The Heroes of Chicago's Complex Con weren't built overnight

The weekend was a celebration of community, the outreach of how far a city (and sometimes an individual) can impact the rest of culture, and most importantly, real life evidence of lifestyles turned careers.

All eyes were on Chicago last weekend as thousands gathered to the South Side for Complex Con. Considered as this generation’s World's Fair that encapsulates streetwear culture, it’s been dubbed and tagged as “the internet in real life.” All weekend, people flocked to the McCormick Place with specific goals in mind - buy into the hype, see a music artist, meet their heroes, or become a content champion.

But this was just more about streetwear. And although people box Complex Con as a Disneyland for commerce and Instagram opportunities, Chicago’s was beyond the hype. It meant more than the morning stampedes to grab the most exclusive and coveted items. Its highlights aren’t Atmos, Converse, Girls Don’t Cry, Converse, or Chinatown Market. It won’t be remembered for its headliners like ScHoolboy Q or Juice WRLD.

The weekend was a celebration of community, the outreach of how far a city (and sometimes an individual) can impact the rest of culture, and most importantly, real life evidence of lifestyles turned careers. It was a celebration of the winning individuals and teams that started from an idea, a dream, or solution -- then applied their experiences to share their product of passion with others. Each person I met had a story, a defining moment, and passion ignited that catapulted who they are today.

Complex Con Chicago was a festival for each individual and their self-made stories.

Like creator and entrepreneur JoeFreshGoods, who three years ago relentlessly tweeted at Complex Con to be recognized or give him a chance. This year he ran 5 booths, had the whole city backing him, and started to extend mentorship by sitting down on panels.

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Or entertainer King Marie - who’s creative multifaceted talents took her through a jam packed weekend including performing on the Pigeons & Planes stage, hand crafting some of her own line of merch, and creatively directing an activation and party with Converse. Djing for over 10 years, she's just released her first EP as a music artist.

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Or connector Eddie Sizawke, a music manager for new artists who’s hustle unmatched built a management company from the ground up and now representing 3 of Chicago’s up-and-coming female artists such as Kaina, Nessheads, and King Marie. Eddie wasn't directly part of Complex Con, but he kept a pulse for his team. Throughout the weekend he was seen shuffling from booth to booth -- constantly supporting others, positioning his artist or celebrating them.

Or artist Louis Deguzman, who’s story behind heritage is fueled by hard work and sticking with your vision. He's been building his signature style since he was in high school, manipulating pop culture icons into abstract and intricate shapes. One of Complex Con’s highlighted artists, he had people waiting 3 hours+ for his installation and sold out a figurine.

This past weekend was truly a special one, and to feel all of the genuine love and support from the hometown made it that much more of a moment that the team and I will never forget // Thank you to everyone whom dropped by and even waited 3+ hours in line at our installation at one point to say what’s up and to show love towards the body of work. All of your support doesn’t go unnoticed, for I truly wouldn’t be where I’m at without you all and your strong beliefs that we all belong and can contribute positive shift + change for our community through creativity // What was once a dream and still is feels surreal and wouldn’t have been possible without the Team // Thank you to my bro’s / core @austinneely and @bradleybutchko (LAB) for continuing to hold me down and for elevating the vision on the daily // Thank you @cherry_coke_zero and the entire @complexcon family for giving us the opportunity and platform to join forces in setting a monumental movement of what it truly means to unite as one in order to set positive shifting examples for the world to look towards and lean on // Thank you @mikegorz @studioscotty @the.annex for turning our build out renderings into reality and all in all an amazing space // This is just the beginning and the team and I are excited to be continuing on this humbling journey 🙏🏽 - On to the next one 📽 @kevinhartmann

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For once, the hype wasn’t over product, but the people. The foundation of the community are these people. And the one thing we can take away is that success isn’t built overnight as much as social media wants us to believe. It takes years of grind, tests and trials, failures, unwavering confidence, and most importantly passion. Most of us are still figuring this out, no matter how much it may seem our heroes have made it -- we’re always evolving. But as long as the passion is there, so is the possibility of your dream job, scenario, lifestyle.