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Behind the scenes at Zwara's 'Doha Dreams'

16 August 2022

M7's Zwara Second Edition: Doha Dreams Pop-Up Exhibition is a story of collaboration, exploration and a coming together of creative minds. M7 director, Maha Al Sulaiti, gives us behind-the-scenes insight into the Zwara programme.

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Portrait of Maha Al Sulaiti, Director of M7 museum

Portrait of Maha Al Sulaiti, Director of M7

About the Zwara Programme

One of M7’s objectives is to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas among Doha's community of creatives, young and experienced alike. The Zwara programme does just that by utilising the rich tapestry of Qatar's creative landscape to highlight the importance of storytelling and experimentation in design. The second edition of the Zwara programme, Doha Dreams, invited designers on a tour of the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition and then tasked them in reimagining the luxury and aesthetics reflected in Dior’s work.

We sit down with M7 director, Maha Al Sulaiti, for insight into the inspiration behind the Zwara programme and the current Doha Dreams edition.

Why was it important to bring back the Zwara programme with a second edition?

M7 is committed to connecting Qatar’s diverse design community to the industry. Under the patronage ofHer Excellency Sheikha Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar has developed a diverse creative and cultural landscape, with a plethora of world-class exhibitions and events. Our aim is to make these more relevant and inspirational to the creative community of designers and to establish open dialogue with experts and industry leaders that emphasise design thinking and philosophy.

The Zwara programme was created in 2021 as a platform that facilitates these connections by engaging designers in museum visits, dialogue and exclusive design projects that can spark creativity and collaboration. Through Zwara – which means visit in English – M7 takes designers on a journey through the world of exhibitions to explore and be inspired by existing arts and design. Exhibitions can be a great source of inspiration and can directly impact the works of creatives. Zwara has helped them take that step further from visitor to inspired artist.

Can you give us some insight into how the designers were engaged with the 'Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams' exhibition?

Selected designers were taken on a tour of Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which was held at M7, where they delved deep into the history, context, and design process of some of the most iconic pieces on display. After the tour, the designers took part in a workshop led by cultural analyst Luca Marchetti in collaboration with the French embassy. The designers were exposed to global design experts and the significance of local heritage and how a brand can build a design language and storytelling process. They were then tasked to reimagine the luxury and aesthetics reflected in Dior’s work through a contemporary lens and get inspiration from their local heritage and culture.

The results were incredible bespoke pieces which display layers of intricacy and storytelling. Each designer tapped into their own culture and heritage to bring life into their work and craftsmanship inspired by Dior’s archival pieces. One Zwara designer, Muna Saad who works in the oil & gas industry, explored the importance of tradition and modernity to the development of Qatar and paid homage to the industries that have played a pivotal role in the country’s development. Muna designed a jacket constructed of sheep wool and skin, an ode to the importance of family farming. Muna also showcased a corset made up of metal that symbolizes the strength and determination of Qatar and its people.

A mannequin dressed in sheep wool and a metal breastplate.

Designer Muna Saad's Changing Courses currently on show at M7's Zwara Second Edition: Doha Dreams Pop-Up Exhibition.

M7 values sustainability in design – how is this reflected in the second edition of the Zwara programme?

Sustainability is an important value that M7 attempts to instill across all our initiatives. For example, designer Layla Al-Ansari created a gown made up of wasted date palm fronds collected from farms around Qatar.

Not only does M7 try to educate and instill the notion of regenerative design and sustainability but it also practices that on all levels of project production. For example, in this edition of Zwara, the M7 exhibitions team worked closely with our sponsor Interspace to refurbish existing exhibition structure and lighting from the Museum of Islamic Art, giving it a new life within M7’s exhibition space. It's an invitation to the creative industry to rethink how things are done and to reduce waste.

We are well aware of the detrimental impact fast fashion has on the environment but we are hopeful that action is being taken and we want to be part of this change.

Maha Al Sulaiti, Director of M7

Two visitors at an exhibition with a gowned mannequin in the background.

Palm Fronds by designer Layla Al-Ansari currently on show at M7's Zwara Second Edition: Doha Dreams Pop-Up Exhibition.

In what capacity was M7 able to engage not only the designers, but other local creatives too, in the launch of the pop-up?

Without the support of the creative community, this project would not have been a success. The journey leading up to the launch of the pop-up is a story of collaboration, exploration and different creative minds coming together. Months leading up to the launch, the team at M7 worked closely with the designers, photographers, and partners in bringing their own vision to life.

Zwara designers were prompted to expand their creativity into different aspects and collaboration with the creative community. Qatari photographer, Ghada Mawlawi collaborated with the designers to photograph the creations. Ghada had a vision to capture the design process as if looking through the lens and zooming in the details and creative process. The results are imagery inspired by Dior’s exhibition photos.

What can you tell us about the specific works on view in the exhibition? How do they reflect the mission of Zwara?

I believe the work exhibited in Zwara speaks for itself. Each of the works displayed breathes an intricate layer of storytelling and craftsmanship that is a testament to the array of talents we have in Qatar.

Haytham Sharrouf, for example, is a visionary and multidisciplinary artist who took on his first fashion creation at Zwara. He was inspired by the light and spiritual experience of the floral environment and how florals have become an important backdrop to the Dior brand. The skirt and headpiece Sharrouf designed symbolise the artefacts that can illuminate natural experiences.

Another example of a work on show is Maryam Al Majid's choker, called Sparrow of the Sea. The designer drew inspiration from her own life and a mix of two very rich cultures – Qatar and India. The wings of the sparrow represent India, while the pearls recall Qatar.

A sparkling choker styled in the shape of wings.

Designer Maryam Al Majid's choker, Sparrow of the Sea, currently on show at M7's Zwara Second Edition: Doha Dreams Pop-Up Exhibition.

The Zwara Second Edition: Doha Dreams Pop-up Exhibition is currently on display at the M7 Creative Learning Space through until the 31 August 2022. Plan your visit today.