Photo by Asia Morris.
ComplexCon is set to be the Agenda Show for consumers—a feast for the eyes, ears and mouths of the 15,000 streetwear and pop culture fans and aficionados expected to overtake the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center this weekend.
Attendees can expect to experience never-before-seen brand collaborations and products exclusive to the convention, from major companies like A Bathing Ape, Nike and Modernica, site-specific installations by major artists like Patrick Martinez, James Jean and Dabs Myla and compelling panels such as The Future of Activism: Mobilize and Make a Difference featuring panelists Ilana Glazer of Broad City and #blacklivesmatter activist DeRay Mckesson, among other discussions.
And then there’s Snoop Dogg, whose Sunday-slated performance following Kanye West’s cancellation was described as a “happy accident” by organizers, and will mark the first time the Long Beach native and gangsta rap icon has performed (in an official, large-scale capacity) within city boundaries in over 20 years.
Everything seems to be falling into place perfectly and it’s with great anticipation that the Post was able to chat with ComplexCon Event Director Neil Wright and Complex Chief Content Officer Noah Callahan-Bever. Through our chats, the Post got the scoop on just why Long Beach was chosen as the one-of-a-kind convention’s first home, what goes into creating a successful, completely immersive two-day event and also the future, after the fans have returned to their homes and hotel rooms inspired and maybe with a few new unique items to covet.
Image courtesy of @powwowlongbeach.
Aaron Levant, founder of the Long Beach-based leading streetwear convention, Agenda Show, and Marc Ecko, fashion designer and founder of Complex magazine, first discussed the idea a little over a year ago, to create a convention for consumers instead of retailers, and to bring the online streetwear, pop culture and media empire of Complex into real life.
“It’s literally bringing all these things that people sit on Complex and read about all day, pulling the curtain back and letting the fans really engage with it,” said Wright.
“Each time that I would go, it would be this mini-adventure with a bunch of really cool, other creators and I alway found that that was way cooler than going to an event that was in say, Miami or New York[...],” he said, describing one of his and Ecko’s first discussions of what makes a convention successful. “When you’re in the hustle and bustle of the city that many people in the industry live in, they kind of end up drifting in and out of the convention.”
“We’ve had the most fun at the conventions that were somewhat remote and removed you from the day to day action of your normal life,” he said.
ComplexCon is designed to be its own ecosystem, he said. He described Long Beach as the perfect city for the event because of its t proximity to Los Angeles, proving convenient for the fans who live there, and its own street cred, as a city where the “real hard core fans” can make a rewarding weekend out of the festival. It’s truly Long Beach’s appeal as a stand-alone city, separate from LA, but not too far away, that made it appealing to organizers— in addition to ComplexCon’s parent company, Reed Exhibitions, already having a great relationship with the city through the well-established Agenda.
“A third point that we talked about internally is if we want this to be the SXSW of California or something even bigger, we think that Long Beach lends itself similar to the way Austin does,” said Wright, who grew up in Long Beach. “[...] It’s not LA, it’s not Orange County, [it has its] own identity and we actually think it aligns with what we’re trying to do really well.”
Image courtesy of @complexcon of Complex Oct/Nov 2016 Issue.
ComplexCon may be built for passionate fans and consumers, but it also serves as an opportunity for larger brands to make a connection on a more personal level. Wright mentioned Adidas as an example of a brand that about five years ago was struggling to find relevance in the market, and in a major effort to revamp, decided to “listen to the streets” by realigning their message “at a grassroots level.”
“[...]Some brands got a little more on the corporate side and went a little bit bigger[...],” he said. “I think you’ll see a lot of that at our event where these large corporate brands are really coming and wanting to engage one-on-one with the consumer again and kind of a mend their relationship, if you will.”
“It is one thing to be a very popular brand on the Internet, it is another thing to actually interact with people in their real lives,” said Callahan-Bever.
Callahan-Bever, who has been working closely with Ecko and Levant, said that the focus has not only been on ComplexCon itself, but Complex content as a whole. Ecko made sure that the convention stood as an opportunity for “content capture,” as Callahan-Bever called it, meaning the art installations, the performances, the layout, you name it, are designed to catch your eye and your smartphone’s camera to be digitally displayed.
Image courtesy of @mikecarter777.
The team behind ComplexCon has been emboldened by their experience bringing the immersive culture festival to fruition, and already has plans to further pursue such real-life activations in the future, said Callahan-Bever. However, nothing in the works can be announced to the public quite yet.
“Obviously knock on wood that everything goes smoothly and everyone has a great time, [but] we will be leaving this weekend looking for other opportunities to expand our brand into real life,” he said.