Meet Harriet and her one-woman sustainable fashion brand, Just Harry, in Alnwick. Just Harry focuses on the deconstruction and reconstruction of vintage denim with every garment created completely bespoke and totally unique.
After uni, Harriet made a jacket from recycled denim and started receiving compliments - people then commissioned her to make more! She started making the jackets in the living room of her shared house and realised it had business potential. After thinking seriously about where would be the best place to start from Harriet decided to move back home about four years ago and base her business in Northumberland.
Through studying for my degree at Leeds College of Art I discovered that I really enjoyed projects that involved taking things apart and creating something new - saving fabric rather than always looking for new materials, which is obviously far more sustainable. I discovered I was personally getting a greater sense of achievement designing creating in this way as there are more problems to overcome. This problem-solving meant that I was constantly thinking about how I could use materials creatively which ultimately made the garments I was creating more interesting
I grew up here as kid and I always had in my head that I wanted to stretch my wings and explore new things outside of Northumberland. I never thought I wanted to leave London until I came back and I realised how incredible the sense of community is up here. It was so refreshing, and I really felt lifted up by people. Word of mouth is the greatest marketing tool and that is so massive up here. People buy into you and the brand and what to support each other. I’m really aware of this which is why I focus on reaching out and showcasing my work on social media.
For this reason, I’m always looking for ways to champion other businesses which is why I set up fairs in Alnmouth following Covid. I thought they were a nice way for businesses to connect with the local community again without traveling too far. As well as this, I also run a shop in Alnmouth called Jane and Harry with my Mum, selling products from independent Northumbrian businesses and artists.
I ended up working for Oxfam waste savers during my degree and was overwhelmed by how many hundreds of thousands pieces of clothing got sent daily to the organisation. So much of this we then weren’t able to sell on because of the poor quality of the garments. So my motivation with Just Harry was to create a brand that reused items of clothing that were timeless.
Denim is durable and is always in fashion, and I hope that when people purchase from me they feel they are investing in something that’s timeless and that they will have in your wardrobe for years. Additionally, in terms of the process, a lot of my items are made to order which means I don’t have surplus stock sitting around as I’m constantly trying to minimise waste.
I source my jeans through a friend in Durham who is a vintage seller. She has a lot of denim she can’t sell on so I buy a lot of stock from her. I don’t use a specific brand, but I make sure to use 100% cotton with no stretch.
Depending on the jeans I’m working with, it can take up to 30 minutes to unpick one pair of jeans. One jacket is normally 6/7 pairs of jeans, so very quickly one jacket can take up to 25 hours to make.
I’m looking at refreshing my business model for Just Harry. In the future, I am going to do more mini-collections, like a corduroy collection I launched in Spring. This will involve I’ll be making as many fabrics as I can from certain materials, and then once it’s gone it’s gone. These collections will be more limited edition drops to go alongside my core denim collection which I’ll continue to sell on my website, with pops of newness in-between.
Denim is durable and is always in fashion, and I hope that when people purchase from me they feel they are investing in something that’s timeless and that they will have in your wardrobe for years.
Why should people Shop Local?
I think it’s really simple, Shop Local is what it says on the tin; it’s all about supporting local businesses. It’s that simple. It’s all about helping out your community and we are so great at doing that in Northumberland.