How Kelly Lundberg became Dubai fashion queen

Kelly Lundberg. Picture: contributed
Kelly Lundberg. Picture: contributed
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FASHION queen Kelly Lundberg thinks nothing of hitting the shops and splashing out ­thousands of pounds on top-of-the-range designer goodies.

Her haul from one spree can ­include the pick of the season’s designer shoe collections, a collection of coveted handbags and clothes galore with price tags that would cause most typical credit cards to go into ­spending limit meltdown.

Outfits, accessories, the pick of the best, all plucked from the rails of some of Dubai’s most exclusive shop rails. And if she can’t find the perfect outfit, there’s always the possibility that she could jump in a plane and head somewhere else equally amazing and hit the shops there.

If it sounds like the former Currie High School pupil has suddenly come into serious money – after all, she has an apartment in Dubai’s stunning Palm Island development to retreat to when the shops close – there is a downside to her shopaholic 
tendencies.

For all that shopping is for someone else.

The former Saturday girl at Next in Frederick Street is Dubai’s ­personal shopping and style queen, with a long list of wealthy clients who rely on her fashion expertise to make sure they look every inch of their million- dollar bank balance.

“Last year one of my clients was getting married,” recalls Kelly, whose style business ­Divine is based in a towering complex in the heart of downtown Dubai. “She flew me to New York to get the wedding dress then to the Maldives for three days for the wedding. I’m regularly in London shopping in Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.”

It is, she nods with a dazzling smile, a dream job but also a double-edged one with a painful down side. “I love it, but being surrounded by so many beautiful, expensive things all the time means it’s really hard not to want to buy them for myself. I have to be able to walk away and tell myself I’m not buying for me – or else as soon as I earn money, I’d be tempted to spend it all!”

As it is, Kelly, originally from Baberton, gets to splash the cash for wealthy expats who have found themselves floored by the array of shops, the culture and weather challenges, and well-heeled Americans tourists who often stop off in Dubai for a spending spree on their way to Australia.

When she’s not spending their money, she is mingling with the rich and famous ensuring they look good for fashion shoots and red carpet appearances – such as ­tennis ace Roger ­Federer who she styled for an advertising campaign.

It might all sound like a licence to simply shop till she drops but Kelly – who still bristles as she recalls her old English teacher saying she faced leaving school without vital exam passes – also has a shrewd business brain that’s launched her from personal shopper to entrepreneur, with two books, a phone app, lively website and new online style academy.

She also works as a motivational speaker, runs corporate style sessions, helps mentor and support new businesses and has picked up a string of industry awards. Soon there could be another to add – Kelly, 32, will return home next week for the Scottish Fashion Awards, where she’s up against the Evening News’ own fashion queen Lynne McCrossan in the Fashion Communicator section.

Not bad, as she’s happy to point out, for someone who left school at 17, bypassed university and headed straight into the school of life, a route she’s keen to encourage others to follow.

“I really believe the time people spend doing a business degree would be better spent just setting up their own business and learning on the job,” she stresses. “What I learned in my first four years working had more benefit to me than if I’d been in education. I believe in teaching yourself new skills and continuing to learn as you go.”

She began work as a holiday rep for four years and then as an air stewardess for Emirates Airlines. It took her to Dubai and opened her eyes to a new kind of life. “I saw this side to Dubai that was entrepreneurial, people had this amazing ‘can do’ attitude,” she explains. “I used to chat to passengers flying into Dubai, telling them where to go to buy things and it struck me that personal shopping was something that hadn’t really hit Dubai and I could make a business from offering a ­luxury shopping service.”

She got a loan from the bank after telling them she wanted a Porsche – easier in Dubai than ­trying to explain a business concept – and quit her job. The business launched in 2005 to a wary public who soon warmed to her model-girl looks, soothing ­accent and knowledge of the ­area’s fashion scene.

“Then people started contacting me to be a personal stylist for them or to help them revamp their entire wardrobes,” says Kelly, whose parents, Heather Wells and Paul Lundberg, both 55, still live in Edinburgh. “I was delighted someone was willing to pay me to do something that I actually looked at as fun. Clients are everyone from the international community looking for help finding their way around all the shops to locals looking for Western clothing for when they travel to London.

“Expats arrive here and they don’t have the summer wardrobe they need for the weather and aren’t sure how it fits with the dress codes. And they are often surprised at how much nicer ­people dress here than back home – the school run, for example, is very competitive. The diversity of cultures here is an issue in the workplace – what some people back home find acceptable, some here won’t understand. So I work with corporate clients who want to help their staff. Then there are the women whose husbands have given them £5000 to get a new outfit, and others that want an entire new wardrobe.”

At the glamorous end, the Dubai ‘IT’ girl – she’s made Dubai’s Top 100 list twice – has the world’s mega rich as clients and styled clients for the Brit Awards, Grammys, Dubai International Film Festival and sports events.

It is, she admits, a long way from Next on Frederick Street. Not that Kelly doesn’t still enjoy a little bit of retail therapy on home territory.

“Edinburgh’s shops are really good, there are some brilliant independent boutiques that I always visit when I’m home – like Pam Jenkins in Thistle Street where I buy a lot of shoes for example. Here the malls are overwhelming. It’s lovely to come home and visit cute little boutiques that do their own, unique collections.”

She’ll have the chance to explore them next week, before she heads to London for the Scottish Fashion Awards on October 9. Because one of the first thing the queen of Dubai’s shopping scene will have to do, of course, is hit the shops.

“It’s always so cold and wet at home” she laughs. “Two or three days at home and I can’t take the weather any more. I need to go and buy myself something warm to wear!”

• Go to www.kellylundberg.co for further information.

Scots in the frame for top honours

The eighth annual Scottish Fashion Awards are being held on October 9 at Dover House in London.

Among the nominees is the Evening News’ own fashion writer Lynne McCrossan, right, nominated alongside Kelly Lundberg as Communicator of the Year.

Edinburgh singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt has been nominated with Andy Murray, below, Calvin Harris, Emeli Sande and Kirsty Hume – among others – for the prestigious

Icon Award. Edinburgh’s Holly Fulton is among the top designers in the running for the Designer of the Year title while Lauren Smith from Currie, who recently won the George Gold Award at Graduate Fashion Week in London, has been nominated in the Young Designer category.

Included in the Retailer of the Year category is Edinburgh-based footwear business Schuh.

To vote for the Scottish Icon of the Year category and see all the nominations, go to www.scottishfashionawards.com.