November 09, 2018

Retail - ComplexCon Attendees Celebrate Brand Statements

By Lois Sakany
Young, mostly male attendees shopped, ate and expressed their identities with head-to-toe branded statements at ComplexCon's third annual consumer-facing brand event in Long Beach, Calif.

ComplexCon held its third annual event at the Long Beach convention center Nov. 3-4, and while the first two years of the show were centered around youth-oriented sneaker and apparel brands and retailers, year three marked the arrival of global brands, including McDonald’s Corp. and General Motors Co.'s Cadillac, which no doubt considered the event an opportunity to rub shoulders with an up-and-coming demographic. Among the show’s six sponsors, the only apparel/shoe brand was Puma SE.

While the addition of corporate titans surely was helpful to ComplexCon financially, there was grumbling by attendees that their presence detracted from the entirely streetwear-fueled themes of the prior two shows. Their presence also spoke to a growing sentiment that streetwear as a more underground, youth-fueled concept was post peak. However, even if the movement is not as energetic and fresh as it once was, there was no indication of any emerging counter-trend to replace it.

The other big change from prior years was a greatly expanded food court area that was set up in a new outdoor section of the venue. A half-dozen food trucks were swapped out for about 30 different booths, many featuring menu items from popular local restaurants like Sweet Chick, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles and BAE Little Tokyo, a Los Angeles ice cream shop famed for its Instagram-worthy black-and-white soft serve. The food court was popular with attendees and was packed during both days with long lines at most booths.

In contrast with the prior two years, Nike Inc. and Adidas AG had greatly scaled back their presence at the event. Nike withdrew from this year's event but had a small, unmanned display that called attention to the brand’s collaboration with Diamond Supply Co. on a Nike SB sneaker called the Diamond Dunk. Demand for the Diamond Dunk was so intense, a launch event was shut down twice and ultimately rescheduled to a Los Angeles pop-up event following the show.   

Nike’s decision to drop out of the show was said to have affected other brands’ decisions to attend ComplexCon. When ComplexCon first announced the show’s brand lineup in July 2018, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE's Dior was listed. But not long after, ComplexCon announced the brand would not show because of a miscommunication on the part of an agent not authorized to act on the label’s behalf. However, some said Dior dropped out of the show after it discovered Nike withdrew. If accurate, that would not only reflect Nike's power to influence, but perhaps also a wish to begin to draw some line between luxury and the concept of high-end street. 

Adidas’s main display was an installation featuring shoes and apparel made in collaboration with rapper Pusha T. Reflecting an effort to reduce the show’s long lines, Adidas installed branded ceiling cubes throughout the center that were used for hourly shoe launches. Once activated, attendees could use the ComplexCon app on their phones to scan the cubes and potentially purchase the featured shoe.

It is noteworthy that ComplexCon chose to highlight Pusha T, because there has been chatter that his May 2018 Drake diss song titled “Story of Adidon” caused Drake to withdraw from a planned partnership with Adidas. While Pusha T is well known, the benefit Adidas would have received from a collaboration with an artist of Drake’s caliber would have been substantially greater.

As for style trends, the head-to-toe brand story was epitomized by male and female attendees who wore not just branded shoes, but branded T-shirts, sweatpants and crossbody bags. A T-shirt combined with black jogger or denim was something of a uniform. For footwear, Nike (especially Off-White LLC collaborative shoes), Jordan and Adidas Yeezy dominated, while attendees often wore apparel by a wide array of brands ranging from independent, small-sized streetwear labels to giant global brands like Nike. Notably, in year one of the event in 2016, VF Corp.'s Vans dominated among attendees, however, the brand’s presence in 2018 had greatly declined.

Among apparel brands, Guess? Inc. boasted long lines all weekend, as did ComplexCon's booth featuring clothing, skateboards and posters designed by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who has been associated with the show since its debut event.


Top: Nike SB sneaker display, Adidas Pusha booth
Middle: Guess? line, Nike sneakers with denim
Bottom: Cadillac display, Adidas Scan

All photos courtesy of OTR Global