I hadn’t seen Tina Lutz in years, not since she had been the co-founder of Lutz Patmos—a line of luxury minimalist cashmere sweaters etc. that every editor coveted. Fast forward last month when an old colleague mentioned that Tina had launched a new line of handbags, was in town (she recently left NYC for Germany where she grew up) and that I should go see. Having been an editor for years, there are times when you see something that feels so fresh and different, you immediately get excited because you know it’s going to be a game changer. That is how I felt when I saw Tina’s line of elegant, modernist handbags, LUTZ MORRIS. Based on a steel frame, each bag has credit card slots on one side, and many have straps that can be changed or removed so you have a clutch. I bought the small belt bag in black. Honestly I never thought I would purchase a belt bag (I wear it as a tiny cross-body), but I am thoroughly enjoying ‘traveling light’ and the freedom from toting a heavy bag around is liberating. It is the perfect urban bag. Of course there are bigger sizes (because tiny is not always an option) and I’m not the only one in love; the bags have sold out twice since they launched on MatchesFashion.com a month ago. Plus Tina is kind, thoughtful and genuine, the kind of woman you want as your friend. I am so glad to have reconnected with her and to share her story.
How did you get into fashion? I knew a very young age that’s what I wanted to do. I was always looking at my mom’s fashion magazines, there were things in there I would never be able to get or afford. When I was 10 I used to clean this old lady’s house who lived next door to make some money, she had had a radio show during the war and she always had fascinating stories to tell, she was telling stories more than I was cleaning. One day I brought a magazine to her, there was a jacket in it like a fisherman’s jacket with tons of pockets, loops, zippers and little gadgets on the front and it was something like 300 Deutsche marks, today’s equivalent of $3,000. I showed it to her and told her ‘I LOVE, LOVE this jacket’ and she said ‘Well, let’s make it.’ I didn’t tell my mom and I would go “cleaning” quite a lot, meanwhile we were making the jacket on this lady’s sewing machine. It took a long time—months and months. When it was ready I put it on and went back home and rang the doorbell. I’ll never forget, my mom opened the door, saw me and got so furious ‘Where did you get the money to buy that jacket?!’ That was the best compliment ever. When I told her I made it, I got a sewing machine for my next birthday. From that moment on, I made all my clothes and clothes for my mom and sister. I still have that jacket.
You were a co-founder of Lutz & Patmos, what did you take away from those years and experience and apply to LUTZ MORRIS? The core philosophy at Lutz & Patmos was no five-minute trends and everything was designed to be essential and timeless. That has been my mantra for as long as I can remember, and I apply it to everything I do, including LUTZ MORRIS.
Why did you decide to pivot and change your career? Switching from ready-to-wear to handbags was not a conscious decision. Though my background is in tailoring and knitwear, I have always been drawn to product design; I love the idea of working on an object in three dimensions, fitting everyone in one size.
This new business idea found me in a moment when I was open to change. I had just moved to Berlin after 24 years in New York, and for our first Christmas, my husband gifted me a beautiful leather box. I fell in love with the details, the leather and craftsmanship. From there I sought out the producer, shared my ideas to create a bag on the same frame, and here we are.
Why handbags? What sets LUTZ MORRIS apart? I have been having a hard time finding handbags that are timeless, responsibly made and not on everybody’s arm. When I started Lutz Morris it was important for me to start a brand that has heart and soul, that cares, that has integrity.
Lutz Morris is responsible: It is so important that every element is sourced as closely as possible to our factory. 90% of our leather is tanned under very strict regulations in Germany, and the tannery is a short car-ride from the assembly factory. A local artisan makes the signature component, a stainless-steel frame. The chains are hand-linked in the Black Forest, and the packaging is produced next to the factory with printing done in Berlin. The remaining 10% of leather is imported from northern Italy–not too far away.
