‘A living matryoshka.’ ‘Polly Pocket-sized.’ ‘Street style star.’ This is how Miroslava Duma has been described in previous interviews, and understandably so. When we meet I’m unsurprised to find her Tommy Ton-ready even if just in boyfriend jeans and a white tee. She suggests that her size and street star credentials are linked: “I love experimenting with fashion – especially because I don’t look like a model so I have to find things that compliment my body.” She is petite, especially when she swaps her white t-bar heels for a pair of Converse to walk to from Worcester to Christ Church as we talk.
She wants to see and do as much as she can in the two hours she is in Oxford, and she wants to document it all too, as we walk she stops repeatedly to take photos, which turn up on her Instagram feed later that day. “Instagram is so successful because people love the visual side of things,” she tells me, “they want to share all the beautiful things they see with each other every single day, like for example I’m here today in Oxford and I’m taking these beautiful pictures and millions of people see them and share the beauty of them.” She’s right: at the time of printing 15,248 likes on a photo of Worcester gardens, 16,093 on one of her in Tom quad. I wonder why, when she has over a million Instagram followers, she didn’t just start her own personal style blog. “I never wanted to be a celebrity or a star,” she assures me, “I wanted to create and build a company.” The company she created was Buro 24/7, a fashion and lifestyle website, and she’s building it alright, expanding into emerging markets across the globe.
Duma explains the irony that although fashion is her life now (“it’s not just how I get dressed, it’s how I make my living”) she has increasingly little time to think about what she is going to wear. She juggles running the booming Buro 24/7, which now consists mostly of selling new licences, finding new partners and getting big advertising budgets, and being a wife and mother of two, her youngest not yet even nine months old. “Honestly Nasiba my business partner sees me wearing the same jacket, the same shoes, the same jeans for a month during all the trips that we’re doing and she’s like Mira, I thought you had some other stuff in your wardrobe, and I’m like Nasiba, literally no time.” She pauses. “But, you know, I still always say, I’m Russian, I love beautiful clothing and fashion!”
What it is to be Russian and interested in fashion is something that has changed dramatically over Duma’s short lifetime (she’s still just 30). She explains the cultural stagnation before the fall of the USSR in 1991 and tells me that she can understand how that happening led to Russians gaining a reputation for being, in her words, “tacky and bad taste luxury consumers.” She remembers her mother and her mother’s friends in the nineties; “they used to say if you buy something and it doesn’t have a logo it’s a waste of money.” And she shudders at the thought of other women at the time with “pink and violet hair with lots of hairspray, frightening… and these women were in government!” Things are changing now, thanks to herself, Nasiba, and a host of other beautiful and beautifully dressed Russian women. Of course she puts it down to “the media,” and not herself, her friends and the media that they themselves have created in the likes of Buro 24/7.
Buro 24/7 has enjoyed such great success precisely because Duma recognised and understood the luxury consumer market in Russia and former soviet states like Ukraine and Azabaijan, two countries that the company was quick to expand into. “These are the countries were today things are happening, where today people are actually buying,” she explains, “they’re really important for all these big brands and they are where they have big advertising budgets.” Besides she adds, “Do you think anyone was waiting for us in London or Paris or Milan?” Perhaps not in 2011 when Buro 24/7 launched in Russia, but now I think people are.