From FedEx to fashion

In Features
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Fashion, landscape, portraits, beauty and runway photographer Jon Malan (above) working on his craft after graduating from Cal State Fullerton. (Courtesy of Jon Malan)

As people wait for their drinks at Starbucks in downtown Brea, they may begin to look around to find something or someone interesting to observe. Many notice a man with glasses seated at one of the nearby tables working scrupulously on his laptop with an enormous camera by his side and his usual tall café mocha. His name is Jon Malan and he’s a regular. He shows up almost every other day to work on his architectural work projects or to touch up his photos of a high fashion runway show.

Model Danielle Peralta befriended Malan three years ago during an LA Fashion Week event.

“Who doesn’t love Jon Malan? Everyone loves working with him,” Peralta said. “He’s very down to Earth, which makes it very easy for him to take pictures of you.”

Malan was raised on a sugarcane farm in Manila, Philippines. His family owned a home in the suburbs of Manila where he grew up with his younger sister and brother. But Malan’s life in Manila came to an abrupt halt when their parents decided to embark on a new life in the United States.

He arrived in the United States when he was 14 years old, and was thrusted into a world he was not ready for. He was placed into high school as a junior, despite the fact that he was two years younger than his peers. He was teased for being much smaller than the rest of his grade, Malan said.

Upon graduating high school, Malan had his eyes set on California Polytechnic State University in San Louis Obispo to study architecture, but was distraught when he discovered that their architect program had a three year wait to get in.

At that moment he made the unanticipated decision to attend another university and his eyes were unenthusiastically set on Cal State Fullerton. His heart wasn’t into attending CSUF, but he was eventually glad things turned out the way they did.

Malan graduated from CSUF in May 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a concentration in architectural engineering. Upon completing internships with architectural firms, he was offered a job by Raytheon, a major American defense contractor and industrial corporation. Malan now oversees various FedEx employees including their hired architects, structural engineers, electricians and contractors. Now that Malan’s career was on track, he had time to focus on finding the woman of his dreams.

“I used to bring work home, but I never liked working at home so I would work at Starbucks,” Malan said.

It was there, at that same Starbucks, dealing with those daily work projects where Malan finally met the woman of his dreams, Ethel Dadivas. Malan sparked up a conversation with Dadivas and the rest was history. They dated and traveled the world for four years until they married in 2005, and moved into their home in Fullerton.

In 2011, their first child Noah Malan was born. Once Malan had established his career and family, he began to develop his photography skills by shooting photos during his travels.

“He continues to grow by leaps and bounds. I remember his earlier work compared to now. He’s had exponential creative growth,” Dadivas said.

Malan began shooting fashion photography in 2012 after being encouraged by his wife that he should work on shooting people more. His fascination with the fashion industry and inclination to improve as a photographer lead him to pursue opportunities to shoot designer collections and LA Fashion Week runway shows.

Malan’s portfolio includes runway shows for Betsey Johnson, Michael Costello, Sue Wong, Walter Mendez, MT Costello and MNM Couture. He’s also had the opportunity to shoot for LA Fashion Week events Project Ethos, Art Hears Fashion, Concept LA and is expecting to shoot New York Fashion Week events this upcoming season for the first time.

“That’s what art is like. You’re supposed to evolve. You’re not supposed to look at your work from back then and think ‘I was just out of this world,’” Malan said. “(Fashion photography) it’s a competitive industry, but it’s one of my release valves.”

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