Sandra Campos: From Hiding Her Heritage to Showcasing It

The new CEO returns to her roots to inspire a community of women and Latinos through the dynamic fashion brand Diane von Furstenberg

“My oldest daughter amazes me,” Sandra Campos begins. “From a very early age, she embraced being Latina. She wanted to go to Mexico City to learn about our indigenous ancestry and who her family was in Mexico. She even helped found a diversity leadership organization at her school and participated in numerous marches in support of the DREAM Act.”

Sandra Campos, CEO, Diane von Furstenberg, portrait
Sandra Campos, CEO, Diane von FurstenbergPhoto: James Ryang

“I couldn’t help but think how different her youth was compared to mine,” Campos continues. “While she was encouraged to embrace her background, I grew up trying to hide mine. She’s such a powerful leader, and she’s going to change the world because of it.”

“She opened my eyes to see how you can activate others’ lives by being proud of who you are, instead of shying away from it. Now I have the opportunity to empower the Latinx community I come from. Hard work has helped me get to where I am. My own experience is a testament to the fact that regardless of education, race, or location, you can make things happen and you can be successful.”

Her Story

Growing up in Texas as a first-generation Mexican American, Campos felt like she had to navigate her adolescence in a way that understated her Latinx heritage. She had to overcome unforgiving stereotypes during every stage of her life. In childhood, she felt a need to eliminate her native language because people would gawk at her parents when they would speak Spanish in public. In young adulthood, she didn’t want to be associated with Latinos, as she saw firsthand the racial bias that Latinos experienced in her west Texas college town. In the early stages of her career, she encountered a different stereotype, and found herself abandoning her Texas accent in order to prove herself worthy of moving up the corporate ladder as a strong, educated woman whose accent didn’t define her intelligence.

Campos moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion when she was fresh out of college. She focused on building her career, starting her family, and rising to her potential as a fashion executive.

Her parents had instilled in her the importance of education, and because of them, she became a lifelong learner. Through the years, she used this drive to take on new positions in companies across the city until she had worked in almost every area of the fashion industry—she could wear the many hats necessary to make a brand flourish.

In 2018, after more than twenty years of devoting her hard work to brands, Campos became the CEO of Diane von Furstenberg (DVF).

Her Mission

Around the same time she became CEO of DVF, Campos’s oldest daughter, Grace, moved away to college with an aspiration to study immigration reform. After watching Grace grow up in a way that embraced and accentuated her Latina heritage, Campos realized it was time to welcome her own background—and her role at DVF was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

“Diane [von Furstenberg] has shown women everywhere that we cannot give gender the power to place limits on our potential. I hope to continue her vision so that women can have equal opportunities regardless of age, race, religion, or gender,” she says.

“We have built a global platform and have a responsibility to remind women that fear is not an option and that the twenty-first century is the century where women will make the difference.”

At DVF, products are made to take the complexity out of fashion and give women their freedom to focus on every other pursuit they encounter, all while feeling confident and empowered. When Diane first started her fashion line, she pioneered the concept of the wrap dress, a one-piece, easy-on garment that changed the way women thought about dressing. With this piece as an inspiration, the company has since built a brand that empowers the feminine in every feminist and provides best friends in a woman’s closet.

“We have built a global platform and have a responsibility to remind women that fear is not an option and that the twenty-first century is the century where women will make the difference,” Campos says.

Her Initiatives

While DVF’s mission never changed, its business strategy did. Over the past few months, the company has undergone adjustments in its distribution methods, moving away from a wholesale business model. Campos had the opportunity to be instrumental in determining the structure of this new method in ways that allow it to become more consumer centric.

This change has also provided a chance for Campos to build a team that brings new experiences and opinions to DVF’s table while mirroring New York City’s vibrant populace. She used this opportunity to fill her team with diverse ages, ethnicities, skill sets, and more to ensure that the creators of DVF are as unique as the people they serve.

“There’s a lot of change that happens in fashion,” she illustrates. “I brought unique people from different retailers and industries into our team so we can create new dust in our existing system. We want our team to put their own talents and ideas into their work so they don’t feel stifled. Then we can be strong and agile together rather than strictly corporate.”

As DVF paves a road of female and cultural empowerment through its platform, it has also made strides to bring together a society of diverse women to further cultivate this mentality. Through emails, newsletters, and social media campaigns, DVF shares stories of people who have manifested and lived a courageous life. Outside of digital platforms, the company also organizes female-focused networking events, where it hosts panel discussions that open cross-disciplinary dialogues for women to tell stories about how they made a difference in the world. Campos says, “The goal is to build a community where people feel safe and heard, so they can leave feeling confident and inspired.”

For Campos, using her children and Diane as models of empowerment has instilled in her a new confidence in activating other Latinx members of DVF’s community. Now, not only does she own her incredible determination in climbing the ladder of fashion as an independent, accomplished woman, she also takes pride in remembering her roots and her parents’ journey to establish them.

“My children are truly inspiring individuals,” she says. “They represent strength and fearlessness, and they are the generation that will make change. Through business and through this brand, I have the ability to have a voice that helps a broader group of people. And I hope to give people a workplace where they feel inspired, empowered, and can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.”

 


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