Many commuters spend their journeys immersed in work, but Tina Lutz looked up long enough to discover Lutz & Patmos’ latest guest designer — Amtrak conductor Chris Waugh.

This story first appeared in the May 27, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

By chance, the 18-year railman happened to work on the trains that ferried Lutz to and from Rhode Island, where she has a house. The pair became fast friends and Waugh occasionally asked Lutz what she was working on, as the train passed by town after town. Waugh was dissatisfied with how abstract her explanation sounded, so Lutz suggested he look at the Lutz & Patmos Web site.

The next time Lutz boarded the train she was struck by how thoroughly Waugh had studied the site. He offhandedly told her he was available if she and her business partner, Marcia Patmos, ever needed a guest designer. In fact, he had the whole concept down pat. The sweater would be called The Shoreliner, named for the train he works on that runs along the East Coast. The charity that would benefit from sales of his design would be the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, in honor of his father, Bruce, who is afflicted by the disease. And the sweater would be designed for his teenage daughter, Brooke, with buttons on the side.

Lutz didn’t say anything at the time, but she later talked to Patmos about it. “We felt it was so right-on with our concept. From the beginning, we said our guest designer could be anybody.”

Waugh follows in the footsteps of Julianne Moore, Kirsten Dunst, Fabien Baron, Richard Meier and Carine Roitfeld, among other guest designers. And no one was more surprised than he was. “I thought Tina was fooling,” Waugh said in an interview Friday from his home in Wareham, Mass. “But she said with a straight face, ‘This is no joke. We are totally serious.'”

So in between ticketing passengers on the various stops, Waugh and Lutz finessed the design, selected colors and attended to every detail. The $495 hoodie sweater, which has five buttons on the side and raglan sleeves, was a hit with shoppers at three trunk shows in Chicago earlier this month. Some women at the Winnetka, Ill., location of Jake were so taken by the story that they asked if they could call and talk to Waugh. Lutz reached him on his Amtrak route, and they passed the cell phone around. But he did have to ask them to hold momentarily while he announced the New London, Conn., stop.

 

Waugh has yet to meet Patmos, since the design meetings took place on the train and his shift only goes as far as New Haven, Conn. But the trio is planning to get together. He isn’t completely green to fashion, having worked for several years at Joubert’s Clothing, a now-defunct, family-owned clothing store, while growing up in Whitman, Mass. “That was the precursor of all the mall stores,” he said.

But Waugh isn’t about to wave goodbye to Amtrak for Seventh Avenue. More than anything, he is proud of how sales of The Shoreliner will help further Parkinson’s research. “I never would have been able to do this on my own. It’s nice to be able to do something for your dad — it means a lot.”

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