Brunch with Buro: Miroslava Duma

Brunch with Buro: Miroslava Duma

Global domination

Text: Yvette King

On our sunny island for Buro 24/7 Singapore’s first year anniversary celebrations and inaugural Digital Awards, Yvette King speaks to the founder of the fastest growing digital platform in the world about the secrets to her success

In 2011, Miroslava Duma co-founded Buro 24/7. Now fast-forward to this very day, the fashion first, culture centric power site has launched in 11 countries, including this Little Red Dot one year ago.

Digital world domination aside, did you know that Mira Duma (as she is fondly known) was a former Harper's Bazaar Russia editor? Or that she set up the charity foundation, Peace Planet that funds educational and medical initiatives through arts and culture? Or that she has 1.4 million followers on Instagram and was stalked by street style photographers like Tommy Ton before anyone had even heard of the likes of bloggers?

They say good things come in small packages. I brunched with Buro personified — sipping tea, talking Napoleon and getting to know a little bit more about Moscow's style maven and business baroness.
Miroslava Duma and Yvette King at TWG Tea on the Bridge at Marina Bay Sands
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
I remember when I was a kid, I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and I said to my father that when I grow up, I will only marry my father or Michael Jackson. I had narrowed it down to two choices: One because I loved my dad and he was my hero, and two because Michael Jackson was another hero. Everyone was making jokes about me not having any other choices.

As a kid, I always had heroes — people that did big, great things for the world and other people. I always dreamt about being able to do the same one day. It was not that I specifically wanted to become the president of Russia or a famous fashion designer, but it was the thought that I knew I had to find something that would let me do great things for the world. So hopefully, one day...

How did you come up with the idea of Buro 24/7, and why did the digital space appeal to you?
Five years ago, I used to work in print publishing houses and everyone would talk about the fact that the Internet is the future and that we had to do something. People and companies started to invest in digital but no one actually did anything significant in that space. I didn't come from a technology company. I came from media so I realised that there was no platform that could tell me about everything that happened in the world that I was interested in. It was not just fashion. It was culture, art, architecture, lifestyle, cinema, music, gadgets, technology, beauty, health, sports, and some social issues. I thought what if we created a platform and tried to really tell the world about all the most important and interesting things in one place. We wanted to create something with the same pace of social networks — everything available very, very quickly, but also something curated by a great team of editors and journalists who could deliver high quality editorial content.

Buro 24/7 Singapore was born a year ago. Did you always envision going global when you started the company and the site?
You know I love this idea of Napoleon: Dream the impossible, get maximum. I was always joking that we were going to do this, do that; and that we were going to launch here and there. That was simply me dreaming. And half of my crazy dreams actually happened even though people used to look at me and think "she's insane". But it's also about hard work. It's not just about talent. It's about a number of things all put together like a puzzle. There is luck, time, effort, love put in it and obviously investments.

I recently read an interesting article about how people tend to call very successful people — take Steve Jobs, for example — geniuses. These people aren't actually geniuses. They are successful because they spent on average 10,000 hours investing in their project. Basically, it's persistence, hard work, trust and the strong belief in what you do. So I believe anyone can achieve anything if you have these things in you. Go for your dream and be passionate about it. You can't even imagine how many rude people we've met. How many were saying "Oh, another one", you know? 

They want to see you fail sometimes.
Often, if not always. Different things can happen, but if you're persistent, keep going, developing, growing and doing things, you're going to make it in any field.
I completely agree. Being tenacious is underrated these days. On a personal note, you seem to live your life a lot like Buro — constantly across everything, and keeping up-to-date and around-the-clock. How do you manage to balance family and work?
There is a saying in Russia: The more you do, the more you manage. When I have a super tight schedule with 25 meetings that starts from early morning until late at night and I think it's impossible to actually really do it, I somehow do. For example, my partners arrived from Moscow and they were really sleepy and I thought they wouldn't be able to go anywhere with us. But we went for a lunch that turned out positive. They met so many fantastic people, the food was great, the view was so amazing that they suddenly woke up from their jetlag. I asked them if they had Red Bull, coffee or green tea, and they said no. They were no longer sleepy or tired because there was so much positive people and energy. They were happy. You can feel really tired, but as long as you do work that you love, you will always have the energy.

