Takashi Murakami

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Every year Takashi Murakami creates a ComplexCon outfit as bold and bright as his Pop Art designs featured on merchandise and figurines throughout the two-day event. This year was no exception.

“I think about people so it doesn’t have a boring feeling,” he said of how he approaches the design each year.

The artist once again served on the ComplexCon host committee helping lead the vision for the third annual fashion, food and art festival at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, which drew some 60,000 attendees this past weekend.

As more eyes fixate on street fashion and the broader community around it, the category matures. ComplexCon, in its third year, only served to mirror the broader buzz around streetwear.

“The first time Complex Media put it together, it was kind of a mystery of what it was going to be and then it was really well received,” Murakami said through a translator, in an interview with WWD on Sunday. “It was a huge event and sneakerheads came. The second [year] it seemed, now knowing what kind of audience was here, huge brands like Nike and Adidas came and there were big booths and drops. This year, the third time, maybe there aren’t as huge of brand names and booths here. It’s a little more spread out and maybe a little more indie brands that are coming. And it’s also not just shoes but [figurines] and toys. It’s expanding. So every year it’s a little bit different and especially this year, I feel the feeling is a little bit different.”

He pointed to buzz around activations such as a ring for boxing, which was used to hype the movie “Creed II” at ComplexCon. That was part of a much larger contingent of entertainment-related companies that had a presence on the show floor, including HBO and Illumination with its “The Grinch” activation. Other, larger brands were also there including Cadillac, Polaroid Originals and Oakley founder Jim Jannard’s Red Hydrogen One. ComplexCon’s own successes have helped diversify streetwear-related experiences, Murakami pointed out. Niche conventions are popping up to focus on more specialized areas within the streetwear category, leaving ComplexCon itself to also diversify its exhibitor base, Murakami said.

“So, at ComplexCon, maybe brands have left, but then there are more spaces being filled with different things and that is resulting in different people coming in to try things out and then gathering information and reactions here in order to do something different after this,” he said. “I feel like it’s an experimental ground for streetwear. I saw Cadillac and I was like, ‘Oh, Cadillac is here.’ Maybe they are looking to see what kind of reaction they get here to let that influence what kind of direction they’re going to go with the design.”

Reactions were mixed to non-endemic companies entering the space. Some hailed it as helping provide a larger platform for the segment, while others questioned whether their inclusion made sense. It’s a similar question being had as more and more streetwear brands have the opportunity to collaborate with brands outside the space looking. The activity begs the question of how balance is struck and what is the mark of a successful collaboration beyond simply revenue-generated.

“Each person comes to it [a collaboration] with their own inspiration or goal and so a meaning is created in that action,” Murakami said. “For example, when Virgil [Abloh] works with Louis Vuitton, street fashion comes together with luxury so it’s very easy to see what’s happening there. But then there are more complicated situations. When a collaboration works well it’s because the different creators are forced to use different parts of their brain and then come at something that they can’t do independently.”

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