—who might it be and why?
Milan: My fashion career was between New York City and Milan, Italy. I studied leather design when I was in fashion design school. So, I could go through a laundry list of international influences, but I’m still getting to know Indy. One person whose style I admire here is Erica “Fly Won.” Since I still feel fresh to Indy, I look forward to being exposed to more.
Murdock: So, for my influencers, I wouldn’t even put on brothers. I put on sisters. There’s three Black women, and I’m sharing this with you just off of strength because you’re a solid sister, too. Number one is Kiarra Looks. Number two is Cydney Paige.
And the third one isn’t even necessarily for fashion, as much as it’s just that this is a Black woman with great influence and a true advocate for the city—I’d definitely say The Polished Lady. If you go anywhere and you see that yellow, it’s definitely going to be Kelah Mckee. And, she do be putting it on. There’s just so much greatness in the city, you know? It is undeniable.
Q: How can you get connected with the community—for people that are interested in fashion or just new to the city?
Murdock: So, if you get connected to Cargo, if you get connected to We Don’t Run From Adversity, if you get connected to MELI—what’s going to happen is, each of those entities host gatherings for brands. Monty does things like hosting First Fridays, inside the heart of Fountain Square. When you come to First Fridays here, it’s gone be lit. For sure!
They’re incredible, and at the same time, you’re going to see other brands from around the city here the entire time. I know for a fact, that’s bred into our culture. Gatekeeping in many communities is championed because people believe that some folks are not deserving of opportunity and platform. Furthermore, I think gatekeeping is also deeply tied to an entitlement.
Something that I love about the brands I mentioned, from the Maxie’s at Nap or Nothing, to the Mike G and GP’s at We Don’t Run From Adversity, to the Got Plays, and the Smerbo’s, and the No Logo’s, is that we don’t see gatekeeping as needed because more people need opportunities. Instead of overseeing in Indy, we provide opportunities to so many people. If someone comes here and wants to get tapped in, start with Cargo. Start with MELI. Start with We Don’t Run From Adversity. Start with Nap or Nothing, or get connected with Katina over at the SHE.Xperience. I promise that if you tap one of those five people, the rest is going to take care of itself.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the programs in Indy that might help someone grow in their fashion career?
Milan: At Be Nimble Foundation, we believe in creating generational wealth for communities of color through different pathways. Entrepreneurship is one of those pathways, and upskilling is the other pathway. At Pattern, they have an initiative called StitchWorks. It’s a cut-and-sew facility that’s actually based in downtown Indianapolis right by the public library. Basically, you can go and take sewing classes, learn to mend clothes, make a jacket or pants, or pretty much anything. They have different types of classes, but it’s something for anyone specifically interested in fashion design.
When I was there, we were doing a speaker series, so that’s another event that you could attend. That’s actually where I met Christian from Howl + Hide and a few other different brands like Lux & Ivy which is another vintage shop that’s fantastic. I didn’t mention them earlier, but they were also part of the sustainability series over at StitchWorks. They have a bunch of different fun things that you could do, and I would hate to leave them out.
Q: What’s your advice for people who are trying to get tapped in here in Indianapolis?
Milan: I always tell people to try everything. I got super connected in the city through Pattern, but also entities like IndyHub. Indianapolis is one of those places where you can really build the life and the career that you want for yourself if you give it a chance. I think it was one of the best decisions that I could have made.
I didn’t know what was going to happen next in my career, but I am so grateful to have found it here in Indy. For other creatives and entrepreneurs, especially in the fashion and culture space, there is something for you here. There’s an entire community for you here, and I hope that it just continues to thrive as the city continues to support it, as you can see, through these different partnerships.