Is it true you were hired as an intern at Vogue Russia and worked your way up? Tell us about that journey.
I still think that where I am now is just the beginning. I think I'm quite a down-to-earth kind of person; I don't take myself too seriously. The most important thing right now is not to sit down and say I'm so amazing. When a person actually thinks and says this, it's the beginning of their problems. So despite everything we have built so far, we have to continue developing, supporting our partners, growing the business and the company. But yes, my first job was at Condé Nast Russia with Vogue. I thought I was so cool. I was wearing Yves Saint Laurent and I thought everything was going to be great. One of the fashion editors looked at me and I asked, "What can I do, I'm an intern?" She said, "See that showroom? It's full of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories from shoots. I think two days will be enough for you to clean it up, right?" I was extremely happy I had an opportunity to find myself in the one of the best fashion magazines in the world, surrounded by that team and I was willing to do ANYTHING. And I'm proud of it, because I don't think I could've achieved anything if I had said, "That's not my level. I'm not going to do it."

In all your work with these famous fashion houses, sitting front-row and working for top-tier magazine titles, surely you must have some classic anecdotes to share with us?
One year ago, Zoolander came to the Valentino show. Fashion people are very, very serious. Sometimes at the fashion shows, they sit there watching the beautiful women showing beautiful things with the facial expression as if they're saving someone's life! And then Zoolander came out! And I saw some of those uptight people acting like kids in Disneyland taking out their phones, even though they never take pictures with their phones, shooting, and smiling. I looked at them and thought it was so great that Valentino actually did this, as they showed everyone that yes, the fashion industry is work but it's not life. You know what I always say? Compare people in the industry that don't have kids to those that do. I have kids. I live this beautiful life and experience all those amazing things, but at the end of the day I come back home and I have to clean up after my children. I keep grounded and I'm a real person. 
I love that story! You've rubbed shoulders with some of the world's elite. Your Instagram is peppered with celebrities and fashion aficionados such as Alexander Wang, Alicia Vikander, Jason Wu, Alexa Chung, and Mario Testino to name but a few. However, who would you invite to brunch tomorrow if you could?
Elon Musk.

Because he is an amazing person who is trying to make the world a better place.

What would you ask him?
About everything! Tesla, Hyperloop and his plans — and I would obviously ask him to do something together! [laughs]

A cheeky pitch, why not! You are petite in size, yet have fronted many a campaign for clients like Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo. How do you feel about breaking down the stereotype that fashion is for tall women?
One of the largest consumer markets has petite women. China, Japan, Korea — Asia. I think maybe that's why I have quite a big following in Asian markets because I'm a tiny woman. I don't have a perfect body. But how I attracted this many followers? Honestly, it's still a question I ask myself. I could say it has to do with the Asian petite women relation, but I never thought there was anything special about me. I'm a woman and an entrepreneur that makes things happen and gets so excited when I speak about business. I'm the person that gets super bored and extremely tired when I'm at shoots doing other stuff. So again, it was always a surprise for me. I did a campaign and I said, "Are you serious, guys? Are you sure you want to do this with me?", but that said, I thought it was a great opportunity and a fond memory.
Some quick fire questions to end...

What is the biggest misconception about fashion in Russia?
Maybe that Russian women have bad taste and want to show off.

You're a street style favourite, but who do you stalk on Instagram? 
We're in Singapore now, so the first person that comes to mind is actually editor-in-chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore, Norman Tan — @musingmutley.

Which is your favourite social media platform? 

Do you pre-plan your outfits in advance or is it more "of the moment"? 
Lately it's been more of the moment because I don't have time with two kids, 11 offices around the world, and so many projects and investments. I have no time to plan my outfits honestly — unfortunately, or fortunately!

How do your friends describe you? 

Have you ever Googled yourself? What did you find? 
Yes of course I did! Zillions of pictures of me wearing crazy outfits.

What's next for Mira?
Dreaming the impossible, get maximum.

And maybe a brunch with Elon Musk.

Special thanks to TWG Tea on the Bridge at Marina Bay Sands for hosting Brunch with Buro