Style and Integrity
Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Interview JUSTIN ROSS
Hair and Makeup CAT VON P
A constant innovator with her own highly refined sense of style, noted fashion designer Tina Lutz has been at the very forefront of fashion for the past three decades, not only creating iconic styles for everyone from Issey Miyake to Calvin Klein but also launching her own very successful brand Lutz & Patmos in New York.
Moving back to Germany in 2016, Tina Lutz found new opportunities to carry on her mission of creating timeless designs in a responsible way: reviving traditional handcrafts and giving back to worthy causes at the same time. 4SEE asked Tina to visit our new studio space in Berlin to discuss her new venture in handbags, her ethical design philosophy, and the challenges and rewards of responsibly crafting luxury items.
Tina Lutz’s elegantly classic and minimalist avant-garde mix was at the core of her first brand Lutz & Patmos, which she started in New York in the late nineties along with Marcia Patmos. As the brand cemented her status as a talented designer and fashion maven, Tina decided to use her influence in the design world to spearhead a movement towards honest and ethical fashion that continues today. The first steps toward this goal began at Lutz & Patmos with the inspired idea to look outside the fashion world for design collaborations, including with many of her close friends and idols like Jane Birkin, Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst, Christy Turlington, and many more.
“I collaborated with artists and actors, architects, singers, directors, and even with Desmond Tutu, the archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It was always people that I really admired, and we would say to them, you can design a sweater, your dream sweater, we make it, and then we pick a charity that those proceeds go to.”
It was an unusual move at the time but it was also an ingenious step that broadened the appeal of the brand while also enabling Tina to give back a portion of the profits from these specially designed garments to respected charities chosen together with the high-profile partners. But this is just one aspect of her holistic view (which she calls her three pillars) on how to encourage integrity in the luxury fashion world through ethical and responsible manufacturing practices.
“My first pillar is to produce responsibly. You know where you produce and how things are made, you know the people behind them and that people are being treated fairly. I like to work with artisans, to support arts and craft, because they are sort of dying away and a lot of people are struggling to keep certain artisanships alive. That is my second pillar, working with artisans. My third pillar is altruism, I feel it is really important to give back. We are so privileged working in the business we are in. It’s important to help people who aren’t as privileged.”
In 2011, Tina Lutz separated from her business partner at Lutz & Patmos and began consulting work for fashion and knitwear companies. This freed up more time for her to spend with her family and to travel back to Germany more regularly to visit with her aging parents. In 2016, with her parent’s health a growing concern, she and her family made the decision to try out living in Germany for a year. One year turned into two and has now become three as she and her husband and their young son find that Berlin is growing on them. Moving back to Germany was a big change for her and her family, but they approached it with enthusiasm and a spirit of adventure:
“My husband and son said to me, let’s do an adventure year in Germany. My son was 9, about to be 10, and we said let’s just stay a year and I can be there for my parents. Berlin was the only city in consideration, we all wanted to be here. That Christmas, our first in Berlin, my husband gave me a leather box, like an old cigar box, and I fell in love with that box. I don’t know exactly how it all came together, but I started looking up the name of the manufacturer. I told him ‘I love what you do, I have so many ideas’, and he asked if I wanted to come to visit. I started making some samples and prototypes and suddenly I had a new company again.”
Tina Lutz is back doing what she loves—designing beautiful things—this time applying her expertise to luxury handbags with a new company under a new name: Lutz Morris. In 2017, Lutz Morris debuted in a world tour with a number of “salons” in various cities in Europe and North America. The reaction to her bag designs, inspired by and developed with the same concept as the cigar box frame, was phenomenal and she started selling the first versions right away. Now, Lutz Morris is officially just a year old but already a success, available online (www.lutzmorris.com) and just finishing up their first season with showrooms in London, Paris, and New York.
Lutz Morris carries on Tina’s missions to design and create, working with local artisans to revive their handcraft work and support communities by sourcing responsibly. Defining responsible and ethical fashion means being heavily involved in the process and keeping everything as local as possible.
“The pebbled leather, which makes up about 80% of the collection is tanned 30 minutes from the factory. The frames are another hour away. And there are some bags that have a beautiful, heavy brass chain, everything hand-soldered, which is made in the black forest. And the packaging is made in the same town where the bags are being made. So, everything is sourced as close as possible and made as responsibly as possible.”
At the end of the day, everyone can feel good about what Tina Lutz is doing as she not only helps revive local economies through her partnerships with artisans but she also gives back a percentage of the profits to a worthy cause, reducing maternal mortality worldwide through the charity efforts at her longtime friend Christy Turlington’s charity Every Mother Counts. Tina Lutz is proving that there is a way to design and create responsibly, and that is truly something beautiful.