Department of Curiosities is a slow fashion atelier and home to Morúa (designed by Gerry Quinton) and Production Mode (designed by Jamie Hayes). Together we produce an eponymous collection of luxury lingerie and nightwear, made of Italian silks. Items are made in-house to ensure the highest quality and ethical manufacture. In the storefront space, work tables, tools, and patterns are in plain view. The focus is not only on creating beautiful pieces, but on making the design and sewing process transparent. In a world where cheap disposable goods reign, we invite our customers to remember that  there is a human behind every stitch and to be part of the process of making.

Our first collection was inspired by the luminous women of the 1920s-1940s. We drew on the roaring 20s, the Dada and Surrealist art movements,and  the rise of the working woman for inspiration. The beauty ideals of this time were strong, complicated women like Marlene Dietrich, Arletty, Kiki de Montparnasse, and Josephine Baker — women who owned their sensuality in a mature, sophisticated way. In contrast, so much of today’s fashion and pop culture idealizes adolescent sexuality. Not only do we find that exploitative, we also find it boring. The interior lives of adult women are much more interesting.

Building on these influences, we commissioned renowned tattoo artist Esther Garcia to design an exclusive print for the line. We found a mill in the Lake Como region of Italy, which offered the perfect range of off-colors — pale, desaturated hues and faded metallics evocative of the early 20th century. Esther grounded these colors with a black background — the result is a dreamy, tropical print influenced by the rain forest flora of Costa Rica, where Garcia traveled to illustrate the botanicals in the print, and where Quinton was born and raised.

We chose to shoot the collection in London because Department of Curiosities is rooted in an old world sensibility which needed to be expressed through the photography. A dilapidated, 18th century Huguenot merchant’s house, nestled in the streets behind Christ Church Spitalfields, made perfect sense as a location.

Hayes and Quinton met while studying fashion at Columbia College. After graduation, Quinton worked in London and established her brand of corsetry, Morúa. Hayes designed for a handbag company in Chicago, and worked in Peru and China as a designer/activist in the ethical fashion movement before starting her brand, Production Mode. The designers reconnected in 2014 when Quinton moved back to Chicago, and found shared studio space. The partnership has subsequently expanded to include the Department of Curiosities concept store, which also hosts exhibitions, pop-up dinners, lectures, and workshops.

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