Friday, January 13, 2023

Bushwood Tailors Opportunity Shop opens in Kilburn Mill

NEW BEDFORD — A longtime New York tailor who has worked with brands such as Gucci, Marc by Marc Jacobs and The Children’s Place is now sharing her upcycling and fashion expertise inside the Kilburn Mill.

“I want people to appreciate handmade things; things made by local people, rethink the way that they shop, maybe just slightly,” said Claudia De Sousa-Baptista, owner of Bushwood Tailors Opportunity Shop (also known as the Opp Shop).

“I’d like people to appreciate things that are artistic and creative and to rethink what is waste and what’s garbage and what’s trash. Is everything really trash?”

Sousa-Baptista calls the Opp Shop “experimental slow fashion,” because it’s one-of-a-kind expressive pieces built to last. The entire store features several artist’s work with differing views and their interpretation on trending fashion.

The daughter of immigrants from the Azores, Sousa-Baptista was born and raised in Boston before moving to Taunton. She became obsessed with fashion at a young age when her aunt would take her and her siblings to the fabric store.

“I was the only one walking around and touching everything. While all the other kids were waiting by the door,” she said.

Claudia DeSouza-Baptista, owner of the newly opened Bushwood Tailors Opportunity Shop at the Kilburn Mill in New Bedford.

Sousa-Baptista said she was always interested in what she was wearing and followed all the “What’s In; What’s Out” trends. At 14, she learned to sew.

Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology

After graduating Taunton High School, Sousa-Baptista attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.

From there, she worked as a tailor in a few big box stores learning about the industry and how it truly functioned so she could do the same thing on her own. In 1996, Sousa-Baptista opened the clothing company Cubika in Brooklyn, NY. 

“It was an amazing experience, very difficult, but awesome nonetheless,” she said.

After 9/11, Sousa-Baptista said she started to feel burnt out. She closed her shop and instead worked as a freelance tailor. A friend, who worked as a set designer, introduced her to the world of custom alterations for photo shoots, commercials, fashion shows and events.

Clothing is just one of many items for sale at the newly opened Bushwood Tailors Opportunity Shop at the Kilburn Mill in New Bedford.

“I started altering her like Prada and Gucci and like all this really great stuff,” Sousa-Baptista said.

She worked on ad campaigns with companies such as Marc by Marc Jacobs, The Children’s Place, Macy’s, J.Crew, L.L. Bean and Club Monaco.

Falling in love with New Bedford

In 2012, she and her husband, Danny Baptista, created the tailoring agency Bushwood Tailors featuring some of the best talent in on-site tailoring in the New York City and Los Angeles area. The agency’s clients include Alexander Wang, Ann Taylor, Coach, Isaac Mizrahi, Kate Spade, Old Navy, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and Vogue.

In 2017, her parents moved to New Bedford. While visiting the area, Sousa-Baptista said she fell in love with the city.

“For the first time in 24 years, I was like, Oh my God, I don’t want to go back,” she said.

Claudia De Sousa-Baptista, left, poses with her two children.

While managing Bushwood Tailors and being the mother of two children, Sousa-Baptista said she didn’t have plans to open another shop until she was inspired by upcycling fashion during the pandemic.

“I was ready to do something creative again,” she said. “I started to see on social media, all this interest in crafting, and upcycling, and I care deeply about the environment.”

Sousa-Baptista said that also during the pandemic, many companies in the fashion industry were finally exposed for their terrible practices such as sewing sweatshops and how the supply chain was completely opaque.

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