Malene Malling: “I have learned to follow my gut feeling”

Words Sofie Ringtved Jensen

The experienced fashion publisher shares her experiences in collaboration with Copenhagen Fashion Week. A key insight is trusting one’s instincts.

Even as a kid, Malene Malling had an eye for what makes design good. Sitting in the fitting room, she would gaze up at her mom, who had brought her along to the shops of Copenhagen. From there emerged a dream to make a career in the fashion industry — one that long since came to fruition. Today, Malene Malling sports one of the industry’s longest and most impressive CVs, including such titles as entrepreneur, head publisher, editor-in-chief, and creative director. To mention but a few.


In particular, her brainchild, the publishing house Malling Publications, and its fashion magazine Cover, has been the main character in Malene’s story — at least until she made the decision, just over a year ago, to close the magazine after more than a decade in the market, dedicating her time and skill over to Vero Moda, the Bestseller brand she now leads as creative director.


“It is different, and then again, it’s not. Working with customers is nothing new to me, it was also a big part of Cover, but what is different is dedicating so much time to one brand. It’s been exhilarating to concentrate on just one thing, for one time’s sake,” says Malene Malling, who today carries no qualms about the decision to close the Cover chapter.


“In the beginning, it was truly exciting. In the end, quite exhausting. In the later days it was all about tackling the challenge of running a print publication in today’s media environment, rather than about culture or aesthetics. Only in hindsight could I fathom the burden it truly was. So moving on is a great relief. I can breathe all the way down,” she says, while emphasizing the importance to her of remaining in the industry — albeit in a different chair.


The momentum of Danish fashion

This past Saturday, Malene Malling took the stage at My Story Over Lunch, an event organized by Copenhagen Fashion Week at Apollo Bar in Copenhagen. An opportunity to share her experience and knowledge on fashion both Danish and international with a large and interested audience. To Malene, it’s about passing insights on to those who want to listen, but also about contributing to a fashion week she has been involved in from the beginning, and which she finds just as relevant as back then.

“The ambition of Copenhagen Fashion Week to open itself to end-consumers, inviting into its hearth those who are truly interested, is a fantastic idea, and one I fully support,” she says.

Malene Malling has lost count of how many fashion weeks she’s spent observing the runways in order to decode the Danish industry’s next-season offerings. But she never forgets a designer. Malling can recall every single one of them, including those who entered the industry when she did herself, and today’s new names. Following the next generation has always been crucial to her. At Cover, she placed great emphasis on recruiting burgeoning talents — if, that is, they had anything fresh to offer.

Fashion, however, is constantly evolving. What was of prime importance yesterday may not be significant today. According to Malling, the industry reflects the shifting media landscape and the patterns of consumption that result.

“The Danish fashion industry and its brands are doing well right now due to attention from international media, especially social media like Instagram. Danish designers are particularly good at creating items that are relevant, meaning fashion that can be worn at occasions both everyday and festive, while remaining wallet-friendly. The challenge of the moment is how to build on this moment,” she says, citing Ganni as an example.

“Ganni is a first-class example of a brand that gets the zeitgeist, mastering the media while taking advantage of the momentum enjoyed by Denmark, Danish style, and Danish girls right now. It’s truly impressive,” she says.


Lesson of life

Although Malene Malling sees great talent in the industry at present, both creatively and business-wise, she still has some bones to pick. Only a few, though.

“The industry is brimming with talents — including new ones — such as Cecilie Bahnsen, who is truly one-of-a-kind. But I look forward to the emergence of a new generation of designers — a cohesive team of talent — to truly capsize my ship. Young designers who really have a forward vision, and who can set a new agenda for Danish fashion. Just as we have seen before,” she says.

Having built her career on a unique sartorial taste and an ability to spot new talent, Malling can offer many insights, but one stands out as a real lesson of life. A realization she has repeatedly had affirmed throughout her career, and which she will convey in tomorrow’s talk; the reason she has managed to forge the fashion career she could only dream of gazing at her mom on the fitting room floor: Being true to oneself.

“I have learned to follow my gut, to trust my own intuition. It is crucial to ask, is this good or not? If you believe in something yourself, others will, too.”