The fashion executive, retail CEO and entrepreneur, Sandra Campos
Throughout her career, Sandra Campos has shown a great ability to build and expand a number of global brands through innovative means.
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From an early age, Sandra Campos felt she was meant to be a leader, and knew exactly the level of work needed to become a successful one.
A first-generation Mexican-American, California-born Texan from El Paso, Campos is one of six children born to Mexican parents who arrived in the United States in search of a better life.
Her father worked a number of jobs, from hotel jobs to milk delivery, until he found the entrepreneurial spirit that so many immigrants share — and began working at his uncle’s tortilla factory in El Paso, learning all he could about the business.
After a few years, he moved his family to Dallas — where Campos grew up — and started his own tortilla business there.
“I think that there’s just a spirit of working and building something for yourself that I have seen within this culture that’s so prevalent,” Campos told AL DÍA.
That same spirit was passed down to Campos, helping her understand the true value of hard work and would soon spark her own career path as a professional in the fashion industry.
Growing up, Campos would often watch her mother sew and quilt, and also pick up different fabrics from the store.
As a result, she started to gain a level of curiosity towards different colors and textures. She started doing tasks around the house, such as changing and reupholstering sofas, pillows and drapes and making clothing for her sisters to wear.
“It just became like a little bit of a hobby,” she said. “And then I saw that people actually really liked some of the things I was doing.”
Upon entering college at Texas Tech University, the hobby grew to her finding new ways to utilize fabrics, piece them together with an existing piece of fabric and creating something new out of it for her roommates, friends and herself.
She learned that fashion wasn’t just an interest, she actually had a keen eye and talent for it, as well.
That endeavor was aided by her own desire to become an entrepreneur.
“I had grown up with entrepreneurial parents, so business was something that I always had in me, as well,” Campos noted. “I was always a leader in a leadership position.”
“I wanted to become a CEO, I knew that really early on,” she added.
Upon graduating from college, Campos moved to New York City to follow her dreams.
When she first entered into the industry, Campos originally thought she would go the design route.
But ultimately, she opted to go into the business side.
“I looked at CEOs and presidents of companies and the path they took and I started following that path,” she said.
Campos’ professional career has seen her take on numerous executive roles at some of the most popular and iconic brands, such as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Juicy Couture, Bebe and BCBG.
Working her way up the corporate ladder was and is no easy feat.
She noted how, when she was making her way into the industry, there wasn’t the same sense or community or available mentors the way there is today. Therefore, in essence, she had to create her own path along the way.
Looking back at it now, Campos said she would have taken full advantage of it had she had it available to her.
“It’s so amazing to have someone who inspires you either through the fact that you look like them and could have that same type of experience, or someone who takes you under their wing to really help you learn and grow,” said Campos.
“I think there's such a great opportunity now for this new generation to be able to really have mentors and communities that they're a part of that really help their own career path,” she added.
In 2018, Campos made history as the first Latina CEO of Diane von Furstenburg (DvF).
Not only was she the first Latina CEO, but also the first woman CEO of the nearly 50-year-old woman’s company brand.
To that point, it was an important distinction, but also brought the question: Why didn’t we do this before?
Upon her arrival as CEO of the renowned, iconic luxury brand, Campos’ approach was simple.
“It was most important to me that I become a leader within a fashion retail company that wasn’t just a name on a label, but actually had a real purpose and meaning,” she said.
Throughout its history, DvF has long had a mantra of the “woman in charge,” the empowered and confident woman.
“When I got there, that's what I wanted to infuse from the beginning of the process with product development, to the end with the consumer,” added Campos.
Each endeavor — from the kind of fabric used, to each campaign and the messaging used — was molded to follow that purpose of the “woman in charge.”
She described her time at DvF as trying to “revolutionize [the brand] to a more modern-day company that was focused on direct-to-consumer… being collaborative and really creating a community of women in charge,” said Campos.
When the pandemic hit, Campos described it as “pretty much doom and gloom for retail and for fashion brands,” she said.
As a result of the pandemic, DvF had to furlough 75% of its employees and shut down operations.
“It was very, very challenging,” said Campos. “Ultimately, the business model just changed entirely because we had to switch to survival mode, and survival mode meant that the company business model needed to change.”
In June 2020, Campos made the decision to leave the company as the business model shifted its focus.
Throughout the pandemic, Campos has seen thousands of stores close, hundreds of brands, retailers and businesses shut down, and tens of thousands of people losing their jobs.
“I looked around and I was like, ‘I have got to do something to help people take control of their own career trajectory,’” she said.
As so many companies have had to transform business models for the digital realm, Campos wanted a way to help professionals in the fashion and retail industries who may not have as much experience in the digital sphere, pivot in a way that allowed them to keep or get jobs.
That is what birthed the creation of Fashion Launchpad, a premium subscription platform that offers on-demand education for retail and fashion professionals.
“Fashion Launchpad was really about helping create master classes for retail and fashion professionals so that they can continue to learn and grow and expand beyond what they currently do,” said Campos.
The idea was to allow those professionals to learn additional skills and receive additional training in the industry, without having to break the bank or return to school.
“It was about accessible education and accessible knowledge that we don't hoard anymore, but we share and we give to people of all colors, ages, sizes, shapes, the opportunity to be able to grow their own career,” she said.
In Sept. 2020, Campos was named CEO of Project Verte, a cloud-based supply chain platform powered by artificial intelligence.
As a lifelong learner, Campos has always been eager to know about what goes on across the different functions of an organization.
Her new role gives her the opportunity to navigate a new spectrum, with the emergence of e-commerce.
“The vision for me was to really come in and — understanding retail and knowing how to build a brand and a company — to be able to help his company find the right product for the market needs and find the solution to the problems that retailers have,” she said of her new executive role.
Campos credits the success she has found to a number of factors, namely hard work, passion, persistence, and a healthy level of curiosity.
With each executive and leadership role, she has also brought an innovative mind and approach to each endeavor.
“For me, it is about the change that I'm able to make in businesses,” said Campos. “I love business, I love building businesses, I love building brands and I find it to be incredibly exhilarating when you see the impact and results of your hard work.”