"We dared to dream, we don't regret asking for our dignity," reads Waad Al Kateab's dress in Arabic, a message from a poem she couldn't resist sharing. After all, how could she when thousands of people are going to be talking about what she's wearing anyway?
The Syrian filmmaker made a grand entrance at the Oscars after her documentary For Sama was nominated. The powerful film depicts the everyday life of a soon-to-be mother in the war-ridden city Aleppo over the span of five years before and during the Battle of Aleppo.
She and her husband (one of the few doctors left in the city) are faced with the daily decision of fleeing for the sake of their daughter or saving lives at the hospital.
The emotional film, dedicated as a love letter for her daughter, won the Best Documentary Award during the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and received a standing ovation — it also won a Bafta in London earlier this year.
Al Kateab met designer Reem Masri back in 2013 through mutual friends and has been working with her ever since. When it was time for Al Kateab to put an outfit together for the Oscars, she knew who to rely on.
"I bought my pens and papers and started with lots of samples, shared them with Waad, and started building the dress idea with all the specific details," Masri told Vogue Middle East.
"We selected the color of the dress that matches her skin color, and the calligraphy color the same as the plant she left behind in her house in Aleppo before they were forcibly displaced."
Al Kateab is doing everything in her power to get the message of the Syrian people delivered
In the whirlwind that came with the Syrian revolution, many felt like there was no real way of actually knowing what was going on in the country. Al Kateab felt like this was her chance of doing her home justice.
"It's not a civil war, it's a revolution, and unfortunately, we the Syrian people are the ones paying the price," she said on the red carpet.
Al Kateab made it a point to shift the narrative and include the entire Syrian population rather than have it center around just one family amidst the chaos. She took every opportunity that came her way to be a voice for her people, even when that meant having to wear a dress worthy of at least a comment.