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Designer Tracy Reese Creates Wearable Magic

by Caitlin Kelch

When thinks back to her roots as a clothing designer, she remembers, “My mom was a sewer and she taught me to sew. The Orange-handled Scissors were THE scissors. We weren’t allowed to use them when we were little. Those were mom’s scissors. But when I was promoted to a home sewer, I was allowed to use the Orange-handled Scissors.”

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Tracy graduated from Cass Technical High School and remembers making clothing from scratch with her mother as they sat next to each other at their own respective sewing machines. She headed to NYC in the early 80s to go to Parsons School of Design and after graduating in 1984, Tracy worked under Martine Sitbon at the firm Arlequin. She worked at several top fashion design houses, and eventually became head of the Women’s Portfolio for Perry Ellis before launching her own labels.

Like so many others and a lot of you, our readers, Tracy’s creativity comes to life through a healthy dose of passion, a lot of skill and intuition and Fiskars Orange-handled Scissors. Along with us here at Design*Droits-Humains, Tracy is celebrating Fiskars Orange-handled Scissors 50th anniversary and recently shared her Fiskars story with the brand. Watch the video below for a sneak peek into Tracy’s world!

Tracy now runs two of her own labels, Tracy Reese and Plenty by Tracy Reese, both of which are carried at Anthropologie and other retailers. It’s so fun to see Tracy’s process in the video above and then see the three gorgeous pieces below that are available at Anthro right now! And to think that the very same Fiskars Orange-handled Scissors a lot of us own were involved in bringing Tracy’s sketches to life is more than inspirational.

1. | 2.  | 3. – Plenty by Tracy Reese

If you’re so inclined, head over to the Fiskars site for more inspirational stories from designers and artists for whom Fiskars Orange-handled Scissors are an essential tool for their creative process and art. Below are just a few of the creatives you’ll find there! You can share your Fiskars Orange-handled Scissors story from their site or directly on the Facebook page . There are so many great stories to read!

And again, share your Orange-handled Scissors story with us in the comments below to be entered to win 1 of 4 awesome gift packs (DIY or design book + Orange-handled Scissors + Fiskars Kids Scissors). We’ll be picking our winners on Monday, Oct. 9th.

Image above (clockwise): – Designer (Finland),  – Artist (United States),  – Collage Artist (Finland) &  – Papercut Artist (Denmark)

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  • I have SO MANY memories of the Orange-handled Scissors! When I was born I had double ear infections, which came and went my entire childhood. At the time my mom was working as a professional seamstress doing wedding gown alterations at a bridal shop, but also would do alterations on the side for friends and family. I would often wake up at night in pain from my ears and couldn’t get back to sleep, so my mom would make use of the time and work on an alteration, or possibly sewing an Easter or Christmas dress for my sister and I while I sat in her lap and eventually fell asleep while she worked. She ALWAYS used the Orange-handled Scissors (though there were many pair in our house as they had to be replaced when we couldn’t resist using them for some non-fabric related project.) and they are part of the collage of my earliest memories of her working and sewing.

  • My mom was a reluctant sewer. Her older sister nagged her into learning because it was a skill that she could use to help support herself as an adult. By the time I came along, mom worked part-time at home as a seamstress and also nights at a fancy restaurant. Mom used to use those heavy, old school sewing shears but when she got older, she turned to Fiskars scissors because they were much more lightweight and easier for her to use. She’s gone now but I inherited all her Fiskars (and old school shears) and use them all the time. They’re still working great and they’re a reminder of mom and her hard-working, talented hands.

  • I love Fiskars, and Tracy Reese! I didn’t know she was African American-I’m making an effort to support WoC with my spending money, and really appreciate DS’s efforts in championing diverse artists

  • When I was a littlle girl and often stayed with my grandma, she showed me how to crochet and to knit and later she also showed me how to stich. When she was working, she always had these little scissors with the orange handles nearby. One day when I wanted to craft with some paper I took her special scissors and just wanted to cut somethingout of the paper when she sort of exploded… NO!!! YOU MAY NEVER CUT PAPER WITH THESE SCISSORS!!! I was really shocked and couldn’t understand, but she told me that these scissors are very special and world best for cutting fabric and garn… many years from then, when my granda had died, I was asked what I wanted to have from her to remind me of her, there were two things I asked my mum to give to me. One of them were these little orange-handled scissors. this is long ago now and I still have them and use them today whem I am stiching. For sewing and other hobbies I now have some more of this orange handled and black/orange handled scissors and I love working with them… Once my husband wanted to cut something and took one of my orange sweeties, I shouted at him: NO!!! you will destroy them with cuttin paper! And I told him NEVER to touch one of the orange scissors again!!!

  • As soon as I read the first paragraph, my mother’s voice jumped into my head, ‘Not the good scissors!’ which I’m sure is a common refrain in sewing households with naughty children. Never understood how she sensed I had grabbed her orange handles to use on some old cardboard or other unworthy craft project. But oh boy, when she taught me to sew and I felt those orange handles glide through fabric, I understood what she meant and the door opened to a lifetime of making stuff for me, friends and family, and beyond. 30 years later, even though I never have to yell “not the good scissors!” (my partner knows better than to touch my good scissors), I still sew with her old Bernina machine and I still love that glide feeling when you catch the warp grain with the good scissors..

  • Like many home sewists, I grew up watching my mom sew and credit her with everything I have learned about the trade. She had a pair of orange-handled scissors that are now part of my own sewing kit.

    Around the time each of my brothers and I were potty trained, we taught to NEVER touch mom’s good sewing scissors, much less use them for anything other than fabric. One day, my older brother got a hold of them and decided to play barber shop with me. I ended up with quite a chunk of hair missing, but worse than that, HE DID IT WITH MOM’S SEWING SCISSORS. To this day, she still gets mad telling the story–not over my terrible hair cut, not over the fact that one or both of us could have been seriously hurt, but over his choice of tool.

    I love Tracey Reese’s inspired design, and own quite a few of her Vogue patterns that I have sewn together a few times in different colors. Thanks for sharing!

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