Bushwood Tailors Opportunity Shop opens in Kilburn Mill

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

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

“I would like people to appreciate things that are artistic and creative and to think about what is waste and what is trash and what is garbage. Is everything really rubbish?”

Sousa-Baptista calls Opp Shop “experimental slow fashion,” because it’s one-of-a-kind expressive pieces made to last. The entire store features the works of several artists with different views and their interpretation of trendy 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 fabric stores.

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

Claudia DeSouza-Baptista, owner of the newly opened Bushwood Tailors Opportunity Shop in Kilburn Mill, 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 the age of 14, she learned to sew.

He studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology

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

From there, she worked as a seamstress in several large stores, learning about the industry and how it really worked so she could do the same thing herself. In 1996, Sousa-Baptista opened the clothing manufacturing company Cubika in Brooklyn, NY.

“It was an amazing experience, very difficult, but still great,” she said.

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

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

“I started switching it up like Prada and Gucci and I like all these really cool things,” Sousa-Baptista said.

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

Fall in love with New Bedford

In 2012, she and her husband, Danny Baptista, founded Bushwood Tailors, a tailoring agency featuring some of the best on-site tailoring talent in the New York 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 said, 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 a mother of two, Sousa-Baptista said she had no plans to open another store until she was inspired by fashion changing during the pandemic.

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

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

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