The Porter brothers of McPherson grew up with a love of art and family.
Now all around their early 20s, they, along with their friends, are using a clothing line to channel their passions into a movement that is bigger than themselves.
DRIPSIL is a Kansas-based business that primarily sells T-shirts and gives a percentage of proceeds to a cause. It’s vision of “make art, build community, give back” allows the young men to do what they love, while also making a difference in the lives of Kansas City children.
The products are designed primarily by Lane Porter, a 23-year-old student at Kansas State University, and Caleb Porter, a 20-year-old student at McPherson College.
Also on their team is their 22-year-old brother, Adam, as the primary website developer, and 17-year-old Wyatt, in promotions. In addition, a number of their friends have become involved, including Preston Mossman as business manager and Stuart Mitchell in promotions.
“We’re obviously enjoying what we’re doing, but we want to have an impact,” Lane said. “We don’t want to just be in the community, we want to be part of the community.”
The business began around 2010 as a design company and evolved into a clothing company. The name is derived from the seven steps of design: Define (the problem), research (solutions), (generate an) idea, (develop) prototype, select (a prototype), implement (a prototype), and learn (from feedback).
Early designs in 2011 were made by the brothers and printed on T-shirts manually in a friend’s garage. Sales began in McPherson.
“A lot of the people buying the first shirts were people we knew,” Lane said. “It was really easy to learn from that.”
For their second line in 2012, printing was outsourced to a company in Kansas City so work could be focused on design. Sales expanded into other areas of the state, including Manhattan where Lane was attending school. Interest also came from other patches across the country.
“It’s funny,” Caleb said of individuals he has seen wearing their products. “A lot of them don’t know that came from me or my brothers. I’ll always get a kick out of someone looking at stickers on their computer or wearing a shirt, and they have no idea the person who helped make it is just right there. It’s always nice to see your work out there.”
This has been true especially recently, as Caleb has begun to take design classes at McPherson College.
“It’s a lot easier (to design) now since I know how it works,” he said. “It’s kind of cool, because I’ll have my school projects, but on top of that I’ll be able to make my own stuff, and that kind of helps me with school. It gives me more practice.”
Page 2 of 3 - Building community
The business is preparing to launch their third line of products in 2013. As they expand, they are continuing to receive feedback and improving their products.
“Each step we’ve been trying to make the product better,” Lane said. “Every time you come out with a new item, it has to be better than the item before it.”
Many of the shirt designs focus on Midwestern themes. One design of a cottontail bunny, for example, was inspired by a colony seen by Lane as he was outside running in Manhattan. Another shirt features the head of a Native American chief from Kansas.
The brothers share a love of this area of the country. They hope to one day establish a pride in the Midwest community through recognition of their brand.
“It’s part of who I am and has had a huge impact on my artwork and how I perceive things in my life,” Lane said. “It means a lot to me and my brothers and all of us that are part of this.
“I’ve been other places and had people say, ‘What is there to do in Kansas?’ They have these stereotypes in their head. I want to help give that experience to them through the artwork and the products we’re producing here.”
Lane said it has been an enjoyable challenge to make these images bold and edgy to attract business, especially for the artists they sponsor at events, like a recent local show featuring former McPherson rap artist C.J. Luckey.
“I kind of take it as a challenge to make something that others would enjoy and something that means something to me,” Lane said. “It’s been cool to see people wear that and perform in it in shows.”
They have received a significant amount of feedback with a new “street team” design. Although it was originally intended for close-partners only, the amount of requests for printing caused them to reconsider. It seemed their fan-base was growing.
“In the beginning, we didn't realize it would take us to this point, but it's been great to get to this point and see where the company’s gone and what we’ve been able to develop,” Lane said.
As they continue to increase their customer base, the company increases their donations to Cabins 4 Kids. Ten percent of every sale goes to this nonprofit organization, which provides summer opportunities for underprivileged youth in the Kansas City metro area. They chose it because its goals of establishing good family and youth connections and leadership skills, a cause very close to their hearts.
Page 3 of 3 - “Most of our company is owned by family, so we feel it’s important to have a close-knit family,” Lane said. “We’ve seen what it’s done in our lives and allowed us to do, so we wanted to help someone who didn’t necessarily have that close-knit family or doesn’t have family and opportunity like we had.”
For more information about the company, visit www.dripsil.bigcartel.com.
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel