Iconic Dress That Took 353 Artists 13 Years to Make

One of the embroiders wears the Red Dress (left) and a Kenyan embroidery featured on a dress.
One of the embroiders wears the Red Dress (left) and a Kenyan embroidery featured on a dress.
The Red Dress

After 13 years of toiling and back and forth among 47 countries, 353 artists worldwide managed to create a stunning maxi red dress emblazoned by a myriad of worldwide cultures.

Christened the Red Dress, the project which kicked off in 2009, was initiated by British artist Kirstie Macleod with the aim of exploring identity, culture, and tradition from different regions.

The dress was made from 84 pieces that were embroidered by hand from 47 countries, including two Kenyans based in Nairobi.

"From 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 84 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 346 women and 7 men, from 47 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work.

The Red Dress on Display
The Red Dress on display.
The Red Dress

"The rest of the embroidery was added by a willing audience at various exhibitions and events," read a statement from its main website.

In the process of making the dress, Macleod encouraged all the participants to create embroideries which reflected their own traditions as well as identities.

As a result, the participants, most of whom emerged from marginalised backgrounds, created their own versions of the arts.

They included refugees who escaped war, artisans who have centuries-old traditions as well as first-time embroiderers who are learning the art.

Other countries that participated in the project include Japan, Turkey, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, Canada, Tobago, Vietnam and Estonia among others.

“Initially the project sought to generate a dialogue of identity through embroidery, merging diverse cultures, with no borders.

“However, over the 13 years, the dress has also become a platform for self-expression and an opportunity for voices to be amplified and heard," added the description.

In Kenya, the Kenyan Embroiderers Guild based in Nairobi worked on unique artistic embroideries in 2018 that were included in the final piece.

Kenyan Embroiderers Guild was created in 2007 by two enthusiastic embroiderers and has since grown to become a force to be reckoned with in the textile industry.

The dress is now on tour and is set to be on display at Cairo Institute for Liberal Arts and Sciences and British Embassy in Cairo.

Kenyan tradition-inspired embroidery on the Red Dress
Kenyan tradition-inspired embroidery on the Red Dress.
The Red Dress