Jessica Lutz was working as a docent at The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, when she first created her own linen clothing pieces to wear during long, outdoor tours.
“Because the sun is so hot out here in the Chihuahuan Desert, I was getting ravished by the sun,” she says. “I started to make these pieces for myself, and so I designed the collection to shade me from the elements.”
It wasn’t long before other docents and tourists began asking Lutz about her clothes as they toured the art installation. These conversations sparked the idea to create Desert Veil in 2019, a collection of neutral, wearable covers like veils and ponchos to protect from wind and dust. The collection has only three pieces so far, but each reflects a style of “minimal landscapes” and “simple lines, light and shadow, shape and form” rooted in Lutz’s work as a photographer.
Lutz has approached the business by slowly and methodically designing each prototype, personally sourcing the materials, and working with a Texas-based production company to bring her collection to life. And after a series of successful pop-ups, she began selling the pieces in The Chinati Foundation’s visitor center in the fall of 2019. Desert Veil opened its first store in Marfa’s Gallery District in March 2020, just before the quarantine.
“I had to readjust,” Lutz says. “I had opened on March 11, which was right before the shutdown. I had an incredible two days. It was busy. It was an inspiring weekend. Then, I had to close two days later.”
Lutz refocused her efforts online through e-commerce and digital advertising while also looking to educational resources like Hello Alice, where she responded to a call on business advice. She also used the time to experiment with local clays to create dyes for her fabrics — an idea inspired by an unexpected problem with her suppliers.
“I work with linen, and the supplier I work with are consolidating their offerings. So, they are offering fewer types and colors,” Lutz explains. “It was a blessing in disguise. They stopped carrying the gold, and it really inspired me to think about the gold out here in the Chihuahuan Desert. There are a variety of different colored clays, and rocks, and stones out here. I harvested some gold clay down along the border of Texas and Mexico. I collected that clay and worked with dying and using that dye for the ponchos.”
Since reopening the store this past August, Lutz notes that business is picking up again, with visitors returning to the region, a light in what was a dark spring and summer. Taking Desert Veil slowly and steadily has proven a valuable lesson for Lutz.
“Creating the business slowly and developing the products in a measured way has been successful for me,” says Lutz. “Having the time to meditate on what I want to do and really allow it to come from that deeper place within myself has enabled me to keep the vision and the collection true to itself and resonate with people.”
And creating products with detail and thought is something that customers surely can connect with.
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