Christmas came early for streetwear enthusiasts at this weekend’s ComplexCon, which played host to a gathering of some of fashion’s most important tastemakers and a show floor full of the freshest brands in modern streetwear. Returning to the Long Beach Convention Center, the festival featured exclusive drops from emerging and established fashion brands like Chinatown Market, Rhude, and Joe Freshgoods and catered to an audience of hypebeasts and streetwear heads who flew in from all around the world hoping to get their hands on limited-edition apparel and sneaker drops.
Hosted once again by contemporary Japanese artist and designer Takashi Murakami, the mastermind behind the event’s brand identity and overall aesthetic experience, ComplexCon also held conversations on the future of streetwear and hip-hop in a space packed with cutting edge pop art and booth displays engineered to appeal to the aesthetic tastes of an audience that is becoming increasingly varied, as streetwear continues its dominance of the fashion industry.
We hit the show floor this weekend to get an up-close look at all the brands repping at this year’s ComplexCon to figure out which labels are poised to dress the future as we step closer to the start of a new decade and contemporary streetwear continues to evolve. Here are the brands that you’ll need on your radar to stay ahead of the game in the months and years to come.
Southern California-based Basketcase is part apparel brand, part art portfolio. Simply put, Basketcase is an apparel brand about art itself. The label approaches fashion like they’re running an art space, their loose graphic t-shirts acting as traveling gallery walls hung from your shoulders. It’s pretty pretentious honestly — their apparel drops aren’t just dropped, they’re delivered what the company calls “gallery hours,” which will annoy anyone who can’t stand self-aggrandizing.
Still, if you can look past the gimmick, Basketcase offers a pretty sweet collection of streetwear.
Brownstone just looks classy. The designs are simple and timeless but use subtle accents and flourishes that ensure they look modern and not out of step with today’s streetwear. There is always something on a Brownstone piece that sets it apart and helps you stand out, whether it’s an asymmetrical flourish, a floating stripe of contrasting color, or a subtle pattern shift. Brownstone has somehow produced an apparel line that looks like that rare and dope thrift-store find, without the lived-in faded look that typically accompanies it.
Come Back As a Flower, Named presumably after the Stevie Wonder song of the same name, is an eco-conscious label out of Los Angeles that is quickly becoming a favorite amongst hippie-leaning rappers like A$AP Rocky. The label produces psychedelic one of one hand-dyed sweatshirts, sweats, and t-shirts made from 100% recycled cotton. Sustainability and eco-consciousness run through the whole brand, and at ComplexCon they gave me a paper business card that turns into a flower when planted in the ground.
If that doesn’t instantly endear you to a brand, I don’t know what will!
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When I first saw @thaliagochez work, it felt very personal and powerful. I knew it was special and that if I was anywhere in the world, I would know it was her aesthetic. Her work draws you in. Look at @ch1ngona_af in this photo. In the midst of everything happening, the clothes around her, the jacket she has on, the hair, the makeup, the loudness…it doesn’t prevent us from seeing her expression. 💕 Forever grateful 🙏🏾 @ladysoulfly @ch1ngona_af @thaliagochez @cholasxchulas
From the mind of Brenda Equihua, the brand of the same name fuses Chicanx culture for a cross-cultural set of outerwear that is as traditional as it is contemporary. The brand began by turning cobijas into vibrant and warm outerwear that took Sunday mornings at your Tía’s and turned the experience into a fly-as-f*ck fashion show. The label has since produced cobija-wrapped accessories like scrunchies and hoop earrings that take the distinct design style of San Marcos and update it for a new generation.
If you like your psychedelic tie-dye clothes deep and vivid, rather than washed-out and natural like what Come Back As a Flower offers, you’ll be all about Extra Vitamins. Extra Vitamins designs are graphically busy, with bold fonts and shifting colorways that expertly combine a hippie and skater aesthetic in a way we haven’t seen done this well before. As a whole, streetwear seems to be leaning toward more psychedelic designs, shedding the stark black and white minimalist designs that dominated over the last decade.
Free and Easy was by far the chillest brand at ComplexCon this year, they even went as far as to make their booth set-up be an ice-cream truck and some lawn chairs — so not a booth at all. With phrases like “Don’t Trip,” “Free and Easy All Day,” and “Relax and Enjoy Life,” Free and Easy is a label that relies on escapism like no apparel brand I’ve ever witnessed before has.
The label mines the eternal-chill of Southern California and turns it into a wearable brand. If you’re all about that chill lifestyle, you’re going to be all about this too.
A student of Parsons The New School of Design who cut her teeth at Chanel, Galareh Mizrahi is a brand that revolves around the personality of the artist it’s named after. Galareh made a name for herself with her tiny colorful and playful handbags, developing a cult following of clutch carrying fans who have come to regard her handbags are the coolest in the game. Since her success in the bag-game, Galereh has since branched out into a variety of apparel pieces that rely on her playful approach to color and design.
Joe Freshgoods has been designing his own threads and catching eyes with his unique looks since high school. A student of Chicago’s Lane Tech, Joe began selling his first products in the halls of his school at 15 and quickly realized he had an eye for fashion that could turn into a career. Flash forward to today and Joe Freshgoods is one of the most hyped brands, known for their apparel that uses vibrant colors and touring band iconography, delivering a set of streetwear that aims for comfort as much as it does flash.
Posture goes for that minimal approach that has defined this last decade of streetwear. Take their name, for example. Just try googling “Posture Apparel” and you’ll get links to posture-enhancing clothing for people with back issues — the brand is so minimal that their name is too generic to be searchable.
It’s unsure whether that’s an intentional move on Posture’s part, to make their brand harder to find, relying on word-of-mouth rather than algorithms to find their audience. But if you like the word “posture” or flower prints and green-tones, this brand is for you.
Rhude is fairly new to the streetwear scene, springing out of Los Angeles in 2015 from the mind of Rhuigi Villaseñor with a brand culture centered around Rhuigi’s love of history and art, combining American iconography and nostalgia with inventive designs that appear timeless. Rhude will appeal to fans of Supreme and Palace, and their current art direction clearly borrows the same aesthetic.
Rip N Repair is yet another brand out of Los Angeles and uses high-quality materials with a focus on craftsmanship for an apparel collection that pays homage to different eras of LA Korean heritage. The brand captures the streets of LA in a way that few other labels do, presenting something that reflects downtown LA’s more urban centers rather than the laid-back chill vibe that has come to define Southern California.
Stay Cool NYC describes themselves as a “retro-inspired chillwear brand” that uses surf and vacation iconography and filters the designs through a distinctive New York lens. The label mixes apparel aesthetics of the past, mainly the late 80s and 90s, and updates them to fit within the modern age of streetwear for a vibrant collection of loose-fitting t-shirts and hoodies.