Chameleon, Maluma expands empire to fashion and says he likes to be fluid

by

The New York Times

A few days after a snowstorm in January, Juan Luis Londoño Arias, 28, the pop star who performs under the stage name Maluma, was in a midtown Manhattan office a few blocks away from the group’s flagship store. Macy’s in New York. Wearing a denim jacket and pale blue pants, he’d somehow managed to spare his thick-soled, white leather Prada boots of any brand, despite the snow-spattered walk along the sidewalk.

Shortly after he arrived, the overcast sky began to lighten. The impression was that the singer had brought the sun with him. Maluma, who sometimes takes on the role of “Papi Juancho”, his alter ego, had just arrived from his hometown of Medellín, Colombia, where he spent a month on vacation.

He was in New York to promote two films, “Encanto”, a Disney animated production about a Colombian family saved by the power of magic, in which he voices a heartthrob with imposing jaws and long hair, and the romantic comedy ” Marry Me”, in which he plays Jennifer Lopez’s cheating fiancé, pop superstar Bastian.

But first of all, he had a clothing line to promote. The baby blue look he was wearing was part of his first ready-to-wear retail line entitled Royalty by Maluma, a collaboration with Reunited Clothing and Macy’s that is due to hit Macy’s stores March 24. Maluma was involved in the design process and had not yet seen the complete collection. But he wanted to see her before he leaves for Europe, where he’s going to start a tour. His first show there, at the Accor Arena in Paris, was all sold out.

“He’s never afraid to try anything on — he tries on a women’s coat and says, ‘I want this coat, come on,” Hilda Batayneh, Executive Creative Director at Reunited Clothing, said of his openness to ideas during the design process. . “The line is really Maluma. When you see it, you can feel its presence or parts of it in each component.”

Macy’s had been interested in a collaboration with Maluma for several years, according to Durand Guion, the company’s vice president of fashion. Maluma’s fan base — he has 61 million Instagram followers — and his personal style kept the chain of stores interested, but it was his enthusiasm for the collection that sealed the deal.

“The process was effortless,” Guion said. “We left the first meeting happy because it wasn’t just easy; it was fun, and we felt his presence every step of the way.”

Ten years ago, at age 16, Maluma decided that music would be his career, rather than football, his first passion. He started out singing at parties in Medellín and now plays sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. In 2018, he won the Latin Grammy for best pop vocal with the album “FAME” Collaborated with Shakira, Madonna and The Weeknd, among others.

Still, for all his accomplishments, Maluma found himself wondering what might come next. “I’m building my empire,” he said, in a melodious “paisa” accent, the Colombian way of speaking half-sung. “If we don’t do this now, during the most productive period of my life, the moment may pass without us even realizing it.”

He chose the fabrics and cuts of the pieces, and tried to create a fluid collection in terms of gender. The outfits were inspired by his hometown, he said, where the singer’s sister and parents still live.

“The sky in Medellín is special to me,” Maluma said, her brown eyes shining brighter than the huge diamonds around her neck. “I’m not sure, but when I get there and I see the sky, it looks different from the sky anywhere else in the world.”

He tried to capture that hue of sky blue in the Royalty by Maluma collection, as well as the vivid greens and tiles that are characteristic of Antioquia, the region that is home to Medellín. He wanted the collection to be steeped in his culture as well as reflect symbols important to him, like the crown-shaped symbol he wore around his neck.

“If you visit Medellín, or Colombia in general, and ask a taxi driver for directions, he won’t just tell you how to get there, he’ll take you to the place you’re looking for,” Maluma said, laughing. “For me, this represents a lot of Colombia.”

He believes that the warm side of his personality is often covered up by his strong stage persona. Juan Luis, he said, using his given name, is disciplined and focuses on the values ​​passed on to him by his family. Friends say they can’t tell the difference between these two sides.

“When I first met Maluma, I immediately felt his energy and engaging personality,” said Donatella Versace, a close friend of his and his collaborator, in an email message. “He’s the kind of man who likes to make a difference, and make the world a better place.”

Versace designed the bright red leather outfit worn by Maluma at last year’s Met Gala, the first time he was invited. The two arrived together, both with dyed blonde hair. In her immaculate white dress, she looked like an angel in contrast to her companion’s demonic appearance. The two collaborated on special Versace looks for Maluma’s concerts and her red carpet events. She borrowed his dog, a brown Doberman named Buda, for Versace’s 2022 Spring-Summer Men’s Node campaign.

“He’s a man bold enough to experiment and play with his style, and to me that’s almost as engaging as his music,” Versace said. “He always has a very strong instinct as to what he wants.”

Maluma’s ability to set aside the norms of fashion and his impulse to wear clothes that portray what he’s feeling are central to the Royalty by Maluma collection. Many of the pieces, like an off-white crepe shirt he wears like diamond-shaped stone buttons, are unisex.

“I think that, in the whole collection, women can wear men’s pieces without any problem,” said Maluma. “It was a key component of this collection, that each person feels comfortable and that everyone can make it their own, to the extent that they want to.”

Late last year, he collaborated with Olivier Rousteing, creative director at Balmain, on a small collection inspired by the neon colors that light up Miami. According to Rousteing, the collection has become the brand’s best seller in the online market.

The veteran fashion designer appreciates Maluma’s disregard for strict fashion rules and refers to his ability to ignore the rules as “carefree”. For Rousteing, Maluma’s lack of experience with fashion is refreshing, and he believes it could perhaps help fuel his creativity.

“He doesn’t let himself be restricted by the limits that we would have in the fashion world”, said the stylist. “And he manages to bring together completely conflicting things.”

Maluma spent most of his teenage years training to be an international superstar, and he always knew how to use social media. He turned the camera on himself strategically, sharing his rise through first-hand footage.

Critics tend to label him a singer, or a reggaeton star, but he sees himself as more of a chameleon. “I don’t have a defined gender. I like to be fluid,” Maluma said. “I like to go through different musical genres. I like to dress in different ways. I like to be a box of surprises and to evolve”.

“Maluma is not a single genre, it’s a movement,” he said, referring to his onstage persona. “Maluma is an ecosystem, a universe that is divided into different branches, but it’s all connected by one thing: the love of art.”

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