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Circa Vintage Stocks Original Madewell, Supplies Hollywood

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Chris Duval's spent most of his life rescuing vintage—and we're the ones reaping the benefits. His store Circa is hidden in New Bedford's beyond-huge Berkshire-Hathaway mill, home to a crazy collection spanning the decades, with treasures like original Madewell workwear (pre J.Crew rehabilitation), crazy novelty prints (we love the pink Pucci blouse dotted with Egyptian figures and shifty eyes,), and way more. Oh, and lest we forget the celeb clientele: Circa's gems have been seen on Leonardo DiCaprio, Zooey Deschanel in New Girl, Rumer and Scout Willis are regulars, and Tom Ford's director of design Peter Hawkins flew in for inspiration. Sold!—Heather C. White

Did you always want to own your own vintage store?
I really didn't ever think about owning a vintage store but the "seed" was planted one day in the mid-seventies in Provincetown. I happened into a store called "Uptown Strutter's Ball"—it was Bobby Garnett's first store—and it blew my mind.

Circa's location has moved around a bit. How did you choose New Bedford as your home base? How does that atmosphere of the Berkshire-Hathaway mill building affect the aesthetic of the store?
I was in Fairhaven for 18+ years, then due to a crazy rent increase moved to a space in New Bedford above a really successful antique co-op. I stayed there for three and a half years until that mill became a target for ugly big box development. I scoped out the mill I'm currently in and liked the fact that I would be in a building with a well known architectural salvage company. I felt the space would lend itself well to my product. Old mills are awesome!

What separates Circa from the swell of vintage stores all over the South Coast and Boston?
Probably the size of the collection and the square footage.

New Bedford has a history of workwear?what do you think of Madewell's transformation? Something distinctly New England and New Bedford—a workwear manufacturer from the 1930's being re-styled turned into a commercial success by J.Crew? I know you have some Madewell originals in the store.
My only feeling about the Madewell transformation is that I wish I had thought of it! Not to make Madewell into something different but to restart the brand as a workwear company. Get some of my fanatical vintage workwear friends together and keep it in New Bedford. It could have been so cool.

When you're stocking your coffers, and you're at an estate sale what do you look for? Anything in particular—or do you wait for something to jump out at you?
I look for early stuff mainly but anything that speaks to me. It sounds a bit corny, but I always just try to go with my instincts. It's what has worked for me so far.

Name your best finds of all time.
Well, there was this fur coat that had been made for Twiggy (a woman had seen Twiggy model it in a magazine, went to New York the very next day and commissioned it); a 1930s Chanel gown, a velvet Pucci blazer, Rayne Wedgewood heeled shoes, and then of course the couture items: Halston, Pucci, Christian Dior, Fendi, Chloe, and on and on.

My best finds would probably be more like top house-calls—places that seem almost magical in scope or content when you feel like you've stepped back in time or stumbled into a secret life and only you can appreciate this person who collected all of these incredible clothing and took such great care of it and now it's your responsibility to keep it alive.

You've collaborated with Hollywood a bit, right? Can you talk a little about your experience with celebrity shoppers and having Circa pieces on the big screen in productions like Moonrise Kingdom and New Girl?
It's fun to see something you dragged out of the depths of someone's dirty basement or attic in a film or on television! Tom Ford's guy Peter Hawkins came to the shop one day (he was vacationing on Nantucket—and flew to New Bedford) that was really interesting. The costume designer for New Girl comes in and buys dresses for the Jess character played by Zooey Deschanel and sometimes we discuss looks and ideas. When Shutter Island was filmed the costume designer bought and rented some specific items for Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley. Bruce Willis came in with his daughters Rumer and Scout while Moonrise Kingdom was filming and his daughters have been back a lot.

What are 5 tips to shop vintage and thrift like a pro?
Look at lots of stuff.
Keep an open mind and don't judge. Cool stuff turns up in the strangest places.
Buy things you like—go with your instincts.
Don't pay way too much unless you love love love it and it fits you perfectly.
Don't force it. If you're out thrifting and you see nothing interesting don't talk yourself into it.

· Circa Vintage Wear [Facebook]
· Selling Stuff 101: Unload (and Shop) Pre-Loved Goods [Racked Boston]
· Scouting Antiques at the World's Largest Outdoor Show [Racked Boston]