Lutz Morris supports artisans: It has been a career-long passion of mine to preserve traditional craftsmanship of international artisans. I have worked with artisans in Bolivia, Uruquay, Afghanistan, Swaziland, etc. With LUTZ MORRIS I get to support German artisans and pay tribute to my home country, which I left as a teenager and never lived in again until now. Working with these factories is a big responsibility, as each is a multigenerational family business producing high quality leather goods that are comparable to those of Italy or France. It’s a shame that this is a disappearing trade in Germany.
Lutz Morris gives back: We donate $10 from the purchase of every bag to Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother worldwide. Christy Turlington, who has been a friend of mine for over 17 years, is the founder of this charity and I have witnessed first-hand what wonderful work EMC does.
What inspires you? Everything, anything and at any given moment. Today it was the layout of cracks in the sidewalk.
What do you want a woman to feel when she wears a LUTZ MORRIS bag? In a time when fashion is fast and just a click away, we wanted to create something special. Our bags are for the woman who does not want everything. She wants a few of the right things, made consciously and with purpose. She is looking for a connection with the things she chooses to bring into her life.
Three words that describe LUTZ MORRIS: Quality, responsibility, altruism.
Three words that describe you: Persistent, daring, committed.
What came easiest for you in starting LUTZ MORRIS? The concept. Everything else—all the details, bringing the production to fruition—was a lot of hard work.
Hardest part you didn’t anticipate? There were no surprises because I have started a business from the ground-up before.
Attribute that helps you succeed: I appreciate simplicity in all aspects of my life, and that’s been adopted as a core principle behind LUTZ MORRIS. It’s more than the focused, practical, and seasonless designs, it’s a lifestyle.
Role model: Anyone whose intention in life is not to make more money, but to make the world a better place.
Best career advice you received A quote by Joseph Campbell came in a perfectly-timed email at one point in my life: ‘Sometimes you must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.’
Your advice to a new entrepreneur: Your business idea has to feel completely right, you have to be convinced of it. You cannot ignore any nagging doubts because they will never go away, and over time, they will only become larger and harder to ignore. But once you’re certain, ask friends and family for honest feedback. Listen closely and keep an open mind. In the end, pick wisely which feedback you are going to implement.
What has been your biggest success? For me success is not professional success. It is to live a happy, healthy and balanced life.
What motivates you? My passion for what I do and the impact it has on the people around me, from the tanner, to the manufacturer, to the client.
How hard would you say you work? How do you keep focused? I work very hard, but I never count the hours. I am lucky to be able to work around my family’s schedule – sometimes I work during the day, sometimes at night, and sometimes on the weekend.
What’s next? We’re launching our online shop soon and looking to branch out beyond our MatchesFashion.com online-exclusivity to other retailers by May 2018.
Life goals: To live a happy, healthy and well-balanced life. And to make a difference.
Daily goals: Same.
Favorite inspirational/motivational read: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
Favorite sites/people you follow: There are too many to mention, but I really like my friends’ private feeds because they are intimate, powerful and real.
Daily rituals: Family breakfasts and dinners.
How do you unplug: Yoga.
Hidden talent/hobby: Running, sewing, knitting.
Favorite charity: Every Mother Counts – LUTZ MORRIS not only supports it but I also participated in the Berlin Marathon this past September and ran with Christy and an amazing EMC running team. Together, we raised $120,000. I also support the Rockhouse Foundation, which aims to improve childhood education in Jamaica.
Biggest splurge you don’t regret: Any travel expenses, especially our three-month trip through South East Asia or Africa.
Favorite small indulgence: Chocolate.
Album currently on repeat: My son carefully curates Spotify folders. I love listening to them and being surprised by the new artists he discovers.
Scent that brings back memories: I love the smell of pine trees. It reminds me of spending time with my grandparents who lived in the Black Forest.
Lucky charm: My wedding band.
Favorite hour of the day: When the sun starts setting at the end of a fulfilling day.
Follow LUTZ MORRIS: Instagram.