The designer duo behind the luxury cashmere brand Lutz & Patmos take a look at the fashion world and their role in it.
'We do knitwear because it's just so forgiving'
Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos, the women behind the cashmere brand Lutz & Patmos recall their lives in fashion. Tina Lutz: I grew up in Stuttgart, Germany. When I was 10, I saw this jacket in a fashion magazine that was inspired by a fisherman's vest. I loved it so much. It was very expensive and there was no way I could've afforded that. To make some money, I was cleaning the house of a very old neighbour - she was 85. I showed her a picture of the jacket and she told me that I can make it. "But let's make it our secret. When you come here and clean my house, you stay an extra hour and we will make your jacket," she said.
She had this old machine with a pedal, and she showed me how to insert the zipper, make French seams, and how to attach a collar. When the jacket was finished, I put it on and walked to my parent's house. I rang the doorbell even though I had a key. My mother came out and she looked at me with horror on her face. She said: "Where did you get the money for this jacket?" That was a compliment because she thought that I actually went out and bought the jacket. So, I got a sewing machine on my next birthday, and I was hooked on sewing ever since - I still sew now.
Marcia Patmos: I grew up in Schenectady, upstate New York. I was always making things with my brothers, and my grandmother always made everything. She was constantly knitting, sewing, crocheting, embroidering and cooking - just very crafty. My mother also was making things. I had never known to not make things - it's in my blood. When it was time to decide on what to do, I think becoming a fashion designer was a natural choice for me. I went to Rhode Island School of Design and I studied fashion. It was great and was conceptual. Fashion was a small part of that school. They had architecture, graphic design and painting, so you were surrounded with people making all kinds of things and there were a lot of collaborations.
Lutz: There were no fashion schools in Germany that were good or that I wanted to go to. So I moved to Paris and I studied pattern making and design at Esmod. I totally loved Paris, and now everyone calls me Francophile. Even in my teens, I was always all about the French. I'd go to France a lot and would always be in exchange programmes with French students. So, when I got to Paris I was so happy, it felt like being at home. It still feels that way. I feel much more at home in Paris than I do in Germany.
After I finished my studies, I started working for Issey Miyake's Paris office. But I was also working with the company's factories and design team in Italy. After two years, I moved to Tokyo, and I was there for one year still designing for Issey Miyake. Then I went back to Paris and I worked for APC there. Then I got a call from Calvin Klein saying that the company would like for me to come to New York and be part of the team that was starting CK Calvin Klein. I moved to New York in 1992 and I worked there for three years. Then I left and worked for Barney's New York for their line called Basco (Barney's All-American Sportswear Co) - that's where I met Marcia.
Patmos: It was a private label, but it sold to other stores such as Isetan, Holt Renfrew. It was a full collection of menswear and womenswear that existed for about 20 years. I was hired to do the menswear and Tina was hired to do the womenswear. I helped her do women's sweaters because it was a much bigger line. Lutz: We worked well together, and we were there for one year and then, thanks to financial difficulties, Barneys closed the line. It was sad because the line was 17 years old. Then, Marcia and I went on doing freelance work and I went back to Europe. But we stayed in touch. We were always talking about doing our own thing, but we really didn't have a lot of money, so we basically worked for American mass-market companies for two years.
Patmos: It was a good learning experience. We got to travel and learn so much more about the business such as merchandising and production. But we also became brain-dead from the corporate environment and wanted to do something smaller. That's when we got together and started Lutz and Patmos, nine years ago. Lutz: Also, knowing how difficult it is to make pants fit to a large portion of the population, we decided to do a knitwear collection. The thing we love about knitwear is that it is forgiving. You don't have to size it 2, 4, 6, 8 - you size it small, medium, and large. It's something you try in the middle of the store, not in a changing room. It's just much easier.
Patmos: For us, Jane Birkin has always been the muse. She collaborated with us for spring '09 and fall '09. She had so many ideas so it spanned two seasons. Tina worked hard to make the connection happen. She flew to Paris, met her and spent a day at her apartment working on the collection. It just seemed really easy and seamless.