Doha Family went to see The M7 Dollhouse, a fashion exhibition that ran between 8 September and 16 September 2022. It was born out of M7’s recent Kids Zwara programme and was entirely designed and curated by children. The older set of children (aged 13 to 15) curated the exhibit and worked with a younger group of designers (aged eight to 12) to bring their visions to life through glamorous doll-sized dresses. Here is a summary of our experience.
The word “dollhouse” can often conjure up images of soft pinks, floral prints, and Barbie-like figures, and the initial expectations around this exhibition weren’t too far off. However, many of them were dismantled upon seeing the larger-than-expected ball gowns that instead followed a blue, white, and cream colour scheme. “We wanted to make it like a dollhouse so that when you enter, it’s like you’re a doll stepping into this house,” said Naomi, a 14-year-old curator. And that was the effect achieved with the soft colours, cosy floor rugs, framed pictures, and close-to-life-size dresses.
The designs were all placed in a single room that could easily pass for the interior of a fashion house. This arrangement was ideal for younger viewers who may find the twists and turns typical of larger exhibitions boring. The “interactive dress” display added another kid-friendly element. It included a dress with fabrics next to it for kids to cut, rip, and pin onto it.
A Show of Growth and Hard Work
To think that everything in the exhibit was kid-led, from the curatorial statement on the entrance to the placement of the embroidery on the dresses, is nothing short of impressive. However, what was even more astounding was learning about the limited time the girls had to do it all. “It was over the course of three weeks…we met around four times in the end,” said Naomi.
It can be easy to assume that the girls who put together an exhibition of this scale—and in such a short timeframe—would have an extensive fashion or art background. But this was not necessarily the case.
Take Murna, age 10, who was one of the designers. She shared that this was her first time participating in a venture like this and that she only came to know about it because of her two older sisters, who were also curators. “I never thought of doing this, and then all of a sudden, it just came up,” she said. Despite this, she thoroughly enjoyed her experience. Murna expressed that although she doesn’t currently think she wants to be a designer, she won’t completely rule it out: “Maybe, in the future, I might change my mind.”
Iman, a 14-year-old curator, was also looking to try something different when she signed up. “I wanted to try something new, and when we started, I found out I was really interested in design,” she said. In fact, she designed the dress she wore when we spoke to her: “I made this dress with my grandma.” She also revealed how working on the exhibition changed her perspective: “I [didn’t use to] like art, but now when I look at it on Instagram, and I see a nice painting that someone made, I think ‘oh, actually, this is very nice’…I feel like it opened a new eye.” Because of her experiences, Iman stated that she would “definitely” encourage other kids to participate in similar initiatives and tap into their creativity.
It’s not just the kids who were impacted by this process. Huma, the mother of two designers, was brimming with pride: “[I was] very proud. For 20 years, I used to sell fabric to designers, so it was really nice to see my own daughter [be a] designer.” She also noticed her younger child’s confidence increase which, in turn, affected her. “I learnt more from my younger daughter because she explored something outside her comfort zone.” Lino, Murna’s mum, was also taken aback by her kids’ abilities: “I was mind-blown to see how the girls have done this by themselves.”
Doha Family’s Verdict
The M7 Dollhouse was an incredible display of kids’ talents and a testament to their vast capabilities. It showed that with the right tools, kids could learn, discover new interests, develop new skill sets, and successfully complete larger-scale projects. And that chiefly, they could do this pretty independently outside traditional educational settings (there’s more on that in our current issue). For those reasons, we thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to see more initiatives like this in the future. We just wish the exhibition had gone on for more than eight days.