And they’re off. It was 11:00 a.m. on November 5 and the start of the first ever ComplexCon in Long Beach, California. You could see the excitement in their eyes as they ran past the lobby into the showroom. They were running so fast, not even the security guards could slow them down. Their excitement was first generated back when Complex, an online media website known for writing all the latest on streetwear, music and controversial topics, announced they were holding a convention catered toward their millennial audience. The two-day event was directed by Complex with the help of three very creative and innovative artists, Takashi Murakami, Skrillex, and Pharrell Williams. ComplexCon, described to the public as “our generation’s world’s fair”, featured a variety of clothing brands like Nike, Puma, Adidas, music from rappers like Lil Yachty and Travis Scott, contemporary art and fan-favorite food trucks that brought together a diverse crowd to the city of Long Beach.
To my surprise, the crowd wasn’t really there for the food or music (although that was the cherry on top). They were there for the fashion. They were there to wait in long lines in the hopes of scoring some exclusive apparel or limited edition sneakers. But why? What was so fascinating about these brands? And why wait in lines when you could go to malls right around the corner?
If you ask those questions to anyone that attended ComplexCon, I am sure they would look at you speechless. These were not just any clothes. They represented a culture known as streetwear. The roots of streetwear started with hip-hop artists and skaters from urban cities like Los Angeles and New York. The fashion is easily recognizable as being oversized and baggy with bright, vibrant colors. These dynamic dimensions of style represent who they are and where they come from. It’s raw and real, and different from your typical fast-fashion and overrated high fashion.
Streetwear quickly escalated when social media became a tool of the millennials. This made promotion and recognition easy and efficient while allowing instant connection to their audience. Take Emily Oberg for example, also known for her brand Sporty and Rich. Sporty and Rich jumpstarted from social media and became apart of her identity. Her brand was an extension of who she is and her unique aesthetic. Most often described as sweatshirts meets high fashion, which people respected because they respected her. Brands like BAIT, BAPE, and ANTI SOCIAL SOCIAL CLUB are other prime examples of brands that engage with their audience through social media. These brands, among others, were present at ComplexCon and helped to create the hype of the event.
Social media was not only helpful in creating a platform to engage with their audience, but also helped many brands announce their ComplexCon collaborations. One example that had people lining up for hours was the brand ANTI SOCIAL SOCIAL CLUB who collaborated with Undefeated to create a booth that was visually appealing and let’s just say #instaworthy.
These collaborations allow the brands to reach out to different audiences in the hopes of creating a much bigger, broader target audience for themselves. It also plays on the idea of hype and exclusivity. In a sense, it made people feel compelled to make purchases and a desire to get their hands on anything limited edition. Oh and the ticket holders made sure they got their gear too. Hundreds of people walked out with hands full of bags carrying the all the latest, most exclusive apparel and shoes.
Those people who were able to get all their favorites walked out with pride like they were part of the club. That feeling when you can finally take your lunch tray and sit with the “in crowd” is one of the factors that make streetwear so popular. The popularity increases because certain influencers and celebrities endorse the culture. In many instances, when public figures are seen wearing a hoodie or snapchatting a pair of J’s their followers go wild looking for where and when they can buy it.
Walking around the showroom floor and watching how people interacted with each other, I saw an exchange that represented a strong identity and culture. This culture is oriented by the rise of streetwear, but also promotes different aspects of the art world. ComplexCon brought together different people with different backgrounds to come and enjoy the brands, music and art they love the most. The hype backed by social media, exclusivity of collaborations, and creating a tight-knit community were all reasons on why streetwear is becoming a fan-favorite, and you can bet that ComplexCon will be returning next year.
Images via Daniela Hernandez and Kristina Long