“I plan then I execute, there is no reason to procrastinate. If I have an idea I get on with it. I believe just like Marie Forleo says ‘Everything is figureoutable’ and I do just that”
Your accomplishments and brand are 15 years in the making, what initially inspired you to become a stylist?
I began working in retail industry at a young age and as much as I loved fashion I was passionate about helping people to put together looks that empowered them. You could always find me in and around the fitting rooms, whilst other style assistants would avoid this area I would spend hours there. I loved it!
What you wear and how you wear it really can catapult someone’s confidence. It was this immediate and powerful change that proved to be the foundation of my career change in Dubai back in 2005. Much as though I had enjoyed a career that enabled me to travel I missed the personal contact one on one where I felt I could make a real difference to an individual and how they perceived themselves. At that time there really wasn’t anything like this to inspire individuals to focus on their style. It’s amazing to see each year since I started StyleMeDivine how this has all changed. In Dubai’s ever changing market there has been a massive shift on personal style both personally and professionally.
Your bio states that you were born in Edinburgh and decided to move to the UAE, how have both countries influenced your work?
I have lived overseas longer than I have lived in my hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. In the ‘90’s when I first started in retail we didn’t have Harvey Nichols and the array of beautiful boutiques that grace Thistle Street nor were we able to wander the length of George Street picking up the latest high-end fashion. Choice was somewhat limited in the fashion stakes, more often we resorted to the bi-annual fashion catalogues and I did what probably many young girls would do in those days which was to pour over the fashion pages imagining what I would buy if I had all the money in the world.
Enter the world of shopping for fashion in Dubai; it was like being in one large sweetie shop where you could literally have your pick! StyleMeDivine was born in the same year as the opening of the Mall of The Emirates. You could say that this quickly became my second home, many of my clients found mall shopping daunting, I thrived upon that challenge and learnt quickly where to go to for what and how to achieve the cutting edge look for those I worked with.
From delivering speeches on the TED stage to working on catwalks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan, are there any similarities? Which one is more invigorating?
What a great question, it is BOTH! Whether it’s wearing the latest fashion piece or delivering a poignant message to the audiences of TED, equally they inspire confidence. Personally, though there is much more power in change on a bigger scale with TED who are after all, all about ideas worth spreading. I love the stage; there is nothing more rewarding than being able to deliver a powerful or profound message that inspires others to think about their life differently and one that will have a positive effect.
You are not only a stylist but also a business owner, business mentor, and motivational speaker. Is there anything other industry you would like to tackle?
Ha-ha, I think I have my hands full just now. My business model has meant that I have been able to evolve in a holistic way each facet complementing the other. My coach would have a heart attack if I suggested adding in anything else … for now …. like a clothing line.
You are an exemplary model of the female boss, what is your motivation when dealing with all your endeavors?
Thank you. I plan then I execute, there is no reason to procrastinate. If I have an idea I get on with it. I believe just like Marie Forleo says “Everything is figureoutable” and I do just that. I plan for my entire week every Saturday and each night I clearly map out the following day so as not to waste time. I keep to this routine, I don’t have to think about how my morning looks and this proves to be an excellent motivator to keep on track.
In your book, Success in the City: Dubai’s Entrepreneurs Tell Their Story, you offer inspirational quotes, hints, and tips. What is a quote you live by?
Surrounded by so many great entrepreneurs I was super excited to capture and share their stories with a wider audience. In 2009 Dubai was a boomtown of ideas and start up initiatives, it was also however a challenging place to be financially. When things got tough for me it was those that I met and featured in my book Success in the City that kept me focused to keep going. Now eight years on it is refreshing in place of economic ups and downs to see those I featured become such a success; the D’abo girls and Scott Feasey have both sold their businesses and Thomas from The One continues to go from strength to strength. Especially poignant was Mustafa’s story and what he said to me “Inspiration is the best form of motivation”.
Your career spans over 15 years, which accomplishment are you most proud of? Why?
Oh, wow that’s a tough one to single out. One of my very early accomplishments was winning the Lloyds TSB Small Business Award, which was just after only 18 months in business. It was great to get external validation that you are doing something right. When I wrote my book Success in City, my English teacher at school told me that I would never pass A-level – well I did! You can imagine how I felt when I went to back to school some 10 yeas later to give him a signed copy of my book. That was defining moment.
I have passed the 10-year mark in business; given that 70% of businesses fail within 10 years I would say that I am pretty proud of business success. It’s no easy feat running a business that was predominantly based on buying fashionable clothing for clients in a recession and of course like many of us there have been personal tough times. And the next phase, with forward planning and evolution of my business model it now means I have my S.Academy where I empower and mentor the next generation of stylists, now that is a rewarding next step in my career.