ComplexCon Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. If you have good product, consumers will come — and they did. There may have been less darting in-and-out of crowds compared with last year as fans ran to get to a particular drop, but demand for cool stuff was still very much a part of the DNA at this year’s ComplexCon.

Multibrand retailers shared their thoughts on what saw strong sell-through and provided their own notes on the third iteration of this melting pot of street fashion, art, food and music. Here, an edited version of their conversations with WWD.

Styles from the Union x Vans collaboration for ComplexCon.

Styles from the Union x Vans collaboration for ComplexCon

Chris and Beth Gibbs, co-owners, Union Los Angeles

Assortment: Collaborations between Born x Raised and U.S. Alteration, Vans, Real Bad Man, Tough Gun and Beth Gibbs’ line Bephie.

Hot Sellers: Union was sold out of nearly everything by Sunday afternoon, with the retailer’s Vans collaboration a fast mover. Union sold through its stock of the two silhouettes, allocated for the entire weekend, on the first day alone. The Gibbs tapped into a supply of colorways originally slated for a later launch, to have something to offer shoppers on Sunday.

Pricing: $95 for the Vans collaboration.

Pro tip: “To me, I want to make this about a presentation and not so transactional. We don’t want our booth to just be about stuff. We’ve had the same space for all three years [of ComplexCon] and we’ve done a similar activation,” Chris Gibbs said. “For every brand we collaborate with, we ask that brand to make an object of art that’s referential to their brand or the piece they’ve created. The thought is to educate and steer the consumers into being able to open their minds to what this is beyond the product.”

Top ComplexCon moment: “This is really Bephie’s first big launch and the feedback for her collection has been incredible. I’m seeing guys and girls wearing it. I’ll be honest, from the Union side of things, I really enjoy this experience because it’s rare that we get to directly engage with our customers in a way that’s not so transactional. It’s been good to just kick it with the customers and hear they love the brand or what they’re wanting from us,” Chris Gibbs said.

“It’s been interesting. There have been some really good brands, like [sustainable brand] Pangaia, who are focused more on environmental things, and I think it’s good because it’s bringing awareness to these kids,” said Beth Gibbs. “In fact, it’s almost a distraction from everything else going on in the world. The booths are packed and everybody seems open. If there’s anything to take away from ComplexCon, it’s that you don’t have to just give people what they want. It’s a mix of giving people what they want and introducing them to new things.”


ComplexCon Gift

The queue at the ComplexCon Gift Shop.  Maddie Cordoba

Neil Wright, ComplexCon event director, ComplexCon Gift Shop

Assortment: The stockkeeping count was varied and ranged from pins and Takashi Murakami-print mugs to T-shirts, sweatshirts and Visvim shoes and on up to a couch and other furniture.

Hot sellers: Anything on the apparel side with ComplexCon 2018 and Long Beach printed on it proved big sellers. Pieces bearing the work of Murakami also proved popular among shoppers. “It’s a wearable souvenir,” Wright said. “It’s something cool and iconic.”

Wright also pointed to the $5,000 Modernica couch that, while not the hottest-selling item, was just something special. “It’s not uncommon for there to be a Modernica collaborative chair,” Wright said. “We brought this couch and it executed amazingly.”

The made-to-order item didn’t sell out in the hundreds, but Wright said they “did fairly well with that.”

Pricing: Pins for $15; mugs, $25; Murakami skull and flower-print duffel, $100; skate deck sets for $500; T-shirts, $50; hoodies, $100; hats, $30; Murakami flower pillows, $300 to $4,000, and Murakami prints for $500.

Pro tip: “Last year we released a couple of items on [app] Frenzy….The difference this year, and this was our way to combat line waiting, what we did was we made sure our entire gift shop was available through Frenzy. You could shop anywhere on the show floor through the app.”



PacSun saw a steady stream of shoppers outside its ComplexCon booth.  Maddie Cordoba

Brie Olson, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, PacSun

Assortment: Vans Space Voyager collection in a tribute to NASA, men’s wear from Heron Preston’s Basketball Skateboards, Tracey Mills’ Not of This Earth and a Fear of God Essentials x Converse shoe.

Hot sellers: “We’ve been fortunate to curate not only Jerry Lorenzo’s Essentials and Converse collaboration, but we also have Not of This Earth, which is the first collaboration we’ve done with [Mills]. And then we also have Basketball Skateboards, so we have those three exclusive releases and then we have the Vans collaboration,” Olson said. “So, in general, we’ve driven a ton of energy and hype, and the customers are really excited equally across the board.”

Pricing: Converse, $110; Fear of God Essentials, $40 to $90; Basketball Skateboards, $20 to $80; Not of This Earth, $38 to $80.

Pro tip: “We’ve really been able to deliver on our brand promise in terms of catering to what the inspired youth are looking for and we have exclusive drops,” Olson said. “It’s been amazing and it’s been great to see the response continue to accelerate year-over-year since we’re up against some really amazing things from the prior year.”


Extra Butter

Extra Butter unveiled new offerings at ComplexCon, such as the Halalabees shoes.  Maddie Cordoba

Bernie Gross, art director, Extra Butter

Assortment: “This year our theme was bringing New York to Long Beach. We’re native New Yorkers, born and bred, so we have a passion about growing up in New York and have so many things influence the brand and our sensibilities,” Gross said.

The company debuted its collaboration with The Halal Guys and Clarks Wallabees, or as they’re calling them, Halalabees. The shoe comes in two colorways, one inspired by The Halal Guys’ white sauce and the other representing the hot sauce. The shoe, with only 50 pairs available at ComplexCon or available for order through the Frenzy app, launches globally on Friday.

Extra Butter also had the first delivery of its holiday collection on hand, inspired by vintage virtual reality and the Eighties artificial intelligence character Max Headroom.

Hot sellers: The Wallabees because “there’s nothing more New York than that,” Gross said.

Pricing: Wallabees, $180; Extra Butter private-label shirts, $50.

Pro tip: Be as centrally located as possible to open up your brand’s visibility. “They’ve gotten smarter with the floor plan, knowing how to strategically place brands to maintain traffic. The first year was obviously a learning curve having brands adjacent to big brands that caused some traffic blockage.”

Top ComplexCon moment: “We had a couple of celebrities and influencers come by the booth: Robert Horry, a couple of the Toronto Raptors, Lena Waithe, Jeff Staple,” said Gross. “The reaction to Extra Butter being here is great. We tend to get a lot of requests to open here on the West Coast in L.A. I think it does make sense that one day we end up here in L.A., specifically Hollywood, because of the move aesthetic we have. That’s not something for the near future. We’re looking to expand to another location in New York. Right now, we just want to be the best we can be in New York and then possibly consider the West Coast and international.”



T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and Medicom Bearbrick figurines sold at Bait at ComplexCon.  Maddie Cordoba

Nico Evangelista, footwear buyer, Bait

Assortment: Medicom Bearbrick figurines, along with a variety of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

Top sellers: The Astro Boy 18-inch figurine, Bruce Lee product, and the Gold Bearbrick.

Pricing: Astro Boy figurine, $150; Sweatshirts, $70; T-shirts, $32.

Top ComplexCon moment: “I think it’s just been everybody trying to grab what they needed to grab from different retailers because it’s either pretty much sold out or they just restocked,” he said.

Final thoughts: “We’ve been here every year. It’s still chaotic, but it’s not as crazy as the first year. We always hit our targets. As long as you have the right product, they’re going to sell out,” Evangelista said.

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