When the Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry posted on her wellness company website a photo of herself and her stylist Lindsay Flores wearing matching camo jackets designed and hand-painted by the independent label Curic&Curic, the news sent the fans, buyers, and curators frantically searching what the brand is all about.
This is what they were to find – Curic&Curic was started in 2017 by two identical twin sisters Ivana and Marija Curic. They grew up in Croatia and now live in Hoboken. And their products are handmade from recycled fabric, and beautifully painted one-of-a-kind designs. Read on to discover their story.
This is not the first time Curic&Curic gained national acclaim. Last year, its “Blue Dahlia” won the much-followed Independent Handbag Designer Award. The infinity-braided, 3-D structured bag is completely handmade from repurposed old jeans.
Ivana and Marija adopt this “eco-friendly” approach partly out of their concern about the vast amount of waste generated by the fashion industry, and partly from their love for vintage aesthetics. “I’m obsessed about vintage.” Marija, the designer and “more artsy” of the duo, told Hoboken Girl.
Their homes are filled with vintage items that Marija has collected and repurposed over the years. Such aesthetics is also reflected in Curic&Curic designs – on its denim jackets, the label’s trademark collection, the patterns look spontaneous but controlled, the colors explosive but harmonious, and tone-worn but tasteful. Asymmetric, sure, but also dynamic and vibrant.
Marija undertakes production with painstaking attention. The cuts and patterns can be customized to incorporate buyers’ ideas. For the making of the clothes, she mixes the color herself with “enduring, non-toxic” acrylic material and hand paints it on the denim.
The Process of Painting Each Item
Applying paint to denim is both science and art. The paint needs to feel soft and smooth when new, and cannot wash off even after years of wearing, washing, and ironing. To master the process, the sisters have made frequent trips to Croatia to learn from chemists in the textile factories there. “We want to use all the knowledge they have there. [Marija] really went for a hunt,” Ivana said of her sister. Aside from that, they have kept in close touch with other fashion studios in New York to stay informed of their practices with different fabrics. “I like making it personal,” Marija said she has learned a lot from visiting different workshops and seeing them in action.
Ivana and Marija wash the denim themselves to conserve energy and save costs. “When you’re a start-up business, you do a lot of things yourself.” They would joke lightheartedly about the DIYs and improvisations involved in daily logistics. Families and friends are mobilized as chauffeurs, porters, and models. “Once at a fashion event near Chelsea, we literally rolled the rack down the street ourselves to transport the clothes we were going to wear,” Ivana said.
Chasing A Dream
Although Marija had been enthusiastic about art and design since childhood, a career in fashion was at first out of the question. Back then, in the small Croatian city where they grew up, fashion was not seen as a prestigious profession that promised lucrative income or high social status. “My dad was confused. “What? You want to be a tailor?” Marija recalled. Thus the sisters duly followed the path their parents had planned for them – getting good grades and going to law school, to become a lawyer in their hometown.
Even when they landed in America fifteen years ago for a one-year study-abroad program, fashion, or living in America long-term, was not on their minds. Ivana, the “more business-minded” of the two, stuck with law. Marija, who never gave up her dream in art and design, gradually eased into the fashion circle, first enrolling in Parsons School of Design, later interning at independent labels, through which she got hands-on experience working with various kinds of fabrics.
But it wasn’t all glitz and glamour. “It was definitely not that one day you were walking on Fifth Avenue, and then, boom!” Marija said. Making a living in a new country takes extra grit and resilience. “Back at home, it felt like everything had been handed down to us. But here, I really wanted to see what we can achieve without anyone knowing anything about us.” Ivana remembered the frenetic early years juggling between school, side gigs, and unpaid internships while navigating through America’s byzantine immigration system.
Eventually, Ivana settled down with a career in law, and Marija’s design gradually gained traction, including enthusiastic receptions at one year’s New York Denim Day Festival and a leather skirt that was by Miss America.
So it was all the more impressive when the two sisters took the leap of faith three years ago and devoted themselves full-time to Curic&Curic.
“When you are in your twenties, you’re fearless. But it’s hard to start all over again when you already have established something.” Ivana said. But having a lawyer’s mindset has also helped her navigate through the financial, legal, and operational complexities of running a small business.
The Future Of The Brand
Still, challenges abound. Part of it is to “get [their] names out” in the already-crowded eco-friendly fashion space. Part of it is to balance the budget and deadline with the artist’s drive to make every detail right. “I’m always telling Marija we can’t send things out only when they are perfect,” Ivana said. But they are learning while doing it.
In October, the blogger and influencer Lola Gracia texted the sisters if they could come up with a design for her children for Halloween, which was only a week away. Ivana recalled the adrenaline-filled few days, in which they nailed down the design, made the clothes, and shipped it off in five days – a process that used to take twice as long.
The sisters have embraced the constant changes, learnings, and adjustments in the early years of their label, and they always have ideas for the future. Marija has plans to experiment with handbag design with a wider variety of fabrics, and Ivana wants to explore how to streamline the economics of the process, from sourcing to sales, to make Curic&Curic more cost-friendly. But they have already made an impact. “When we go back to our hometown, we now see young girls inspired by our story to work in fashion and design,” they say. “Even our dad turned around. ‘You know what, you can be a designer.’”
A Q&A with Ivana and Marija
HG: What is your typical day like?
In the morning we have English breakfast tea with milk from our Croatia mugs and check our calendar to see what is next to do. We check on trends and style trends as well.
Ivana answers emails with all inquiries or requests and Marija starts with preparation for painting which requires going over sketches, color prep, etc.
HG: What are some highlights in running Curic&Curic?
Highlight for us is being together every day! But other than twins everyday love to work together, this year has been somehow great! Highlight would be winning the Independent Handbag Competition as Bella Mag fan favorite.
HG: For young entrepreneurs or artists who want to follow your path, any suggestions?
Do not give up on your dream. At least try before giving up. Believe in yourself and your product.
HG: What are some charity initiatives you have been engaged in?
We supported two causes to help people get enough money to get proper medical care. We sold hand-painted T-shirts for each cause and 100% of the proceeds went to families. The information is on our website. We hope to support more in the future.
HG: What do you usually do on a weekend?
We love going away when we can. Our go-to spot is Woodstock, NY. That little town is our spirit town. It inspires us every time we are up there. We love Woodstock’s little shops and the people are so friendly!
HG: Any local boutiques or shops you visit often?
We love Mint Market! That is our favorite place.
HG: Any local restaurants you like?
Before the pandemic, we would go to Stingray. But we love to cook so if we go out in Hoboken we love cozy coffee places like German Bakery where you can sit and chill. The owner is so nice and that place feels like home.