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The Internet Comes to Life at ComplexCon

Kristin Houser Writer & Editor, LA Music Blog

Marc Ecko’s festival of creativity, arts, music and design is all about collaboration and creativity.

When Marc Ecko brought the world the inaugural ComplexCon in 2016, he aimed to bring creative people from out behind their screens and encourage them to connect and collaborate IRL.

“Most of our interactions are transactional and ephemeral,” said Ecko, who built a cultural empire upon a youth spent designing clothing and creating graffiti art in suburban New Jersey. He created the world-famous Ecko Unltd — both fashion brand and cultural zeitgeist — and later founded Complex, the leading media platform for youth culture.

“We really wanted to take the idea of the Complex ecosystem and use it to host all these other great collaborators and creatives,” he said. “We set out to create some sort of tentpole event that could provide more meaningful engagement with our audience.”

ComplexCon is a weekend-long event that’s part music festival, part exhibition and 100 percent of-the-moment. The event was credited with bringing the internet to real life, and this year (Nov. 4-5), Ecko plans to do it again with ComplexCon 2017.

Beneath the Surface

Attendees may make the trek to Long Beach for the music or fashion, but Ecko asserts that technology is the vehicle that makes much of the ComplexCon experience possible.

“Technology is the subtext of everything — it is woven into nearly every creative expression,” he said. “It’s the oxygen that our creative culture breathes.”

Several installations and panels at ComplexCon will shine a spotlight on the cutting-edge innovations that are poised to shape tomorrow’s artistic expression.

The “What is Money?” ComplexCon(versation) will take a look at the impact cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will have on the future of commerce, and Shopify is debuting 10 digitally native brands at the ComplexCon Marketplace, giving attendees a glimpse at the tech-powered future of retail.

Los Angeles-based technology and design studio incite’s massive sequencer BABS will be onsite for those who want to channel their inner music-maker, and attendees will get a chance to immerse themselves in the world of Linkin Park through One More Light, a new VR experience from Spatialand and Intel.

Marc Ecko and Takashi Murakami
ComplexCon founder Marc Ecko and contemporary visual artist Takashi Murakami. Photo courtesy of ComplexCon.

“Intel has done so much for the culture of technology,” said Ecko. “It is always on the bleeding-edge with really cool interactions, be it the drones at the Super Bowl or their other collaborations with Lady Gaga at the Grammy’s.”

Intel is equally excited to be involved.

“The most forward-thinking creators of our current generation and beyond will be at ComplexCon,” said Rajeev Puran, manager of Intel’s commercial VR and AR experiences.

“Being in the same space as those creative people really helps us to understand how the next generation of computing will take place.”

A Cultural Icon

“Collaboration” is the theme of this year’s ComplexCon, and Ecko said he was inspired to choose it after witnessing the collaborative spirit at work firsthand during ComplexCon 2016. He saw creators sharing ideas with one another and absorbing feedback from fans and consumers, while teams worked together internally to pull off exclusive sneaker and apparel drops and complex installations.

Art and tech installations blew minds, while ComplexCon(versations) featuring artists, activists and actors expanded them.

“There’s really nothing made by any one single author anymore,” said Ecko. “Collaboration is the key.”

ComplexCon 2017 will be no different as Ecko has enlisted the help of a dream team of tastemakers from all corners of the world to shape the look and feel of the event.

Man standing in field of pants.
Cultural director Pharrell at the 2016 ComplexCon. Photo credit: Michael Mendoza.

Pharrell returns as cultural director and chair of the host committee. He’s joined by contemporary visual artist Takashi Murakami; creative director, designer, and DJ Virgil Abloh; global fashion expert and Colette co-founder Sarah Andelman; reggaeton superstar J. Balvin; and actor/activist Jaden Smith.

More than 200 brands will be onsite to deliver exclusive drops, pop-up shops and retail activations, giving attendees the chance to experience the latest in food, fashion and entertainment. Then, in the evenings, they’ll be able to let loose to sets by N*E*R*D, Gucci Mane, M.I.A. and dozens of other musical performers.

While Ecko’s mind is currently focused on the finer details of this year’s event — What will attendees want to see first? Will the lines be long? — he anticipates his “cultural world’s fair” to live on long after November, noting its potential for expansion into new markets in both the U.S. and internationally.

However, a ComplexCon in every nation is not his ultimate goal.

“My intention is not quantity; it’s quality,” said Ecko. “I don’t know where exactly ComplexCon will go, but if I have my way, it will always be made with love and it will be special.”

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