Excess, glamour and free love. Welcome to the CIRCUS! The online shop, based in Spain, channels the haze of Haight Ashbury, the good vibrations of sunny California, and the freewheelin’ decadence of The GTO’s. Girls want to be them – and judging by the reaction to their catalogue pictures -– men want to be with them. YVONNE McKEOWN went to find out what is setting hearts all in a flutter...
Shindig!: Firstly, can Shindig! say you ladies have got some serious style… Were you all friends before starting your shop?
Mery: Firstly, thank you for
the compliment! Yes, we were friends before we launched Circus – we’ve known each other since we were teenagers and have shared many experiences over the years. We’re great friends as well as business partners.
SD: Who are the ringleaders of the Circus Shop?
M: The ringmasters behind Circus are Mery and Sol. We’re a pair of reformed city rats. We were both living and working in Madrid, and just grew sick of city life. Sol is an artist, really skilled at painting and expressing herself through hand-drawn visuals and photography. I (Mery) have always had a knack for aesthetic surround, like interiors, and how different textures, prints and items work together. Independently, we headed to southeast Spain, to the Mediterranean coast. We picked up where we left off in our new rural lives. These days, we only live down the road from one another.
SD: Your shop has a distinct early ‘70s West Coast bohemian influence, with lots of bold floral and paisley prints and floaty materials. Do you fancy yourself as a bit of a freewheelin’ flower child? What are your loves about ‘60s/70s?
M: We live our lives according to the gospel of freewheelin’ and flowers. It’s funny, in our collection we have suede waistcoats, which is a difficult word to say in Spanish – we always say "west coasts" by accident... West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, you know… Our roots are totally in that sort of bohemian San Fran / Swinging London epoch. It was such a creative, explosive time in history. I (Sol) spent some time in California and Mery lived in London for a while. More than anything it’s the music, the abundant creativity and the vivid aesthetic of that time that we love because it feeds all the senses. All of the designs in our latest collection are named after some of our favourite records – De Ja Vu, Harvest, Hunky Dory, Pearl, Ooh La La…
SD: What do you love the most about these materials and patterns? Why are they so feminine and timeless?
M: We look for the magic and really enjoy the creative process of designing – from discussing our initial ideas to trying out prototypes, modifying and then choosing delicious prints and fabrics. Our latest collection has a lot of chiffon, which is beautifully feminine. Our accessories are versatile, so you can wear a big length of bronze around your neck coupled with one of our waistcoats with a modern style of jeans and look both on trend or retrospective. We keep our designs quite simple, nothing over-complicated, which is perhaps why they’re quite timeless.
SD: You make all the clothes yourself… That’s an awful lot of sewing! Is it hard work having your own boutique?
M: We don’t sew all the clothes ourselves. We design them and choose the fabrics. Every year, we go to India, to a small town in Rajasthan. Here, we work with a select group of tailors who we’ve known and worked with for the last seven years. They’re like family to us now! They help us modify our designs if they need it and make suggestions as to how the cuts will work better or… They have a lot of input into our work, and not just practically speaking. Just being in India and around our friends there gets the creative juices flowing, the magic, the ambience, and it’s this we take a lot of inspiration from. It’s like cooking: the recipe doesn’t just depend on the main ingredients, it’s the subtle or the surprise flavours that make it taste good! Of course, you have to work hard to make anything work, but you can enjoy it at the same time. For us, this is the creative process, from start – the whole inception of each new collection – to finish, when you pack up for the day after a day’s work behind the counter.
SD: Finding original ‘60s treasures can be like finding a needle in a haystack for women (and men). Circus is accessible and affordable. Were these your reasons for starting Circus?
M: Yes and no. The "no" is that about 10 years ago, we were driving to Morocco, which at the time was where we collected and bought up exotic pieces to sell back in Spain. We ran our own businesses then but got talking in the van on the way there about how we should do something together and, given that we both had a similar love and style of clothes, decided it was time we joined forces. Mainly, it was a way to fully express our creativity combined with our love of wearable aesthetic.
The "yes" is that here in Spain, you can still pick up amazing items of vintage or unique clothing in the weekly markets for a couple of Euros. Very often, people will ask where we got this waistcoat or that blouse or those jeans. Although they’re not necessarily expensive, they are one-offs. Our friends, and sometimes complete strangers, would covet certain items so much, we recognised that we should make designs that reflect that sort of vintage in Circus. And we do.
SD: You also make jewellery, which channels Egyptian, Aztec and tribal styles – how do you create your designs?
M: Our jewellery is primarily bronze and ceramic. All of it echoes original Indian Naga tribe designs. We’re responsible for the designs as you see them although, yes, the Naga is a big influence, as is all our time in India and other places. We were so drawn to the Naga that we sometimes joke we have past lives there. Just like Sol was told by one Indian guru that she was an Egyptian sphinx in a previous life. So, Egyptian too? Maybe…
SD: If you had to describe Circus in three words, what would they be?
M: Rock, Love & Roll.
You can find the girls and their fine wares on Facebook.