This week on Monday, the British Embassy in Cairo hosted the “Red Dress and Egyptian Fashion Awards” exhibition to celebrate British-Egyptian cooperation in the fashion industry.
After a 13-year tour around the world, the hand-embroidered work of The Red Dress was finished in March of this year, and it now appears as a complete piece of art at the British Embassy in Egypt in honor of the 50 Egyptian women who participated in designing the largest piece of this dress.
This dress has been exhibited in various prestigious galleries and museums worldwide, including Gallery Maeght in Paris, Art Dubai, Museo Des Arte Popular in Mexico City, the National Library of Kosovo, National Waterfront Museum in Wales, Fashion and Textile Museum, London, an event at the Royal Academy in London, and the Premio Valcellina Textiles award in Maniago, Italy where it won first prize in 2015.
So what’s the story of this dress, and what makes it special?
The British artist Kirstie Macleod made the Red Dress project’s concept. It resembles an artistic platform for women around the world, including those who are marginalized and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through the art of embroidery.
From 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress have traveled the globe and have been collaboratively embroidered.
The dress is made out of 84 pieces of burgundy silk dupion. The garment has been worked on by 346 women and seven men, from 47 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work (as well as receiving a portion of all ongoing exhibition fees).
Embroiderers included women from more than 40 countries, including Palestinian, Syrian, and Ukrainian refugees, victims of the war in Rwanda, and 50 Bedouin women in Egypt with the support of the FanSina Foundation in St. Catherine. This initiative aims to preserve Bedouin traditions and culture through handicrafts and embroidery.
In addition, the audience added some of the embroideries at various exhibitions & events.
Many of the embroiders who participated in this project were established, including first-time embroiderers.
The main purpose was to create a work that expressed their stories and identities while highlighting their cultural and traditional roots.
Some embroiders used specific styles of embroidery practiced for hundreds of years within their family, village, or town, while others chose simple things to portray powerful events from their past.
This project is more impactful because some women are rebuilding their lives through embroidery by using their skills or being trained in embroidery to earn a decent and consistent living.
This exquisite dress documents the collaborative, astonishing efforts of a project that brought many women around the globe to express their identities and stories in one garment that brought them all together. It represents a sense of unity and the possibility of creating an art piece representing many women from different walks of life.
According to the website, The Red Dress is scheduled to continue its exhibition journey till 2025 around different countries worldwide.