Camila Malagon lost both parents at the age of twenty-one. While coping with her tragic loss, she launched her fashion consulting agency representing small Latinx fashion designers and helped them enter the US retail market. Camila has a laser sense for spotting new and hot brands; she quickly built a successful business in the United States and is now making a bold decision in the global marketplace.
Chan: When did you create Malagon Group?
Malagon: The Malagon Group was created in 2017. I returned to Colombia after my parents passed away, intending to reconnect with my roots after growing up in the United States all my life. It was supposed to be a quick trip with plans to return to New York City, but the local designers suddenly started contacting me and asking me to help them get into American retailers. Suddenly – and unwittingly – I found myself as a consultant in Colombia. Through years of working in wholesale, public relations and my retail experience in New York City, I was fluent in the language of the industry and had relationships with many key players. It has been four years since I first moved to Colombia. I have cultivated great relationships with retail partners like Net-A-Porter, Intermix, Saks and Bloomingdales, on a professional level but more importantly, on a personal level. It was at these retailers that I presented most of the brands that I have now.
Chan: What is the Malagon Group today?
Malagon: Today, Malagon Group is a fashion consulting agency representing various emerging fashion brands around the world. We now have an incredible turnaround time for new clients as we are seeing results in the first half of the year. We focused on a six to eight month period of perfecting the brand and the collections before they were ready to market. When we start with a client or a new campaign, I work hand in hand with the brand, I revise the fabrics, I revise the designs with the business strategy in mind, and then my team follows up on the execution. I trust every member of our team to divide and conquer. Whether it’s in the design or even in the analysis of technology and data, everyone is together to meet the schedule we have set for ourselves.
Chan: What was your first big break?
Malagon: My first “big” break was to integrate three brands (Waimari, Juan De Dios & Verdelimon) into Intermix in one season, during my first year of activity.
Chan: Do you have extension projects?
Malagon: Yes! We are currently focused on expansion targeting Europe and West Coast markets. In October, we meet with UK’s biggest retailers such as Net-A-Porter, Matches, Selfridges, Liberty London, Browns, Harrods and many more to expand overseas distribution. And at the end of November, we are opening offices in Los Angeles to support more brands beyond Latin America from 2022. We want to have a smart approach to the fashion-tech side of the industry, by focusing on data-driven markets and trends that will ultimately enable more growth at all levels. I am constantly thinking about how to maximize creative initiatives in the fashion world. I work closely with Net Sustain, Net-A-Porter’s organized platform, to ensure that each of my brands gives back in one way or another, socially or environmentally. For example, one brand guaranteed that every swimsuit sold would result in a planted tree, or MUV’s label initiative, where the labels themselves are made from carrot seeds, so if you drop them don’t no matter where – even in New York – they will sprout. The brands I started with are very resort and swimming focused, but in a way that reflects Colombia’s strength in this category. Last February, I signed on to my first athleisure brand called MUV Active, which I’m personally very excited about. In our first season together, we asked Bandier to take over the brand with Dallas, Los Angeles and online. We will launch in mid-October. We also have Agnes glasses, which have caught the attention of major publishers and buyers around the world in a very short period of time. I hope to expand the bi-coastal offices, maintaining our Latin American brands while simultaneously developing brands from France, Dubai, the Middle East and Asian countries.
Chan: Who are your favorite Latinx fashion designers?
Malagon: In my world, that’s a bit of a trick question – but Carolina Herrera has always been a favorite. My mom always wore Carolina, which was my first introduction to the iconic brand. Also – I love a shirt dress, and it does the best.
Chan: What is your philosophy for spotting new designers who will be successful? Malagon: My philosophy is to trust my instincts. I know when I see something special about the brand, even if the product isn’t something I would wear myself. I think I have a particular strength in having a very clear vision of the capabilities of each designer, and when I take on new brands within a pre-existing client category, they are unique. I don’t want to expand too much, and I hate making excessive promises, so I’m very picky about how much we take and how fast. Originally, I wanted to oversee every step of every project I’m involved in, which is, in fact, not possible for a human. In all aspects of my life, including business, I have – for better or for worse – the spirit of a perfectionist, and I love to be thoughtful. Another business philosophy is to prioritize customer and buyer relationships in a detail-oriented, organized and intimate way that makes customers feel heard and prioritized. Whether it’s meeting buyers one-on-one or with my clients at their homes, I’m not your typical CEO and you won’t see me at trade shows. I am incredibly proud of our team, our company and the progress we have made with the majority of the brands we currently represent at Malagon Group and it has been mind-blowing. I think my relationship with buyers is something that is my most valuable asset.
Chan: How fast can a brand grow?
Malagon: The best example I can give you is that I signed with a swimwear brand called Baobab in August 2020. They were selling to Victoria’s Secret, an account the brand got by attending a trade show, but not at other large retailers. In the past 12 months, the brand has already launched in stores like Intermix, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Revolve and most recently Shopbop resulting in 260% growth and we are expanding the international distribution of the Mark. It’s that kind of growth that nourishes me and keeps me going. We have settled our turnaround time. I don’t mean to sound naive, but it’s so gratifying to see the results of our hard work. The hardest part is that I’m about to venture into uncharted territory that I don’t know as well, especially Europe. Not to mention the fact that I am now completely moving my headquarters to the West Coast. My biggest challenge right now is making sure my brands don’t feel the consequences of my move and keep growing. I want to look to the future as I start to focus on new territories. But I have to stay innovative and maintain our current success. Overall, that means my role is to change gears. It will be a challenge, but I’m excited for myself – and terrified, but I’m so happy for Malagon Group.
Chan: What motivates you personally?
Malagon: I always juggle responsibilities and priorities, but I also remember being grateful and celebrating every win and the team. I am also a very intuitive person and I have to remember to keep driving this boat and to keep us going.
Chan: How did your parents influence you?
Malagon: I inherited my dad’s work ethic, not to mention he taught me the importance of keeping my word. My mother was a strong woman who was also a role model – as far back as I can remember; I was surrounded by friends of hers – designers, models, photographers – who had a huge influence on my tastes. She was bold, elegant and not afraid to be herself. She gave me the confidence to stay true to my beliefs and not be afraid to use my voice or own my opinions. The fact that I work in fashion, especially in business, is certainly no accident. But the strength of my voice and my belief that I can do it? I owe them that.