ComplexCon: key takeaways from the streetwear mecca

Takashi Murakami at ComplexCon

Takashi Murakami at ComplexCon 2018

Now in its third year, Complexcon, a consumer-focused event targeting streetwear fanatics, took place to much expected hype last weekend in Long Beach, California.

The event, which is a spin-off of media company Complex, focused on feeding its Gen Z and Millennial community through a series of retail experiences, activations and panel discussions. Here we highlight the key takeaways of the weekend:

Retail frenzy
An adidas cube at ComplexCon

An adidas cube at ComplexCon 2018

For the consumer, the biggest goal of the two-day event was to shop, plain and simple. But for an audience that is prone to forming lines outside of stores for days before a drop, brands had to think creatively on how to create shopping experiences that blended that thrill of the chase with physical and digital tools.

Adidas was arguably the biggest name on the floor, hosting two experiences – one which involved a physical booth and another which took visitors on a wild goose chase for physical cubes that unlocked a new sneaker drop every hour. These gigantic cubes were seen throughout the venue, and on the hour, the user had to stand under the cube to scan it using the Complexcon app to unlock the ability to shop for the specific style. Unsurprisingly, Adidas fanatics were seen standing under the cube for hours before their preferred drop would take place.

Gradual product drops kept the customer engaged and most importantly, wanting to attend both days of the Con for fear of missing out. Reebok’s booth featured perspex cubes filled with fog, while timers underneath each individual plinth counted down the hours until the content inside the cube (a sneaker) was revealed.

The festival also teamed up with Frenzy, a location-based drop app, to allow consumers to shop for exclusive collabs through their phones while at the venue. The fulfilment of that experience left room for improvement, however, as shoppers could only pick up their goods four hours after purchase, a wait which for many stretched to 24 hours.

Experiential moments
HBO's The Shop

HBO’s The Shop at ComplexCon 2018

In such a noisy environment of endless queues and product drops, independent brands worked hard to stand out with booths that encouraged discovery and social sharing. Cult streetwear label Lotas, for example, chose to spend its budget not on an attractive booth, but by casting a group of The Sopranos lookalikes to play poker throughout, creating an unusual opportunity for visitors to snap and share.

The Pangaia, a global collective investigating the future of sustainable clothing, showcased its inaugural collection among a floor of empty plastic bottles, encouraging visitors to dispose of the same as they walked past. On Sunday, the collective also co-hosted a beach clean-up nearby with the support of ComplexCon.

Meanwhile beyond fashion, brands across food, automotive and media were on hand to talk about the bigger lifestyle that this community is a part of. Cadillac created a booth that showcased one of its models amid a digital jungle of screens and a photo backdrop; similar to SXSW, HBO recreated the classic barbershop experience to promote the launch of LeBron James’s new unscripted series, The Shop, featuring free haircuts and sneaker cleaning; and to promote the release of Creed II, guests could join in a VR experience, as well as watch boxing matches taking place in a life-sized ring.

Finally, McDonald’s quickly became a fan favorite as it hosted a customization station with special guests and, most importantly, free hamburgers for all.

Practical conversations
Issa Rae at ComplexCon 2018

Issa Rae at ComplexCon 2018

Conversations on the floor flip-flopped between who ‘copped’ the latest drop and what new endeavor someone may have been working on, from promoting their new podcast to monetizing their photography work. As a result, ComplexCon worked hard to promote conversations that had an underlying entrepreneurial spirit and was particularly relevant to the younger generation that is multifaceted in their goals.

“How to make it in America”, saw entrepreneur and social media star Gary Vaynerchuk talking about how to avoid the pitfalls and be part of the small percentage that does succeed in the country. Meanwhile actresses Issa Rae and Yara Shahidi, joined a conversation on females in media and how to overcome hurdles and balance public and personal life. And Louis Vuitton and Off White designer, Virgil Abloh, brought on stage three designers he believes are the next generation of fashion.

The spirit of giving visitors the tools to succeed and thrive also permeated throughout the festival booths. Entrepreneur Karen Civil was on hand at the Simple Mobile stand to offer one-to-one career advice, while the festival’s creative director, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, worked with six relatively unknown footwear designers to reimagine his artwork on limited edition sneakers, which were being auctioned off on eBay.

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