Lekazia Turner, embroiderer from Jamaica, 2022

Catalina Sánchez Gaviria

SECTION OF DRESS: Toucan and Tropical flowers

A modern and funky Colombian embroiderer, Catalina a mother of 2 now lives in Lyon where she created a bold embroidery for the Red Dress highlighting the beauty of her native land but also her desire for its improved future.

My name is Catalina Sanchez. I was born in a small town called Popayán, in the south-west of Colombia. An ecologist by profession, I first left my country to continue my studies 12 years ago and have lived in several countries since then, which have formed me into the person I am today. Being far away from my family, friends, country, and away of my comfort zone has changed me forever. I am more compassionate now, I don’t take things for granted, my mind is more open and I am more tolerant. All of this was also shaped thanks to my kids. I became a mom 7 years ago and they made me realize that what I thought was important in that moment, didn't have any actual relevance. They showed me and taught me what was the real meaning of things. With them, I became a stay at home mom and have dedicated all these years to them. It was during this period that I tried embroidery for the first time. I was trying to find a way to keep me "busier" and decided to give it a chance to embroider. I grew up watching my mom embroidering and knitting but was never interested in either of them until a few years ago. I think watching my mom doing it through my childhood left me with something imprinted in my mind, because it was very easy for me to start with this craft.

When Kirstie gave me the opportunity to be part of this AMAZING project, and asked me to make a piece that I would identify myself and my country with, I immediately thought about two things: flowers and birds, maybe it was the Ecologist side of me???. Colombia is the country with the highest number of bird species in the world and the second one when it comes to plants. This put us in a special spot, making Colombia one of the most biodiverse countries overall.

My embroidery portraits a very tropical, colorful and joyful design, things that you can immediately have a sense of when you visit our country.

When I finished the design to be embroidered, something happened in my country. Once again, we were shook by a violent event. This time a car bomb exploded in the General Santander police academy in Bogotá, with 21 fatalities and dozens injured. Colombia has, and has had, a sad history of violence and inequality, but this particular event was in a magnitude that we had not seen in many years. It brought back memories of similar acts decades ago. The difference is that now, having lived what I have lived and seeing life through the eyes of my kids and the future that awaits for them, this violent act affected me differently and deeply. It made me think about what we have, what we are, what we yearn, and we need as a country. I summarized all these thoughts and feelings in the word HOPE. We need to keep the hope for change, for a future, for a better society made out of stronger values and respect for others and for the ecosystem. In that moment, I realized my design was finally done. I had managed to encapsulate characteristics of the beauty that Colombia represents, but also the complexity of its society and the aspiration for an improved future.

To contact Catalina for commissions, please write to: casaga23@gmail.com


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.

Nothing expresses more eloquently the feelings I suspect we share about the importance of embroidery in our lives, and the support we derive from the friendships made through stitch, than Kirstie Macleod’s Red Dress.
Caroline Zoob, Editor of Stitchers Journal 2022
This beautiful object highlights the common ground between individuals, bringing together different identities and uniting people, we are honoured to contribute to it.
Tiny Kox, PACE President at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg 2023
The Red Dress has become an icon of the international textile world.
Suzanne Smith, Textile Society 2022
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
...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 they created the embroideries.
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa, supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA who created embroidery on the Red Dress in 2018
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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