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The Heart-Warming Friendship Story Behind the For Sama Oscar Dress

Waad al-Kateab, oscars 2020, academy awards

Waad al-Kateab with her family at the 92nd Academy Awards. Photo: Getty

Syrian Reem Masri is behind Oscar-nominated Waad Al-Kateab’s For Sama Oscar dress. The designer and events planner recalls that she first met Al Kateab’s husband, Dr Hamza Al-Kateab, in 2013, in Syria, through mutual friends and meeting Waad soon afterward. “We met for the first time before they went under siege when they conducted a quick visit to Gaziantep,” says Masri. She shares that the couple have always supported her, with Hamza trusting her for all the gifts he wanted to offer Waad, while Waad always wore something of her design–a handbag, clutch, or belt–to any festival she would attend.

“Then the Oscars came, and we decided that I should design the dress. 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. 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.” The words on the dress are chosen by Al-Kateab and translate to “We dared to dream and we will not regret dignity.”

The dress was made in one week with the calligraphy sent to Akeel, a calligrapher in London. “We thought we could draw the quote directly but we couldn’t due to logistic and timing reasons,” recalls Masri. “Muhammad Anas al-Masri was responsible for the graphics so that he could convert the design into an electronic one and from it to embroidery.”

Masri, who lost her own mother in Syria, sees Waad as a beacon of hope, sending her this message: “I am already proud of you before For Sama. Waad, a friend, a human, and a mother who feels all of her friends’ pain and concerns. I am proud of you as a great director that reached the Oscars. Thank you for trusting me.”

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