Resetting fast fashion trends one stitch at a time: In conversation with a Welsh artist

Ophelia Dos Santos discusses the role of making conscious lifestyle choices in the fight against climate change. 

Resetting fast fashion trends one stitch at a time: In conversation with a Welsh artist

Sitting in her grandfather's workshop, Ophelia Dos Santos faced an internal conflict that would either make or break her career in fashion. The last thing she wanted to do was be stuck in Cardiff without knowing what she would do with her life.

A climate justice activist and textile designer, Ophelia recalls her turmoil with a pair of half-sewn jeans on a murky brown carpentry table. "In Cardiff, it seemed like having a creative career would be impossible. Fashion is very London-centred," she says. "So that really made me feel like there was no hope for me here; there's nothing going on."

Faced with no choice, she was forced to look around the Welsh capital and try to make the most of it. By chance, she stumbled upon a group of creatives online, whom she now calls her closest friends. At that point, she realised she didn't have to leave Cardiff to create her legacy — she could do it from the place she called home. 

Ophelia conducts workshops where she teaches embroidery to help people learn simple stitches. She hopes this will result in them adopting environmentally-friendly measures that allow clothes to last for years. 

"People don't really see how fashion and the clothes we have on every day is connected to climate change," she says. "We don't really think about how it gets to us. We need to start thinking more deeply about where our clothes come from and where they are going."  

Coming from a rich legacy of Welsh creatives helped Ophelia discover her creative side without breaking away from her Welsh heritage. But she seeks to encourage people to think consciously about their clothes. 

"People think they can buy their way into a sustainable wardrobe, but sustainable fashion is about appreciating what you already have," says Ophelia. "But you can't have that overnight. It's a journey."  

While Welsh creatives like her are trying to make this difference, she believes Wales has a long way to go. "No one in the world is looking at Wales for sustainable fashion. But maybe that's where I can change things."

To inspire change, Ophelia believes that even the most minor step can make a significant impact. She says, "People will look at climate disasters and think of them as too overwhelming to be fixed. They think that being a climate activist means you have to tie yourself to trees. You don't have to do that. A small repair in a pair of jeans, that can be a form of activism in itself."

She believes climate activism is for everyone and about making small choices to live more consciously, like "turning that heater off" or "turning down the washing temperatures so your clothes do not deteriorate so quickly". 

Ophelia sits quietly in her workshop with a centuries-old sewing machine, teaching people how to cut up their old clothes and use them as rags or revamp that one crop top they have owned for years.

Cardiff remains her base for now, but does she regret it? "I don't like to regret things. I think it will all work out. I don't want anything to ever limit me. I want to continue doing what I am doing. Even if I can just impact one person to change their kind of lifestyle, I think I will be making a difference."  


Oojal Kour

Oojal Kour

Oojal is a multimedia journalist based in Cardiff. Having finished her masters in International Journalism from Cardiff University, she now covers local political stories for Voice Wales, and loves writing about topics related to health, art, culture, and LGBTQIA+ issues. She was also photographed for Iris Prize's Pink Portraits Revisited, celebrating under-25 LGBTQIA+ people behind the lens for LGBT History Month 2023.


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