The nine-inch, white-plastic, body-shaped forms are rather unassuming before the artists get their hands on them.
Then they become quirky creations that reveal the breadth of talent of the 40 artists who are taking part in the second edition of Dress the Mannequin, an auction followed by an exhibition that starts on Wednesday.
From stitches to spikes
Many of the small dolls, given by the Dress the Mannequin founder Sumayyah Al Suwaidi to the 40 artists ahead of the month-long exhibition at Wafi Mall, have been dressed in customised gowns that represent their perceived characters. Some of the artists, however, have stepped further outside the box with their creations. Noora Ramah, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, for example, has covered her doll with metal spikes and pins and called her piece Meet Your Punishment.
Reyan Hanafi, an architect and a fashion designer, made a doll called Resurrect from recycled material to symbolise reconstruction and hope after the war in Gaza.
Giving to Gaza
Many of the dolls have been decorated with Palestinians in mind, because all proceeds from the auction will go to the UAE’s Red Crescent, which is directly helping the people in Gaza affected by the recent war and continuing struggles.
Feryal Al Bastaki, an Emirati fashion designer, dressed her mannequin in a traditional white wedding gown but stained it with blood and tied the doll’s hands with rough ropes. “Every bride has a dream to wear her white wedding gown, but that dream turns into a horrible nightmare for brides in Gaza,” she says in her artist statement. “Her mind is filled with fear.”
The mannequins will be sold on the opening night of the exhibition through a silent auction. The opening bid is Dh500 and Al Suwaidi hopes people will be generous with their offers.
“This is for people who want to support the good cause but don’t know how to do it or where to give their money,” she says. “This is a simple idea and whatever money it brings in will really help.”
Widening the net
As well as targeting fashion designers and artists, the creative people involved in designing the mannequins come from all walks of life, with engineers and business owners among those taking part.
“It is important to bring out the talent we have in the UAE in many different ways,” says Al Suwaidi. “I am always amazed by the quality of the work when we do an open call and how I discover new work.”
Abu Dhabi Fashion Days
Al Suwaidi, who is also the founder of the annual event Abu Dhabi Fashion Days (ADFD), says Dress the Mannequin works as a precursor to the show. Held a month prior, it helps to raise awareness of the luxury trade show, which takes place at the end of November in the capital.
“Dress the Mannequin is the humanitarian side of ADFD,” says Al Suwaidi. “We live in a blessed country and it is nice to be able to give back and, especially with what is happening now in Gaza, it is important to support and help.”
• Dress the Mannequin runs from Wednesday until November 8 at Wafi Mall, Dubai. The auction on Wednesday is from 7pm to 10pm