“The first half of my life, I was collecting experiences, the second half of my life I want to transmit to others and create.”
Ariane Dutzi, founder and owner of dutzi design.
Born and raised in Germany, Ariane Dutzi is very much a global citizen, with something of an innate resistance to putting down roots in any one place.
Ariane is also a born creator. She boils over with ideas and inspiration, and when she enters the airy workshop that houses dutzi design, her energy sweeps in behind her, rushing through the space. It takes up residence at a low simmer, but when ideas flash, it ignites and pops with excitement. dutzi is literally an extension of Ariane’s life force, a product of the person that she is.
Paris, of course, is where it all began. Ariane left home to attend Sorbonne University, and after school landed a job as a foreign correspondent with a German media group. She spent ten years covering fashion, art and design in the industry’s European epicenter, and then another four years in New York.
“Then,” she confesses, “came the midlife crisis – the first one.”
Pursuing a need for change and relief from the pace of New York life, Ariane ended up in Tulum, Mexico, a quiet beach town on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. There, the high-end hotel business that had attracted several of her friends roped Ariane in as well. In the end, what was originally intended to be a three-month sabbatical turned into a long term, on-again off-again love affair with the Mexican mistress: the Yucatán.
In her New York life, Ariane moved on from the media group and began working with the vintage buyer for Ralph Lauren. It was here that she made the official transition from correspondent to designer. Interacting constantly with top designers for the industry’s best brands, “I started to understand how their minds worked and see my own design ideas grow,” she says. “I was learning there from the best of the best.”
In her Tulum life, Ariane started her own vintage shop and even toyed around with some handbag designs, hiring a local artisan to put together a prototype. But still, Ariane remained unsure as to where her heart lay, until finally in 2007 she took the plunge and moved in with the Mexican mistress, buying and renovating a house a short drive from Tulum, in a small city called Valladolid.
Before long, the new project – the fresh idea and unique opportunity that Ariane had been looking for – literally knocked on her door. Two years after being hired, the artisan she had partnered with brought a handbag prototype to Ariane’s home. Instantly, dutzi design, Inc. was born.
Ariane knew that if she was going to launch her own line, she was going to have to do things differently. For her, responsibility is central: we all have a responsibility toward each other as fellow human beings; and the Earth is a resource that we have a responsibility to protect. These two fundamental beliefs were built into Dutzi from the beginning. Not only would it be a company centered around beautiful, high-quality design, it would be a company founded on giving back.
Today, dutzi employs 23 indigenous Mayan artisans – most of them women – from Valladolid and the surrounding communities. Given a chance to employ their skills and earn an income for their families, the sense of empowerment that dutzi affords its artisans is fundamental to Ariane’s business plan. “Just to see these artisans’ expressions,” she says, “to give them hope and give them their dignity back: It’s all worth it.”
The materials that dutzi uses are eco-friendly, as well. The majority of Ariane’s bags are made from recycled burlap that she has spent years sourcing from all over Mexico. No mass production is involved: each bag is individually sewn and one-of-a-kind. Even the mecapál straps are hand made by one of the last families in the region trained in the traditional technique.
According to Ariane, “You have to establish something first and then give back.” A lifetime of travels, of learning from the world’s best designers and eventually becoming one of them herself; years of connections, discoveries and experiences collected: this has all lead to the formation of Ariane’s creative flow. Now, her vision is serving as the foundation for a project that is changing women’s lives in the Yucatán while preserving the Earth that we all call home.