ComplexCon: Fashion, pop culture and activism come together in Long Beach this weekend

Fashion designers and retailers are queuing up for this weekend’s debut of ComplexCon. Organized by the magazine of the same name that is jointly owned by Hearst and Verizon, the two-day confab launching Nov. 5 in Long Beach is shaping up to be the Millennial’s maceration of fashion, music, pop culture and activism. Think of it as a street-smart spawn of Agenda trade show, Jay Z’s Made in America Festival and TED Talks.

Puma is lining up collaborators including Jeff Staple, Coogi and Yes Julz in its booth. After unveiling tracksuits emblazoned with an amped-up camouflage print at New York Fashion Week in September, VFiles is releasing the remainder of the wearable tech collection it designed with Mountain Dew.

Streetwear e-tailer Karmaloop is making a comeback under a new owner with a fleece pullover jogger set, hockey jersey, rugby jacket, coach’s jacket and hats cobranded with rapper Nas’ XXIIAMRUN fashion brand. Retailing for under $120, the collaboration is being introduced at ComplexCon in a pop-up shop.

“It’s a chance to be face to face with our consumer base,” said Matthew Fine, Karmaloop’s president, who also holds the same title at its parent company, Ontario, Calif.-based Shiekh Shoes. “It’s sort of a unique and new approach to what a trade show is. We’re also figuring out industrywide what ComplexCon will become.”


Pharrell Williams is wearing multiple hats at the expo. In addition to serving as cultural director and corralling artist Takashi Murakami and other members on the host committee as the chairman, the entertainer is readying to show a special collection he designed with G-Star Raw as its new co-owner and head of imagination.

To supplement what attendees put on their bodies, ComplexCon is assembling a crew of performers and speakers. Actor Jesse Williams, entrepreneur Marc Ecko and Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, sit on one panel that aims to motivate attendees to overhaul the public education system.

Other sessions about sports, social media and music speak to the interests of Complex’s readers. Off-White founder Virgil Abloh returns to his DJ roots with two performances, one of which features Ta’East. Rapper Lil Yachty is making an appearance on behalf of Nautica, which tapped him to model in an ad campaign promoting its new capsule collection for Urban Outfitters.

Designers and retailers are also offered a platform. Accessories designer Jon Buscemi and rapper Wale are speaking on a panel tasked with crowning the sneaker of the year as well as identifying the style that didn’t live up to the hype. In another group, Union co-owner Chris Gibbs and The Hundreds cofounder Bobby Kim are giving their spiel on the direction of streetwear, especially now that the clothing category has merged with the mainstream.

As for his decision to trek more than 30 miles from his store in Los Angeles to the Long Beach Convention Center, Gibbs explained: “We have spent a good amount of time being ‘the best kept secret’ in our industry. That worked in the good ol’ days but times change and we wanted to keep up with the times. That means engaging a new customer. That [doesn’t] mean we have to change. We are still doing us, and we are very psyched on what and how we will be presenting there — just bringing our product and ‘who we be’ to a new block.”