2 Artisans supported by KITZENZenaida Aguilar & Hilaria Lopez PatishtaN 

MEXICO | 2018

SECTION OF DRESS: Traditional contrasting Embroideries from Chiapas

2 panels from 2 remarkable women in Chiapas

Kitzen is an initiative of Fundación León XIII which seeks to guide, support and empower those in poverty to be able to use their talents to earn a living - whilst also creating community, better health and ultimately a better quality of life.

Kirstie contacted Kitzen to see if they might be interested in coordinating a commission for the Red Dress. After deciding on which area of Mexico to focus on they suggested 2 artisans; Zenaida one of their most experienced artisans, and Hilaria who at just 17 was one of the youngest. The ladies each worked on a triangular goday, positioned either side of the front panel on the Red Dress.  

Zenaida Aguilar lives in Aguacatenango, Chiapas and describes herself as ‘the happiest women alive!’ She lives surrounded by family in her own house and is a respected part of the community. Zenaida had a difficult past and was left with nothing following the breakdown of an abusive marriage. With a strong and determined spirit she has managed to rebuild her life using her skill of embroidery - not only in creating her own stunning work but tutoring a host of young embroiderers and overseeing the artisans of Chiapas as Kitzen’s quality control in both San Cristobal de las Casas and Mexico City.

Zenaida’s vibrant and joyful design shows flora and fauna from the area (including cocoa pods!) created entirely in French Knots. Her technical skill and unique designs alongside the successful life she has created outside of marriage has seen her become an important role model for the younger generation, who are inspired to lead more independent and empowered lives.

HILARIA Lopez Patishtan lives with her family in San Juan Chamula; a beautiful (and very insular) Tzotzil town in Chiapas.

Hilaria was taught embroidery by her mother at 7 years old, and she loves it! In fact her whole family embroider and make clothing, and she sees herself always embroidering. The Lopez family live in a beautiful house that tumbles down the hillside, with black sheep, chickens, rabbits, pretty flowers and the most speculator of views.

Zenaida’s panel was created in traditional San Chamulan style, which sees rows and rows of expertly crafted geometric shapes in pretty pinks, yellow’s and greens. An honouring not only of her home town but of her family lineage and tradition within it.

To contact Hilaria or Zenaida for commissions and to learn more about Kitzen and the incredible work they do, please visit their website: https://www.fundacionleontrece.org/en/home


A huge thank you to all who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm, advice, experience and financial support to the Red Dress project over the years.

In addition to the institutions below, funding has been gratefully received from a number of private donations and 441 individuals around the world via 2 Crowdfunding campaigns in 2020 and 2022.

The Red Dress is one of the most power pieces of clothing I have ever seen
Angelica Colleluci, Head of Design & Productions at Ozwald Boateng
The Red Dress in its final incarnation, a magnificent, regal robe, symbolises the empowerment of women through the creation of something beautiful, something which began with bowed heads and tired fingers but also with faith and joy, an openness and willingness to be a part of something which they could not see at that time but in which they could believe had meaning and worth connecting with other women around the world
Lady Alison Myners, Chair of the Royal Academy Trust 2020
The Red Dress is in some respects similar to Mail Art, the populist artistic movement centred on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s – but on a larger scale – the journey of the work is part of its identity, process, and in fact function. A signifier of the temporal and physical nature of the process inherent in the creation of the piece. The surface of the dress layered with embroidery slowly transforming into a specific topographical map – completely particular to the work’s journey – and reflective of the burgeoning sculptural landscape of the object
Paul Black, Artlyst 2015
It’s her (Kirstie’s) red silk Dupion bodice and voluminous skirt created for the Red Dress that fully demonstrates her commitment to embroidery and the immense respect for the international community of makers
Denna Jones. Embroidery Magazine 2010
I can't remember when they embroidered that piece of silk (2018?) but I feel that something has changed since. The fact that they could embroider what they wanted and that it is appreciated has given them some strength, some confidence that I didn’t feel so strongly before. Last year, I sent them a drawing and asked them to “interpretate" it the way they wanted; again it came back with a lot of emotions, another beautiful story. Thank you for giving them this opportunity
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa (supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA)
This is both an extraordinary work of collective art and profound and eloquent social commentary. It is also an example of how potent the Attire language is capable of becoming
Attires Mind (Fashion Blogger) 2020
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