LOGAN SQUARE — Fashion studio and lingerie brand Department of Curiosities is closing its Logan Square shop at the end of the month.
Owners Gerry Quinton and Jamie Hayes, who met while studying at Columbia College Chicago, launched the studio space at 3013 W. Armitage Ave. in 2014. They created its namesake luxury silk lingerie and sleepwear brand in 2016 with a focus on equitable production, fair wages and lower carbon footprints as part of the slow fashion movement.
But the designers said it’s time to rethink their business model and say goodbye to the showroom, which hosted events, workshops, art exhibits, fashion lectures and pop-ups over the years and served as an inclusive space for the local design community.
The owners said they want to save money and focus more on the creative side of their individual fashion lines, Production Mode and Morúa Designs. Managing the storefront and taking care of business needs was more work than they thought it would be, Hayes said.
“For me, [closing the storefront] is about personally slowing down, doing less and doing it better and trying to save money on studio space,” Hayes said. “This was starting before COVID, and as COVID became a reality … you gotta be smart about looking toward the future and paring down.”
The pandemic crystalized the decision, though the crisis is not the reason the owners are closing the space, they said.
“I haven’t done art-based design projects in a couple of years, not the way I used to constantly,” Quinton said. “We were focusing so much on the space, but the daily business of running the space from the ground up [ended up] taking so much energy that it started to limit what [I] was here to do in the first place.”
Quinton makes corsets and bridal gowns under Morúa Designs and used to host corsetry workshops in the space, but in-person events and client meetings won’t be coming back for a while because of the pandemic, she said. That got the owners thinking about business models that would allow them to be collaborative without a community space.
Hayes, who creates vibrant clothing for men and women using local leather and custom materials, plans to move her Production Mode line into Mana Contemporary Chicago, 2233 S. Throop St. She is working on a collection with knitwear pieces, hand-loomed on a knitting machine.
Quinton said she will move her studio into her Avondale home and continue making one-of-a-kind bespoke corsets, lingerie and gowns. A made-to-order corset line in standard sizes will be available online in the fall and she is preparing to launch a new line in 2021.
The designers’ lingerie work is also coming to an end, though there are pieces for sale until Friday.
The line was inspired by 1930s fashion and Hayes said the brand was made for women to feel sexy and comfortable since commercial lingerie is often designed for the male gaze.
The line also served as a bridge between their work.
“In furnishing the space, we found a connection point for the two of us, because Gerry does very romantic pieces and my stuff is very high-contrast, lots of bold colors, striped and modernist,” Hayes said. “We found that the 1930s was a connection point where you can see all these things meeting, and it’s a super fertile and interesting time” in fashion history.
The collection was featured in a photoshoot in London, shown in Paris and Berlin, and actress Geena Davis wore one of the line’s dressing gowns on the TV show “The Exorcist.”
The Department of Curiosities line and showroom events allowed the designers to form partnerships over the years.
In collaboration with a handful of other designers, the owners have made more than 3,000 masks since the pandemic’s start, donating them to workers on the front lines, people in homeless shelters and at blood drives. Clients helped fund the labor so the workers were able to still get paid.
Seeing client requests for a beautiful mask and feeling like the donation needs were met, the owners created a luxury mask at the end of June using the silk remnants from the lingerie line.
The mask has adjustable elastic straps, a flexible aluminum nose piece and an interior pocket for additional filters. For every mask purchased, 10 percent of proceeds will benefit Brave Space Alliance on the South Side and one will be donated to its crisis pantry.
Quinton said leaving the storefront is sad but she hopes that whenever the pandemic subsides, the duo can revive their events and reconnect in person with the local fashion community.
“I am going to miss the space a lot. We found so many like-minded souls here, and I think wherever we go, in our next steps, we are going to carry on the same style,” Quinton said. “When we come out of [the pandemic], I think we will be extra hungry for gatherings … . They build community.”
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