‘Can you paint my face on the back of a denim jacket?’ Claire Neil shares her motivation behind dressing sustainably and looking unique

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By Kirstyn Evans, Second Year English

The Croft Magazine // Meet the artist who will transform your wardrobe staples into beautifully stylish pieces which will last forever

It’s quarter to one in the afternoon and I’m sitting in the Society Café, by myself, trying to not overhear the conversation between the two women sitting next to me (Sarah, if you’re reading this, dump him). I said to Claire that we would meet at one o’clock which by my time is naturally half twelve; I don’t get anything to eat or drink either, so I’m – quite literally – the picture of social awkwardness.

When Claire arrives she seems hurried, like most of the customers at this busy lunch time, but nonetheless chirpy. We exchange pleasantries and I start stalking her Instagram for the pieces that I love. Being from the heart of South Wales, the type of artwork Claire does is new territory for me.

I’ve never seen artwork on clothing before, so I wonder whether it was an easy transition from canvas to clothes. ‘I was a bit nervous at first – the first thing I ever painted was something really old that I’ve had for years, but it was actually a lot easier than I thought. People are always surprised - it is obviously different, it is a very different material to paint on – but so far so good!’ There’s no need to worry about Claire’s artwork disappearing either; all items are machine washable and completely water safe.

"People are always surprised - it is obviously different, it is a very different material to paint on – but so far so good!"

Checking out Clair's socials, you will notice a few pieces that she paints more often than others. More specifically The Creation of Adam – is this a favourite piece? ‘Yeah I think so! I did it on a pair of jeans first, and they were quite popular. I think it changes over time. Some things I paint and say, “it’s the best thing I’ve ever done” and then the next week I won’t like it anymore. I quite like The Lovers jacket that I’m wearing now.’ But does the artist source her own canvas? ‘It varies – usually with jeans and stuff it’s so much easier if someone sends them to me. With jackets I quite like to get them second-hand, which is easy because most jackets are one-size-fits-all.’

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I assume that sustainability then, must be a goal. ‘Definitely', Clair tells me, 'When I found out about how bad fast fashion is for the environment, I was surprised but being in Bristol there are so many second-hand stores.’ She’s right – Park Street alone houses a handful of vintage and second-hand shops specifically for clothes and that is without counting charity shops like Oxfam. Does that mean Bristol students can do more to clothe sustainably? ‘Well, before I knew anything about sustainable clothing, I was always buying new clothes. I’d avoid places like Primark because you hear so many bad things, but I would be in Urban Outfitters every few weeks getting something new.'

'I think it is good in Bristol that we have so many second-hand stores and I do know a lot of people who have recently taken on the fast fashion boycott. I think it’s getting better, but I don’t know if I’m just in a circle of people who like buying second-hand.’ I agree – it is getting better, but we can all do more in terms of buying more clothes second-hand. Not every event needs a brand new outfit! Perhaps you could give a fresh lease of life to your old jeans with one of Clair's awsome designs, a look which is set to turn heads.

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Featured: Claires_artwork_ / Claire Neil


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