In response to a faltering traditional tradeshow model, the inaugural ComplexCon represented a chance for vendors, industry leaders and fans to gather and connect. It was also the starting point for an online publication you might be familiar with. MAEKAN discusses the ComplexCon experience, some of the initial misgivings and challenges experienced over the two-day event. It all leads to a profound realization that he and the rest of the team walked away with.
MAEKAN x Sygns Berlin neon sign for our ComplexCon studio
“Our goal for the experience wasn’t to attract as many people as possible. Instead, it was having a sense of intrigue and hopefully enough mystery for somebody to pop their head in.”
Views of our Community Mood Board wall at ComplexCon.
A close-up of our Community photo project at ComplexCon. We asked people to put up photos most relevant to them. In return, they received an editioned print from one of our stories.
The first day of the show, we had originally set-up a TV to showcase our short documentary on Grills. However, the snail-paced Internet at the venue prevented anything from being streamed over our Chromecast.
There was also a massive line-up in front of our booth for the UNDFTD and Anti Social Social Club collabo, and it blocked the entrances to our booth which meant people had to go out of their way to check it out.
In hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily to our detriment. Sure, we might have missed out on some organic foot traffic, but people did manage to find a way in and satisfying a curiosity by slipping out of a predetermined path are all things inherent to present and future MAEKAN members.
In that respect, ComplexCon also brought to light something that was certainly known, and further validated: street culture as we know it began as the exchange of ideas. Your contributions originally translated into respect and cultural currency, but it has changed drastically. It’s now the ability to simply wear the right brands and associate yourself with the right things that have granted one entrance into the culture.
Still, the culture hasn’t been completely consumed by its own inalienable commercial interests. It’s an industry built on a do-it-yourself attitude and people who subscribe to that are still thriving. There are many small independent labels that were on the floor at ComplexCon doing their own thing and doing it well.
But going forward, we must continue to question membership in a community that doesn’t include some real effort and involvement. Yes, the lineups we saw can be perceived as a success if not simply interesting, but a deeper look at it all points towards an unsettling trend.
A culture focused on materialism without any friction to overcome doesn’t result in a solid foundation: it rarely promotes independent thinking as the decisions are predicated on the perception of peers and community, not on individual investment.
And with each revelation comes tough questions, some that we as a publication must answer for ourselves down the line and certainly before the next ComplexCon-scale event.
As a culture—regardless if it’s to do with streetwear or creativity—you must ask, “are we putting forth our best foot?”
Are we ensuring we’re creating something that improves the community we’re all so passionate about or are we simply maximizing our ability to generate revenue in exchange for a borrowed identity of the moment?
Will this temporary cool carry any meaning once the trends have ended?