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Pioneers of the Week: Gerry Quinton and Jamie Hayes from the Department of Curiosities

Community Manager

Pioneers of the Week: Gerry Quinton and Jamie Hayes from the Department of Curiosities

Old university friends and independent designers Jamie and Gerry, @DOC, created a unique fashion event space which in turn lead to a collaborative luxury designer lingerie brand. They share the benefits of working together, and embracing different approaches to work.


Introduce you and your business in one sentence.

Gerry and Jamie - Department of Curiosities.pngGerry & Jamie*Department of Curiosities is a slow fashion atelier. It’s home to Morúa - designed by Gerry, and Production Mode - designed by Jamie. Together we also produce a collection of luxury lingerie and nightwear made of Italian silks using exclusive prints under the name of Department of Curiosities.


Tell us two interesting facts about you.

  • Jamie is also an all-vinyl deejay who loves to dance. She’s also worked in the anti-sweatshop movement as a designer and organizer in Chicago, Mexico City, Lima, and Yunnan province in China.
  • Gerry was born in Costa Rica and has lived in Spain and England as well as Chicago. Her work is influenced by a sense of displacement and nostalgia that comes from leading a life split amongst continents. She draws on old world craftsmanship traditions of tailoring and corsetry.

How did you start your business?

We met at Columbia College in Chicago, where we were both studying fashion. We kept in touch over the years, and when Gerry moved back to Chicago from England, where she founded Morúa, it was the perfect time for us to find a joint studio.


The name "Department of Curiosities" (DOC) seemed fitting as we wanted the freedom to explore where the space would take us. We began hosting events, and it developed a life of its own. We’ve found it very freeing and easy to channel the DOC's identity, so soon enough we were talking about designing a specific DOC lingerie line.


What made you start your business?

We loved the process of collaborating on the design of our space and the salon style events we were hosting. We were drawn to the interwar period of the 1920s-40s as it was a time of great social change, especially in terms of gender and sexuality. Given that we wanted to develop a line of lingerie, those topics were especially rich for mining in combination with our love of high quality, ethically made design built to withstand the test of time.


What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

The creative freedom to create our own world both with our space and our collections. We also wanted to bring people into our story. The DOC is a studio, but it’s also a salon-like space where we hold events ranging from fragrance making workshops, to fashion lectures and musical performances. We’re artists and designers first and foremost, and love to bring like-minded people into the space to activate our minds and build community. 


What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

As creative entrepreneurs, there is a temptation to do everything ourselves: both to save money, but also because we have the creative urge to design and build our whole world! Even if we could do everything well (we can’t), there's only 24 hours in a day. Without time to relax and unplug, there's a risk of creative burnout. Quality over quantity are our watchwords in production and we try to follow that philosophy in our business development as well.


Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?

The DOC draws on our strengths and takes us to new exciting places. It's easy for us to agree on the aesthetics of the collection, as it has its own personality that we both understand. We also have a ton of respect for each other as artists and people. We’re very different but try our best to recognize and appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses. Gerry tends to work on detailed aspects of projects, and Jamie is more about the big-picture and planning. 


Where do you work from?

The DOC! It’s a workshop where we create our collections as well as a retail space, showroom, and salon for art events. It started as shared space for creativity, shared rent, mutual support ... but quickly it grew into something much greater. Drawing on our love for the 1920s-40s, we’ve established a kind of "industrial boudoir" aesthetic. It’s edgy, modern, feminine, and put together with love, a lot of DIY, and a shoestring budget.


What do you wish you knew when you first started in business?

There’s only so much research and prep work you can do. At the end of the day you have to take the plunge.  We’ve learned most of what we know from doing; experience is the best teacher.


What are your three top tips for your industry?

  1. Make mistakes on other’s people’s money: Work for someone else before trying to do your own thing. Be humble and willing to admit your mistakes and learn from them. There’s an infinite number of ways to make mistakes, so embrace it as part of the process.
  2. Value yourself and your point of view. “You” are your best asset as no one can be a better version of you!
  3. Know yourself: “You” are not only your best asset, “you” can also be your biggest obstacle! If you know there are aspects of your business that you don’t like or do well, outsource them. Also, understand the ways that your own insecurities or negativity can cause you to self-sabotage, and learn healthy ways to combat those tendencies.

Latest news?

Department of Curiosities.pngOur work was featured at the Interfiliere show in Paris in the Creativ’Lab. Our longline bra, high-waisted knickers, and dressing gownwere presented as examples of avant garde trends in lingerie. They feature our proprietary dark tropical print designed by renowned tattoo arts Esther Garcia.


What would you like to ask the Voom Pioneers community?

We’d like advice on how to grow our internet sales! Currently online sales are a small percentage of our total sales.


We tend to sell well at events where we’re present but there’s only so much time in a day and we’d love to focus more on the design portion of our work rather than sales.


*picture courtesy of Frank Magazine