Article by Rasha Shihabi; Photos courtesy of Dumyé
Dumyé are handmade dolls “with purpose” crafted from environmentally friendly materials with a social mission: with every doll sold, another doll is gifted to an orphan. UNICEF estimates there are 17.9 million children around the world who are orphaned by both parents. Designed by Sahar Wahbe, the Dumyé doll also carries a purpose pocket that carries a personally crafted message of awareness that the buyer writes themselves for the child recipient. Every purchase doesn’t just gift another beautifully made doll to an orphan, but orphans have the opportunity to participate in a workshop that will teach them how to personalize their own dolls.
Sahar, it is a pleasure meeting you, tell me a little bit about you and what inspired you to create Dumyé?
I wanted to buy my daughter a doll as a gift and I had a number of criteria ranging from being age appropriate, to what materials were used in the manufacturing of it… It was a tough search. Finally, I decided to take out my mom’s old singer machine, started working on patterns and spent a day researching fabrics in New York’s Garment District. That’s how I created my daughter’s first doll.
Later I made more dolls for my nieces, nephews, as well as my cousins. I realized this was a perfect opportunity to create an example of what I would like my daughter to learn in life. I had been waiting for a moment where I can tie everything I love and care about and this was it.
What did you want to communicate?
I always believed that as designers we’ve been blessed with tools that enable us to create the messages we want to communicate to our cultures. I wanted to touch upon the following messages through Dumyé Dolls:
Environmental Responsibility – how to care and cherish the earth we are brought into and make sure what we put into it does not harm it. My dolls are made from sustainable cotton and corn stuffing, we hand die all the fabrics with plant coloring.
Giving back – numerous orphanages have libraries where they check toys in and out the same way we borrow books. We don’t just gift a doll for every doll sold, we create an opportunity for the children to reflect upon themselves and control a personal piece of their lives by having art workshops. Children will be provided with materials and opportunity to learn and express. Our first workshop will take place this summer after we’ve accumulated enough sales to cover children count of a whole orphanage.
Careful Deliberation – we put a huge amount of thought into every step of our process, from the choice of stuffing so our dolls are washable and hypoallergenic, to the double stitching of the insides so the dolls last their trip overseas as well as the happy handling of their new owner.
Having the courage do something different – the best solution is always marrying your passion with your work, this is when humans are the most fortunate. I was blessed to be able to created Dumyé and I hope that it would be an inspiration for my daughter to find her own path and create what she truly finds inspiring for herself without worrying about stigmas and expectations.
Can you tell us a little more about the purpose pockets on your dolls?
Every doll comes with a little purpose pocket that holds a little piece of cloth where you can personalize a message that you want to remain with your child. It can be words of wisdom, an affirmation, a prayer or whatever you wish that is meaningful to you. For example one of my clients chose “say please and say thank you” which I thought was a really nice reminder to always be polite and respectful.
Investors interested in the brand have approached Dumyé and we are very fortunate for that. I wish to remain small and focused for now, making sure that I am attentive to what I stand for every step of the process. In time I would love to expand the product line where I can give back in other ways that relate to the children and their needs. Always considering ways to bring love, light, leadership and hope into their lives.
I was blessed to be able to created Dumyé and I hope that it would be an inspiration for my daughter to find her own path… Sahar Wahbe, Founder of Dumyé
While TOMS Shoes is currently under considerable negative criticism for having a similar business model as a non-solution to poverty, Sahar’s model chooses a different target with a psychological and emotional need. Her solution is creating an opportunity through workshops to empower the child to learn and create. This provides them a tangible tool for self-expression they can use beyond the workshop. Catalyst wishes Sahar Wahbe the best and will look forward to covering Dumyé on its future endeavors.