The Rhode Island native’s passion project began during her start in Miami, styling ad campaigns for Ford Models. She was often surrounded by unused samples and excess back stock. During a school-shopping trip with her younger brother, she realized she could use her talents—and fashion connections—to style kids in need.
“Back when I started, kids weren’t required to wear uniforms, so there was a disadvantage the kids had in terms of not feeling equal to peers based on the financial status of their family and whether or not they could afford new outfits,” says the 32-year-old, who is also fashion director of the accessories line Miansai.
To get started, she hosted a fashion show fundraiser at the ultra-chic Soho Beach House during Miami Swim Week. With enough support secured, she held the first back-to-school event for several dozen kids. Nearly 10 years later (and operating from her office in Wynwood), Russell Saiger and her team dressed more than 7,500 students at her last event held in 2019.
The back-to-school bash usually takes place at Mana Wynwood Convention Center, because as Russell Saiger puts it, “that’s the only space big enough to accommodate us.” She works with a wide network to get the word out. “I target all of the migrant worker communities—any of the undocumented minors, undocumented families,” she says. “Any organizations that service those demographics I go to first, then we’ll reach out to all of the homeless shelters, the at-risk youth, Children of Inmates, and then I’ll go to the underprivileged communities.”
Kids are signed up ahead of time (with transportation provided) and are treated to a fun-filled afternoon of receiving free uniforms and school supplies along with getting haircuts, their faces painted, enjoying games, and more.
Style Saves’ outreach has since expanded from back-to-school to Halloween, holiday, and prom—where kids can stop by the Wynwood warehouse (now by appointment) and pick out lightly used clothing and accessories. The organization also hosts a telethon fundraiser through social media with help from Russell Saiger’s partner Isabela Rangel Grutman and her husband, David Grutman (Miami club maven and restaurateur extraordinaire), who encourage the community to donate and sponsor a student for back-to-school.
But Russell Saiger says she isn’t stopping there. Since the pandemic began, she’s gone all in to tackle the fallout from COVID-19.
“When the pandemic started, many people were like, ‘How can we help? What can we do?’” she says. Soon, she and her team were busy distributing protective gear and setting up weekly food drives with area restaurants such as Coyo Taco. Style Saves volunteers bring the meals to undocumented families who “can’t get food stamps, or unemployment checks, or the stimulus,” she says.
As word spread on social media, community support began pouring in, with restaurants donating meals and area families stepping up to create bagged lunches. “It’s very grassroots, very organic,” she says. “There are so many people that come together for Style Saves.”
When she’s not working on the nonprofit’s mission, she’s been busy collaborating with her husband, Michael Saiger, on Miansai, the luxury accessory line he launched nearly 12 years ago. They work in tandem to design the women’s and men’s collections, produce photo shoots, and the like. “That’s our family business,” she says. “I’ve moved on from being with an agency to being with my husband. We work on that together, and of course on Style Saves.”