Lyndsay Doran worked as Emirates airline cabin crew prior to founding luxury activewear brand L’Couture in 2019.
Her designs are inspired by the Scot’s own fitness journey and an apparent gap in the market for quality, comfortable clothing that represents all women. The brand now sells internationally online, in UAE malls and is preparing to open its first dedicated store.
Ms Doran, 31, moved to Dubai nine years ago, is married and lives with her husband on the Palm Jumeirah.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I grew up with my older brother in Dundee, Scotland, where dad was a manager at a publishing company and mum was an administrator. We had a normal family life, middle class. I got pocket money, £5 to £10 ($6.94 to $13.89) a week. We weren’t spoiled, unless it was a birthday or Christmas. We had what we needed and were grateful.
When did you receive your first wage?
I was always wanting to be independent, which is why I got my first job at 14. I went for work experience in a hair salon, was there for two months and they asked if I wanted a Saturday job. I started off sweeping up hair, making tea and coffee and progressed.
They started training me and I was there for around two years. It was £14 a day. I felt more independent; if I needed something, I could get it and liked that I didn’t have to ask my parents. I had my own money in my purse.
Were you disciplined with your earnings?
It wasn’t a lot of money, but I was happy with it and saving a lot of it. I was always savvy from a young age. I’m not sure whether I got that from my parents or it was just with me. I’ve always been careful and wanting to earn.
What brought you to the UAE?
I moved to Australia for 18 months when I was 19 and worked in a restaurant on Bondi Beach in Sydney. I wouldn’t call it a “proper” job. When I came back to Scotland, I realised I wanted to travel more. I applied for Emirates as cabin crew when I turned 21. I stayed with them for five-and-a-half years, a dream job. I’d always wanted to be a flight attendant and live abroad.
What prompted you to swap flying for designing activewear?
I moved to first class. My goal was to get a private (jet) flying job. In the meantime, I’d met my husband, he was really into fitness and our honeymoon was a four-week trip to a fitness camp in Thailand. I hated it at the beginning because I wasn’t used to working out, but it was life-changing for me.
That was 2016 and I thought: “I’m not living the right lifestyle.” I wanted my own business, to do with fitness. My husband said, “The amount of money you’re spending on gym clothes, open an activewear brand for women … things you can’t find on the market”. That was the turning point.
How did you fund L’Couture?
In Australia, the money was good. I was paying a small amount of rent and keeping most of my salary. Then at Emirates, the pay is better in first class and you get your end-of-service dues. I took everything I had and launched this business.
It was a big risk, but I’d got a feeling it was going to work. When I started, I was alone for eight months, flew to China four times, customised everything. A lot of budget went on going to factories, working with the right people.
How did you feel about raiding your savings?
It’s why you save in the first place. This was the right thing for me to do. I’d got married, I had savings … what was I going to do with them?
I wanted independence. Opening a business, something that I’m really passionate about, was the right thing to use them for. Now we’ve got eight staff, five in Dubai, three in the UK and we’re hiring more. We put a job advert out the other day and thousands of people applied. We’ve got a really good reputation.
Do you still manage to save?
I don’t have investors so everything I make I put back into the business. We’re still a start-up and have so much growing to do, so I feel it’s really important if I want to be successful. It’s going to be like that until it gets to the level I want it to be at.
Do you have a philosophy towards money?
You should spend it. Enjoy your money but make sure you’re putting it into the right things. Starting my business was right for me, but everybody enjoys money in different ways.
Putting all your savings into a business you don’t know is going to work is a big risk, but I knew I didn’t want a boss from a young age. I wanted to do something myself, I just had to make enough money to get to that stage.
So I wouldn’t say money makes you happy … it’s not everything. But it’s what you do with it, that end goal.
What are you happiest spending on?
I took my parents on holidays. That makes me feel happy. We went to the Maldives a year ago and Thailand. I would rather spend on experiences than gifts. We went sailing last weekend, I’d rather enjoy moments.
Also, a lot of my money goes into my health … food, supplements, personal trainer. I see it as a luxury because not everybody can eat fresh, nutritious food, go to the gym or do yoga. But it’s also a necessity for me, because it helps me and is amazing for mental health.
Has the pandemic impacted your company?
The pandemic catapulted us. L’Couture was built up from social media and suddenly everybody was at home on their phones. Before, we were just targeting people going to the gym, but all of a sudden home workouts became a thing.
On social media, famous influencers were wearing our stuff, holding free live classes. People were online shopping more and we’re really diverse; we have a big size range compared to maybe some companies.
What has been your best investment?
The business. Seeing my clothes on sale in The Dubai Mall … that was huge. When I see my clothes hanging there or go to the gym and see women wearing L’Couture, that is so rewarding.
Do you plan for the future?
We’re opening our first retail store in Al Wasl in April. We’ve outgrown our current offices so I found this space. We’re also opening a UK office and warehouse this year that can cater to a lot of the world. Many of our customers are based in the UK and the US.
I feel I’m still young so haven’t thought about a retirement plan. I’m taking each day as it is.
I love living in Dubai and can’t see me changing that. Who knows, I might open another brand. Once you have one business … you learn and I’ve already thought about things I would like to go into.