“My story can only exist in this industry,” says Aaron Levant, looking back over the last 18 years. Levant isn’t much for reminiscing. He’s an idea man, a go-getter whose motto is more “Next, next, next,” he tells us, and much less about sentimental memories. But there’s now cause for maybe just a bit of nostalgia as Levant announced that this last Agenda, Long Beach was, indeed, his last Agenda ever.
Levant founded the innovative Agenda tradeshow when he was just 18 years old with an idea for an action sports/streetwear show and a noteworthy diligence. Now, at 34, Levant says he has “more ideas to pursue, more things I want to accomplish.” He’s a bit closed lipped about what that will actually be but he says it will “definitely relate to fashion, brands, athletes and musicians.”
That’s not a surprise considering that Agenda has become the world’s preeminent tradeshow in its market, pushing the boundaries of the ordinary business to business model by including consumers. “The b2b trade show is struggling,” Levant has often said, so he introduced the Emerge conference and an Agenda open-to-the-public festival day of music and fashion. Levant’s name is also synonymous with ComplexCon, a ticketed event he introduced about 3 years ago, celebrating all that is youth culture, art, streetwear, music, food and more. “No matter how successful, I self inflict. How can I make it better? I’m never satisfied, never complacent. I push myself to innovate.”
Looking back, again something Levant rarely does, he says the highlights have been the success of Agenda Emerge, where industry insiders share their perspective and experience. Past Emerge conferences have included the likes of Shepard Fairey from Obey, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Paul Rodriguez from Primitive, Bobby Hundreds from The Hundreds, Mark Ecko from Ecko Unlimited and Marc Dolce of Adidas, to name but a very few. And, of course, as far as memories go, there’s “the tipping point,” says Levant “a day in 2009 when ASR announced it would cease. It was a David and Goliath moment after a long, nasty competition and a moment, for me, of shock, disbelief and happiness.”
It’s been a whirlwind of advancements since then, that leaves Levant ready for the next chapter. “It was a hard decision to make,” he says. “But, with tradeshows and conventions, I’ve learned as much as I can learn. Now it’s about continuing my learning overtime, whatever projects I choose to work on, always adding new things. This is one of the few industries that, when you’re driven and creative, even if an idea comes out of nowhere, it can still happen. It’s a beautiful thing to see, all the collaboration in our industry, competitors working together. That’s unique,” and its shaped Levant’s story and his success in the industry.
As for Agenda and ComplexCon, “They are now strong brands,” Levant says, “that will continue to morph, becoming even more consumer facing.” Here’s to the next chapter in both Agenda/ComplexCon’s lives and wherever we next see Aaron Levant.