My memories are filled with visions of fabric pieces, doll clothes and the purring sound of my mother’s sewing machine consuming her bedroom. At some point when I was a small child, barely five years old, I picked up a needle and thread and began to stitch life into the scraps that my mother would leave behind from her own sewing projects.
I knew from the moment that I first dressed Barbie in a unique creation made by my own hands, that I would I would never stop wanting, needing to delve into my imagination and create the vibrant visions that lived there. I couldn’t be more genuine when I say that I’ve always known that I wanted to be a designer. My bio boast that I still to this day, hand stitch garments that have found their way onto the most prestigious red carpets in Hollywood.
So what makes this story so different from any other little girl with a dream and a little creativity? It was the day after Thanksgiving, many moons ago. I was just a month shy of my second birthday, when a heater exploded and a fire consumed the room where me and my 6 year old sister stood. I don’t recall that day, but we lost her five days later to smoke inhalation and severe burns.
From that day forward, I have lived with third degree burns to my face and hands. Why only my face and hands? That’s another story, another blog, another day. My hands were burned so badly, that all the fingers on my left hand were amputated and the ones on my right are scarred and disfigured. My mother was told that I would never have a good quality of life. But in that moment, her faith said, “You don’t know the God I serve!” And then in that moment, she set out to ensure that I’d be everything that the world never expected me to be. She empowered me with the ability to believe in myself and that all things are possible.
Proverbs 18:16 says that a man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
I believe that God gives us all our own gifts and that it is our responsibility to identify, nurture and utilize that gift for His glory. Regardless of the adversities that will befall us, those gifts are still there waiting to be unleashed into the world. In spite of the horrible tragedy that invaded my life via a fire, the flames did not destroy the gift that God placed within my hands. Remarkably, those hands would learn to pick up things, learn to play an organ, and even learn to sew incredible creations with a mere needle and thread.
I do remember the laughs. I remember the stares. I remember hiding my hands at times. I even remember hating my hands and yet those hands became my greatest asset; the very thing that made the world know my name. Today as I sit sketching the latest collection that will debut at London Fashion Week, I smile.
I smile because I’ve seen my name listed amongst the iconic designers that I long admired. I’ve sewn garments that appeared five times at New York Fashion Week, the Golden Globes, the ESSPY’s, have been worn by Hollywood’s well known and there is still so much to come.
I’m humbled, because as I look down at my badly scarred and disfigured extremities and see what some may frown upon, I have never been more grateful for the gift that God placed in these unusual hands.
-Linda Rowe Thomas
(I do not own the music in this video.)
The above sketch on the runway.