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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Made in Dubai: stationery label Bumble & Mouse’s greeting cards celebrate UAE culture

The stationery label was launched in Dubai in 2012 by a trio of British expats – friends Leigh Hubner, Tina Campbell and Jill Gordon-Keep.
Left to right, Bumble & Mouse’s founders Leigh Hubner, Tina Campbell and Jill Gordon-Keep. The trio of British expat friends launched the stationery label in Dubai four years ago. Antonie Robertson / The National
Left to right, Bumble & Mouse’s founders Leigh Hubner, Tina Campbell and Jill Gordon-Keep. The trio of British expat friends launched the stationery label in Dubai four years ago. Antonie Robertson / The National

Cartoon depictions of camels swathed in woolly scarves and hats decorate the front of a holiday greeting card created by Dubai-based brand Bumble & Mouse. Another card shows a golden Dubai skyline, with the Burj Khalifa front and centre, surrounded by New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Additional designs from the range feature two main characters: an Emirati man robed in a white thobe and sporting Ray-Ban sunglasses; and a woman in an abaya, flaunting glamorous cat-eye shades. At times, they hold balloons or are surrounded by heart clouds; at others, they’re pictured with tears running from their eyes. The culturally inspired character motifs, Citizen Habibi and Citizen Habibti, are the cover stars of cute greeting cards by Bumble & Mouse, available in Thank You, Goodbye, Birthday, ­Housewarming and Valentine’s Day themes. They’re also pictured on gift bags, mugs and notebooks.

The stationery label was launched in Dubai in 2012 by a trio of British expats – friends Leigh Hubner, Tina Campbell and Jill Gordon-Keep. Hubner says that the idea originated from their struggle to find high-quality greetings cards in local shopping centres in the UAE. “The available selection was somewhat limited, so we put our heads together and Bumble & Mouse was born,” she says. “The significance of quality design and sense of place was crucial. We wanted to avoid cheap looking mass market design taken from stock icons.”

The name of the company was inspired by two of the founders’ children, Hubner says. “It evolved from the two spirited little toddlers who were the centre of our world at the time: a little ‘Bumble’ called Samantha ­[Campbell’s daughter], and a handsome ‘Mouse’ called William ­[Hubner’s son].”

Gordon-Keep, 37, is the lead designer, and develops all of the artwork’s themes and characters. Hubner manages production and business development, while Campbell handles accounting.

“All of our printed materials are sourced and produced locally in the UAE,” Hubner says. “Within the range, there are a few key designs, which are proving to be very popular, including Desert ­Birthday and the ­Citizen ­Habibi and Citizen Habibti range,” she says, adding that the greeting cards are the company’s best-­selling items.

The products are affordable, costing from Dh18 to Dh50. “We also do a range of large-scale custom printed canvas artworks, which obviously retail at a higher value,” she says.

As significant holidays approach, the Bumble & Mouse team designs appropriately themed festive cards for the occasions. “At the moment it is seasonal, running concurrently with whatever calendar event is upcoming, such as National Day or Christmas or Valentine’s, for example,” Hubner says.

She explains that the brand’s products appeal to all sorts of customers, including ­Emiratis and expats alike. “For UAE nationals, the idea of giving cards is a developing market, and I think they find humour in our designs. For expats, it is more specific groups, such as the British and Americans, who obviously have a tradition of card giving,” she says.

Brands such Bumble & Mouse tap into a niche market, ­introducing alternatives to the typical Hallmark offerings. By juxtaposing icons such as ­snowflakes against a desert ­landscape, and Christmas ornaments against the Dubai skyline, they promote interfaith diversity and an acceptance of the different cultures that live side-by-side in the UAE. They also serve as a reminder to loved ones back home that the UAE isn’t a rigid reflection of Middle East stereotypes.

“The concept of Bumble & Mouse has grown very organically since we started working ­together,” Hubner says.

The founders of the company have kept it a part-time business, juggling time dedicated to the brand with family ­responsibilities.

“From a business specific perspective, we have generally found that quality control and production management has been a real challenge in the local market, not to mention deadlines,” Hubner says. “We are always striving to work with our print partners to help them understand our needs and why quality is important.”

But after overcoming such challenges, the paper goods have caught the eyes of buyers and consumers, and the brand is now stocked at numerous stores in the UAE, including ­Virgin ­Megastore, ­Tryano and ­Hallmark. Bumble & Mouse also take orders direct via ­Facebook (www.facebook.com/bumbleand­mouse), but only for delivery within Dubai, aside from bulk orders.

Hubner says there are more products to come, including some new stationery designs. “We have a few other outlets in our sights,” she says.

hlodi@thenational.ae