J Balvin’s unstoppable wave of crossover success led to the reggaeton artist’s first booth at ComplexCon 2017. Balvin Airlines, presented by Buchanan’s Whisky, was a full sensory flashback to your last red eye. Complete with beeping metal detectors and flight attendants in retro bottle-green uniforms ringing up merch purchases, the booth was curated by Balvin and style consultant Upscale Vandal (who’s worked with Balvin, Roc Nation, and Billionaire Boys Club, among others).
"Basically, we partnered with Buchanan's to [show] J Balvin's take on streetwear, culture, lifestyle,” Upscale says, diamonds glittering in his lower jaw as we speak. He is resplendent in Chanel, with a silk handkerchief knotted around the head. “The U.S. is kinda credited for the whole streetwear sneaker culture. [This] is [Balvin’s] take on how the rest of the globe affects the culture.”
Along with Balvin, Upscale Vandal helped select the work and designers featured, visiting boutiques and meeting with artists beforehand to bring pieces from RCNSTRCT Studio, Kappa, and more to the booth. A mini conveyor belt carried luggage from luxury manufacturer MCM, who was also on hand to apply decals and monograms to leather passport holders.
The airport terminal experience was so authentic that it had walkthrough metal detectors and security line signage. Buchanan’s bartenders even mixed up first-class-ready specialty cocktails in a pop-up bar behind the booth. Meanwhile, ComplexCon attendees queued for a special toy release by POPaganda designer Ron English and jostled to snap photos of Balvin as he spoke to Complex News’ Natasha Martinez.
“I'm not just focusing on the Latino. I'm just really focused on the global movement that we're making,” the “Mi Gente” superstar explained. “We're making something real cool for the culture.”
An airport is where most people begin a journey to appreciate the rich, authentic culture from parts both familiar and unknown. Through this unique pop-up experience at ComplexCon, J Balvin and Buchanan’s were able to encapsulate that same sense of discovery, and celebrate the essential contributions of the Latin community to American culture. For two days, Balvin Airlines made it possible for anyone lucky enough to be on standby to connect with diverse Latin American designers—no passport required.