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Photograph: Elizabeth JochumMaria Pinto

Fall Preview | Maria Pinto

The local designer handpicks pieces from the Field Museum’s massive archives and pairs them with her clothes.


After shuttering her namesake shop in the West Loop in 2010 and leaving her gig as creative director for local chain Mark Shale last fall, local designer Maria Pinto assumes a new role: temporary museum curator. She’s teamed up with the Field Museum to create “Fashion and the Field Museum Collection: Maria Pinto,” where she handpicked fashion pieces from the museum’s massive archives and paired them with her own designs.

How did this collaboration come about?
About two years ago, I did a presentation at the museum for the women’s board, and it was a success. They contacted me late last year with the idea of doing an exhibition. There are 30-something pieces in the exhibit, and they are paralleled with pieces from my archives.

It’s nice that it’s a mix of the two.
It’s really cool. It’s so interesting how the pieces partner. There’s this raincoat made out of seal intestine. The banding and technique looks like it uses the same kind of techniques on a dress from my 2010 collection, so they’re next to each other. They let me choose anything. And it was so hard. Have you ever been behind the scenes there? It’s insane.

Do you have any new pieces in the show?
It’s mostly from the past, which I’m really excited about. One of the pieces is a vest that’s still so valid, and it was from my very first collection in ’91. But [the Field Museum] commissioned me to create an ensemble. It was originally inspired by [a] Chinese headpiece but, really, the whole exhibit informs this ensemble. It includes these amazing leather pants and a really cool jacket.

What were you surprised to find when going through the Field’s collection?
Fur shorts. Eskimo women wore fur short shorts. They are so cool! You would die!

That sounds like something from a movie about Eskimos.
I know. It looks like something that’s not even real and Hollywood took over and put these Eskimo women in short shorts. I was shocked, and they are amazing.

“Fashion and the Field Museum Collection: Maria Pinto” runs September 14–June 16 at the Field Museum. $15–$29.

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