When you enter the newly minted Department of Curiosities, a storefront/workshop in Logan Square that opened in late January, don't be shocked at the apparent lack of merchandise. The designers, Gerry Quinton of Morua (corsetry and gowns) and Jamie Hayes of Production Mode (leather clothing and accessories), want the Department to showcase the process and labor of a transparent business model along with their respective product lines.
Instead of racks upon racks of clothing, you'll find work tables, patterns, sketches, and tools—the bones of the design process. Of course, it wouldn't be a storefront without something for sale, so customers will be able to view samples of the clothing and order directly from the designers. “We wanted to create a workshop and sales environment that was fluid, open, and could encompass our two different aesthetics,” says Hayes. What to expect? The Morua collection uses all sorts of dreamy materials like silk, antique French lace, and vintage beading; resulting pieces are hand-stitched in the grand tradition of haute couture. Production Mode, an all-leather, vegetable-tanned line, makes bags, jackets, totes, crop tops, and skirts, while sourcing its materials from Chicago's last tannery, Horween.
Both designers champion something called the slow fashion movement, which Hayes compares to the slow food movement, as “it champions local, ethical, and traditional methods of production.” Department of Curiosities' wares are not just made in the USA or even made in Chicago—they're hyper-local, literally made in the back of the shop.
The store's January 24th launch saw a few hundred people turn out. “Given the positive reception, we're planning series of events including pop-up shops/trunk shows with other local makers, expanding our hours, and designing a collaborative line under the Department of Curiosities name,” says Hayes. And for those who want to learn more about the slow fashion movement, the ladies are also developing classes centered around the idea of making clothing.
So, what about that name? It's inspired by Joseph Cornell boxes and Victorian cabinets of curiosities, according to Hayes, “but it also evokes the world of work, ministries, factories, bureaucracy. After all we are not collectors but creators,” she says, “so it’s important that our name reflect both object and process.”
Stop by Department of Curiosities at 3013 West Armitage Avenue.