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Meet The Northumbrian Designer Who Transforms Old Denim Into Sustainable Fashion

Meet The Northumbrian Designer Who Transforms Old Denim Into Sustainable Fashion
March 2024
Reading time 5 Minutes

You can be forever in blue jeans with these innovative designs

Meet Harriett McHugh, owner of Just Harry, the Northumbrian fashion brand that takes unwanted denim and breathes new life into it, all in the name of sustainable clothing.

It all started with a jacket. While spending time in London following the end of her studies, Harriett made herself a patchwork denim jacket out of old denim jeans that she began to wear out and about. ‘I started wearing it to events, work and things like that – and people really liked it,’ she says. ‘I got a few commissions from it and then it was my housemate who asked if I’d considered ASOS Marketplace. I hadn’t, so I looked into it and the stipulations. I had to have a certain number of products to be able to showcase and have my own online shop. I think the minimum at the time was 15 so it spurred me on to design and make some bags and hats, and then I started doing markets as well.’

With the blossoming success of Just Harry, Harriett had an important decision to make about the future of her slow fashion brand. ‘It came to the point where it was either stay down in London, work full-time and try to do this on the side, or move back home where life is a little bit more affordable,’ she explains. ‘So I ended up moving back here and creating a home studio in my house.’ The brand is now based in the North East, with Harriett calling the picturesque village of Alnmouth home.

Zoe Martin
Jack Herron

Striking and bold, the pre-loved nature of Just Harry’s designs was no accident. ‘When I was at university I did a placement with Oxfam Wastesaver in Leeds and I didn’t realise how much trash and waste there was until I worked there,’ she says. ‘There were hundreds of tonnes coming in per week of what everyone else would call trash because it wasn’t wanted anymore, whereas I would call it pre-loved. So all of this pre-loved clothing was coming in and we had to sift through it. It was just a really big eye-opener to see how many items of clothing were actually able to be resold and how many items weren’t because of the quality.

‘So for me sustainability isn’t just about saving things from landfill, it’s about creating garments that will last a lifetime rather than two or three washes.’

Her approach to curating the collection has to be flexible due to the unusual nature and sourcing of the material. ‘A lot of the pieces are totally unique because of the way in which I make the fabrics. It’s always denim that I use and occasionally I bring in other fabrics as well that are pre-loved depending on what I stumble upon,’ she explains. ‘I do bespoke pieces now and again if people request. I had somebody come to me who was a family friend and she’d had a friend who’d passed away. She had all of her old jeans and she wanted me to make a jacket out of them.’

‘Sustainability isn’t just about saving things from
landfill, it’s about creating garments that will last a lifetime’

Harriett is particularly grateful for the local community’s help in the success of Just Harry. ‘I think it’s been received really well,’ she says. ‘I think perhaps my designs are more London-based I would say, a little bit more quirky and a few more people would wear them down south. But I think working up here and being up here, the community is just amazing, and it’s helped rocket my business because it’s all word-of-mouth and you don’t necessarily get that in London.’ Her passion for the local area is obvious, and features heavily in the photoshoots for the pieces including the beaches at Alnmouth and South Shields, and Charlton Hall. ‘I’m out every day on the beach and in the countryside whenever I can because I’ve got a dog as well,’ she says. ‘It’s where a lot of my ideas come to me because it’s my time to think. I tend to go for a walk, have a think, write some ideas down and then come back to the studio and try and see if I can piece them together.’

For Just Harry, 2024 is shaping up to be a promising year filled with opportunity. ‘I do have another business called Jane & Harry in Alnmouth which is a lifestyle and gift shop and it’s actually my only in-store platform for Just Harry. We’re actually moving onto the main street in Alnmouth. So that’s a huge move,’ she says. ‘Also, I’ve got some things in the pipeline with ASOS Marketplace and I’m hoping they’re going to come to fruition once I fill out all of the paperwork, so there’s some exciting things coming from there as well.’

Quick-Fire Questions

What’s one thing you can’t do without?
The beach and the water. I go sea-swimming all of the time, and paddle boarding. I couldn’t do without the sea.

Your favourite hidden gem?
I have a slight obsession with The Running Fox. I usually get lunch, a cake – and a cake to take out as well!

Any advice for your younger self?
Don’t wait until something is perfect because you are your own worst critic. The sooner you get a product out there, the sooner you can develop it and the sooner people can see it. People love to see a brand being built – it doesn’t have to be perfection straight off the bat.

To browse the collection, visit

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