I attended ComplexCon at the Long Beach Convention Center today. Arrived at noon, assuming the primary target audience would still be asleep, or at least deliberately waiting until the evening when the concerts were slated to begin. What I discovered instead was literally thousands of millennials each paying a minimum $45 entry fee to explore what turned out to be an expertly orchestrated, curated shopping experience.
And wow. The bass was thumping; booths boasted hourlong lines snaking Disneyland E-ticket ride-style to control access to the exclusive product (yes I've dated myself but somehow that's part of the point of this post); 20-somethings scooping up sweatshirts and sneakers in multiples. Price tags were an astonishing $350 for t-shirts, $800 and up for FOG Vans. Pablo Tour t-shirts were ubiquitous. Black was the in color (some things do not change). Hits of neon accents. Sueded shoes. Throwbacks to the 70s and early 80s were unmistakeable: skateboard schtick, Vans Vans Vans, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard concert t-shirts.
Questions I grappled with: how did a first year show arrive with such confidence, organization, and attendance? How did Shopify become such a hands-on and public-facing partner with emerging brands (they co-hosted a section of the smaller booths — and by small, I mean compared to the multi-national big brands like Puma and Nike)? What explains the buying power of this young demographic? The photos tell the story: this was targeted to 20-somethings. Are the purchases in multiple destined for wild markups and eBay, or friends? Did I just witness a uniquely urban, even uniquely LA (and NYC, maybe Miami) multicultural, edgy, street-style event? Is it odd to ask how (why?) PacSun evolved from a 70s surf brand into a . . . holding company offering Vans, Kendall & Kylie, Cash Money Records, LA Edit, and more?