Retail in Asia


Retailers leverage the power of pop culture in ComplexCon’s Asia debut

The highly anticipated ComplexCon, a pop culture festival originating in the United States, made its grand entrance in Asia with its debut in Hong Kong on Friday, March 22, concluded on Sunday, March 24.

This event marked the beginning of a series of gatherings that the city is hosting in the upcoming weeks, including the art fair Art Basel Hong Kong, which opens to the public on Thursday, March 28 (vernissage opens on the prior day on March 27).

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ComplexCon, held at the AsiaWorld-Expo across seven halls spanning over 400,000 square feet, encompassed a wide array of attractions, including nightly concerts headlined by international and regional hip-hop stars, exclusive merchandise drops, DJ booths, live art shows, NFTs, and panel discussions featuring cultural luminaries such as Jeff Staple, Hiroshi Fujiwara, pH-1, Eric Kot, and Sambypen.

VIP packages to the event were sold out within four hours, according to the event organisers, and around 30,000 visitors were expected during the event’s run from March 22 to March 24.

The ComplexCon Marketplace showcased a diverse range of more than 100 global and local brands, encompassing fashion, sneakers, art, lifestyle, food, music, and technology. Source: Jasmin Woolf/Retail in Asia

Retail brands leverage pop culture

At the heart of ComplexCon Hong Kong was the showcase of the latest trends in pop and street culture. The ComplexCon Marketplace featured over 100 global and local brands, spanning fashion, sneakers, art, lifestyle, food, music, and technology.

Queues formed early in the morning as enthusiasts eagerly awaited releases from renowned partnerships like Takashi Murakami + Blackpink, CLOT x Crocs, Human Made x Verdy, and McDonald’s x Verdy.

The festival served as a prime example of how the retail industry leverages pop culture to maintain relevance and drive engagement and sales.

Vendor booths at the ComplexCon marketplace included Feng Chen Wang and Newave. Source: Jasmin Woolf/Retail in Asia

From high-end designers like Feng Cheng Wang to athleisure brands like Fila and Adidas, the retail booths showcased a diverse range of clothing options. Jewellery brands such as Aequa & Co. and popular sneaker brands also made their presence felt.

ComplexCon’s Hong Kong edition placed a strong emphasis on technology, with the festival partnering with Newman Group as the official Web3 Partner.

Massive interactive booths by Memeland allowed attendees to immerse themselves in the world of technology. Notable NFT art exhibitions, including Dour Darcels and Taschen, further highlighted the intersection between art and technology.

The marketplace also featured exhibitions from brands such as Red Bull (pictured left). Source: Jasmin Woolf/Retail in Asia

Stephen Wong, Complex Chinese Partner, expressed his enthusiasm for Web3, stating, “There’s a lot of commonalities: youth, coolness, art. Web3 is more than just talking about coins. With this collaboration, we can engage a bigger crowd, the right crowd.”

A standout collaboration at ComplexCon Hong Kong was the partnership between Parco, a Japanese department store, and YGY, debuting their artwork themed around the future of ‘Tokyo Culture Complex’. This collaboration advocated for a fresh creative blend of Japanese anime, games, art, and street culture.

Popular consumer brands like McDonald’s (pictured left) captured attention with their uniquely designed booths. ComplexCon also featured a collaboration with Parco (right). Source: Jasmin Woolf/Retail in Asia

Notably, the festival also accommodated the presence of Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu, which offered attendees the opportunity to participate in a game and win prizes. MRKT5, a creative hub and educational platform, even hosted a live tattoo session, adding an extra layer of artistic expression to the event.

Consumer brands such as Red Bull, Adidas, Fila, and McDonald’s also showcased their offerings with eye-catching booths. Red Bull, in particular, went all out, constructing a full-fledged basketball court that captivated sports enthusiasts.

Inside the ComplexCon marketplace, part of the event that drew around 30,000 visitors over the weekend. Source: Jasmin Woolf/Retail in Asia

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To satiate appetites, ComplexCon Hong Kong featured a food court housing 12 acclaimed Hong Kong food brands and restaurants, curated by ThatFoodCray founder Nicole Fung.

For the retail sector, ComplexCon offered some evidence that the future of retail lies in cross-industry collaborations, with everyday brands teaming up with pop or youth culture brands and personalities to maintain relevance and captivate audiences.

Some vendor highlights included:

  • Blackpink + Takashi Murakami launched their capsule merchandise collection at the festival. The “In Your Area” collection consisted of 15 pieces including a limited-edition Blackpink light stick designed by Murakami, clothing and fashion accessories.
  • Hong Kong phone case brand Casetify partnered with Won Soju, a soju brand founded by Korean rapper Jay Park, to bring a collaborative collection to Hong Kong, debuting exclusively at ComplexCon Hong Kong Marketplace.
  • New York based artist Daniel Arsham straddles the line between art, architecture and performance. Arsham makes architecture do things it is not supposed to do, mining everyday experience for opportunities to confuse and confound our expectations of space and form. Simple yet paradoxical gestures dominate his sculptural work: a contemporary object cast in volcanic ash as if it was found on some future archeological site.
  • Dour Darcels’ NFT Collection presented a captivating selection from 10,000 moody frens inspired by the world of Darcel Disappoints.
  • Feng Chen Wang, a Chinese-born, London-based designer who debuted at New York Fashion Week for Spring Summer 2016 and earned a nomination for the LVMH Prize, brought her collection to Hong Kong for the first time.
  • The McDonaldshk x Verdy pop-up served limited-edition menu items, including a nine-piece chicken McNuggets set with two special dipping sauces and hotcakes sprinkled with chocolate powder in the shape of Vick. For the merchandise, the pop-up also sold a Vick Collector’s Edition set, featuring vinyl figures of the character holding McDonald’s signature fries, McNuggets, and more.
  • Known for his work as the graphic artist behind Wasted Youth and Girls Don’t Cry, Verdy has collaborated with Kpop group Blackpink as their artistic director of the “Born Pink World Tour” and was the artist in residence at Coachella 2023. In addition to all of his globally acclaimed collaborations with top streetwear and high fashion brands, Verdy served as art director for ComplexCon Long Beach, California, USA in 2022.