Nils Binnberg
Michaelkirchstraße 12
10179 Berlin


September 2019

Shoulder charge

‚The past five years have been like an apprenticeship,‘ says Tina Lutz, standing in the sun-filled production hall of a small leather goods factory in the industrial area of Wuppertal, near Düsseldorf in north-western Germany. ‚My background is in tailoring and knitwear, but I was kind of ready to challenge myself.

After more than 30 years in the fashion business – with stints at Issey Miyake and Calvin Klein on her resumé, and having operated her own fashion label, Lutz Patmos, for 11 years – the German designer launched the accessories label Lutz Morris in 2017 as a small collection of adjustable leather bags in various colours, mounted on thin frames. The original bag design was inspired by a framed leather case Lutz’s husband gave her for Christmas (the name Lutz Morris combines their surnames) – think vintage cigarette case from the 196os. ‚It was so cool and I thought, I should make bags like this, she explains.

Since then, Lutz Morris has grown considerably: within a month of its debut, there were waiting lists at retailers for new shipments and, by the following spring, her bags had been picked up by concept stores and blue-chip department stores, such as Harvey Nichols and Saks Fifth Avenue. ‚The brand’s regional concept appeals to our customers‘, says Cassie Smart, head of womenswear at ‚They are interested in the provenance of the collection‘. The range now includes tote, necklace shoulder and belt bags that come in pebbled calf leather, or calf leather embossed and hand-painted in Italy to look like crocodile and snake skin.

The gold-plated frames that are a signature of Lutz Morris bags are a German specialty, and the company Lutz found to make them has been operating since 1860 in Offenbach, a small town near Frankfurt known for its leather manufacturing tradition. Excited by the level of artisanship so close at hand, Lutz decided to harness other German resources too. ‚I wanted to create something responsible,’she says.

Her other finds include a tannery just outside Düsseldorf, and a welding shop in the Black Forest that hand-solders each link of the gold-plated brass bag straps to create a seamless chain. The brand’s packaging is produced next to the Wuppertal factory and printed in her hometown, Berlin.

The bags are hand-assembled in a 45-step-process. Every worker is trained to master all the steps, from pattern-making to gluing and stitching. Only seven such leather businesses are left in the area. Many of them, still second or third-generation family-owned, have struggled to compete with less-expensive production outside of Europe. Fifty years ago, there were more than 700 leather factories in West Germany, but only 49 of these have survived. ‚Supporting artisans is something I have always done, but previously it was artisans in Swaziland, in Kabul or in Uruguay‘, recalls Lutz. ‚I never thought artisans in Germany needed support.‘

Lutz tries to limit waste by saving and reworking leather scraps left in the manufacturing process (for her autumn collection she has reworked the leather using an intarsia technique), and to minimise the brand’s carbon footprint by sourcing every component as close as possible to its factories. Having grown up in Stuttgart with a father who was an architect and built almost all his furniture, she dismissed disposable trends. ‚There is an integrity behind her products‘, says Smart. ‚The collection started off with the original design and developed from that, it’s timeless and translates across the seasons.‘

With her ingenuity and undimmed energy, and the expertise of the German artisans she has recruited, Lutz has created a modern classic.

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