Sania Samad PAKISTAN | 2018

SECTION OF DRESS: Sonay Ki Chiriya, The Golden bird

Sania, a thoughtful Textile artist living between Pakistan and New York felt drawn to the Red Dress project and reached out to collaborate.

When I read about Red Dress project, the sharing of embroideries from all around the world and stitching them together to make a dress, I felt as if Kirstie lived in Pakistan and knew my family. We use to do that at home with my grandmother, aunts’ and mom. I had to be part of the project and I was happily surprised to find Kirstie a very welcoming artist who didn’t take long to invite me to join this meaningful project.

During my research for Red Dress embroidery piece I found many similarities between my life and Red Dress, I have travelled a lot, my life and thoughts are embellished with the histories from different parts of the world. I am a Pakistani Textile Artist living between Pakistan and America for past Fifteen years.

As an artist whose work is mostly about memories, histories: personal as well as collective, I feel my work is like a fiction at times in which one can say in detail that is not possible through non-fiction. Two major influences on my design concept were words from Arundhati Roy’s novel( a celebrated female Indian writer), The Ministry of Utmost happiness, “She wondered how to unknow things, specific things that she knew, she did not wish to know’’ and a poem by Pakistani female poet Zehra Nigah titled, Samjhaute the poem is about a woven shawl in which all the motifs are lies but they are beautifully embroidered into a cover for the woman. Rukshanda Jalil, an Indian female writer translated the poem Samjhaute,

Warm and soft, this blanket
Of compromise has taken me years to weave
Not a single flower of truth embellishes it
Not a single false stitch betrays it
It will do to cover my body though
And it will bring comfort too,
If not joy, nor sadness to you.

Comparing cultures and role of power within them that creates women identities within those cultures’ socio-political environment form and shape my work.

The Top is known as ‘Kameez’, in Pakistani attire. The image of Kameez is a metaphor for women in my art work for a long time. The embroidered image depicts a Heaven where women will be treated with respect and there will be no discrimination based on genders. Images of Pakistani, American and British flags are embroidered on the shirts as these are the countries I have lived and was/is part of their socio-political fabric.

Sometimes I feel I have no Land to live hence the current piece is called ‘Sonay Ki Chiriya - The Golden bird’, name used for Indian subcontinent during early 19th century.

To contact Sania for commissions, please write to:


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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