Dubai: Mandi Kingsbury

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Following a Supreme Award at the 1994 WOW festival, Kingsbury began working in Dubai.

Following a Supreme Award at the 1994 WOW festival, Kingsbury began working in Dubai. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Kingsbury's apartment, in the established Dubai suburb of Satwa.

Kingsbury’s apartment, in the established Dubai suburb of Satwa. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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A capacious wardrobe for a fashion stylist.

A capacious wardrobe for a fashion stylist. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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The apartment is filled with creative work, prints and literature.

The apartment is filled with creative work, prints and literature. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Kingsbury's time is now spent on styling photo shoots and advertising campaigns.

Kingsbury’s time is now spent on styling photo shoots and advertising campaigns. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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An eclectic interior in Kingsbury's apartment.

An eclectic interior in Kingsbury’s apartment. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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The apartment serves as a studio space for her wide-ranging vocations, including artist, design consultant and stylist.

The apartment serves as a studio space for her wide-ranging vocations, including artist, design consultant and stylist. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Kingsbury has worked as an artist, design consultant and sculptor in the past, including for several Gulf royal families.

Kingsbury has worked as an artist, design consultant and sculptor in the past, including for several Gulf royal families. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Examples of Kingsbury's art.

Examples of Kingsbury’s art. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Kingsbury is photographed in her Satwa apartment.

Kingsbury is photographed in her Satwa apartment. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Kingsbury has a diploma in textile design, as well as a fashion design qualification.

Kingsbury has a diploma in textile design, as well as a fashion design qualification. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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"I also respect conservative chic and old-school elegance," Kingsbury says.

“I also respect conservative chic and old-school elegance,” Kingsbury says. Image: Anna Marie Nielsen

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Styling for fashion designer Roberto Cavalli and MAC Cosmetics is about as far from rural Ashburton as it’s possible to get.

Mandi Kingsbury, however, has made it look easy. To be fair, the Kiwi fashion director has had lots of practice, spending the past few decades wrapping her tentacles around Dubai’s high-rollers: in 1994, shortly after winning the Supreme Award at WOW, Kingsbury was head-hunted for a job at Arushi, a Dubai couture house.

“Back then, the company was using a lot of embellishment in their dresses, which I was also into. They loved my work and invited me to come over.”

At the time, the 43-year-old was working for Wellington’s Weta Workshop, lending her creative talents to films such as Heavenly Creatures. But she thrived in Dubai, working variously as an artist, sculptor and design consultant, including for several Gulf royal families.

The apartment serves as a studio space for her wide-ranging vocations, including artist, design consultant and stylist.  Image:  Anna Marie Nielsen

Now, styling takes up most of her time. “Photographers and advertising agencies book me to help pull together their creative work for photo shoots and advertising campaigns. Most of my work is in the fashion, beauty and interiors fields,” she says.

Kingsbury followed a fashion design qualification with a diploma in textile design, and admits to being “heavily influenced” by the sights, sounds and colours of Arabia.

“I also respect conservative chic and old-school elegance. My nana never left the house without a brooch and beads and I feel the same.”

She has lived in the same apartment in Satwa, one of Dubai’s original suburbs, for 15 years.

“It’s like an industrial studio with art, including prints by John Drawbridge, a mentor at design school. I also love the neighbourhood haberdashery and tailoring stores who commit to my crazy ideas and deadlines!”


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