UAE Real Life: Dubai Fashionista Kelly Lundberg's Giving Back in Style Campaign
Kelly Lundberg’s life hunting down designer gear for clients as a personal shopper in Dubai couldn’t be more different from Sayda’s in Peru. But UAE-based stylist Kelly is helping Sayda, 34, to fund a shoe business to support her family – even though they have never met.
Kelly, 32, devised the Giving Back in Style campaign, selling specially designed bangles and using the proceeds to lend money to budding entrepreneurs in poorer countries. The aim is to help them start and grow their own small businesses, and Kelly is keen to help would-be businesswomen to get started in the fashion industry – as a stylist, she knows how tough it can be.
Giving Back in Style
“I know how hard it is to start a business in a developed country, and in a developing country it’s even harder,” says Kelly. “I specifically look for female entrepreneurs based in the Philippines, Pakistan, Syria, Uganda and Peru.”
Kelly admits she struggled to get her own company off the ground. “Eight years ago when I needed funding to set up the personal shopping business I knew a bank wouldn’t even listen. It was never going to happen. So I bent the truth by saying I needed a loan to buy a Porsche!” she laughs.
Kelly’s bangles are sold through her online boutique StyleMeDivine.com. They cost $65 (Dhs238) each, with $10 from each sale going to Kiva (www.kiva.org), an organisation that funds small businesses in developing countries with loans of as little as $25.
Kelly, from Edinburgh in Scotland, has sold almost 150 bangles to date, with F1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone among the celebrity wearers. Each features the slogan: ‘Life is too short to look just fine, every day you should look divine’. So far, 20 women have received small loans via Kelly’s campaign on the understanding they’ll pay them back when they can so the money can be used to help others.
A woman called Annie from the Philippines has expanded her business selling fish thanks to Kelly, while Berta from Colombia bought a cow with Kiva’s help. She sells the milk to help support her grandchildren, who have lived with her since her daughter died.
Meanwhile, a group of women living in north-east India, including a lady called Ngailam, used a loan to set up a toy shop in their local market. Ngailam’s husband has a slipped disc and the venture has enabled her to start saving for the surgery he needs.
F1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone is a celeb fan
Kelly, an Ahlan! Hot 100er, has also pledged to help kids in tough circumstances. She is a dedicated backer of Pattaya Orphanage in Thailand – her in-laws live nearby – and this summer she visited the centre, delivering clothes, toys and games for the youngsters and providing essentials such as medicine and nappies.
“My Dubai clients donated clothes and money so it was very much a group effort,” says Kelly. “I have to say the conditions were exceptional. The children would hold their hands out to be picked up, and some would cry when you put them down. There are 400 kids and most are aged between eight months and three years, and they had seven infants as young as two weeks old.” Now Kelly plans to sponsor some of the children’s schooling using some of the proceeds from sales of her bangles. “I will keep taking small steps towards making a difference to people’s lives,” she vows.
How the Other Half Lives
It’s all a far cry from Kelly’s world in Dubai, where she shops for a living, helping some of the UAE’s wealthiest women update their wardrobes. She has been known to help clients spend hundreds of thousands of dirhams in the space of a few hours.
“I’m incredibly blessed and feel it’s my responsibility to help others – it’s kind of a ‘pay-it-forward’ approach,” says Kelly. “We’re giving women with a passion for fashion a chance to support not just themselves but also their communities.”
Kelly set up Style Me Divine two years after moving to Dubai to work as Emirates cabin crew. Now she travels around the world choosing clothes and accessories for her fashion clients. Her assignments have included tracking down limited edition designer bags and trawling the globe for vintage wedding dresses. “Jewellery is what people spend the most on,” she says. “One client spent Dhs300,000 on jewellery in a single day!”
Meanwhile, Kelly, who was recently nominated as Communicator of the Year at the Scottish Fashion Awards, is also working on expanding her own company. She’s planning an online styling academy and has just finished an ebook, and she hopes her endeavours will make the world not only better looking, but a better place altogether.
INFO: To buy a Giving Back in Style bracelet visit www.stylemedivine.com. For more information about how you can help Pattaya Orphanage, go to www.thepattayaorphanage.org. To learn more about Kiva’s work visit www.kiva.org. Styling sessions with Kelly Lundberg start at Dhs1,000 for two hours. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org