Fashion and sustainability in the North East

The fashion sector has long been scrutinised for its impact on climate change. Accounting for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity and nearly 20% of wastewater, the ease in which fast fashion is accessed and consumed is truly damaging; it’s well documented that fashion sucks up more energy than both the aviation and shipping sectors combined.

The frenzied trend cycle of fashion encourages extreme consumption from shoppers. Couple this with consistent sales and shopping apps at our fingertips and repeat purchasing is simply inevitable.

Moving through the ranks, however, are businesses looking to change the face of consumption for good. Through rentals, resales and sustainable production, a kinder fashion environment is being established, and the North East of England hosts a number of companies doing just that. Rest of the country, take notes.

Today we have taken a look at some of the fashion brands from the North East who are already making a difference to the planet and your pockets.


Hirestreet was founded by Newcastle-based entrepreneur Isabella West in 2018. A pioneering fashion rental firm, the company was launched to disrupt the fast fashion market and encourage women to rent clothes rather than buy them. 

The company aims to give everyone access to high end, global fashion – reducing the need to consume fast fashion and creating an economy which champions rewearing as opposed to the “wear once and chuck” mantra which has become synonymous with the industry. Starting with a few dresses only, the firm now stocks thousands of outfits and boasts more than one million site users, working with French Connection, Whistles, Lavish Alice and more. 

In the first month of 2022 alone, Hirestreet proudly announced it is launching Nobody’s Child’s first exclusive rental edit, its expansion into other clothing departments with its first ski rental edit with Decathlon and a maternity collection with Frugi Organic Children’s Clothing.

Hirestreet is living up to its ethos as it opens doors for fashion lovers to experience premium quality without negatively impacting the climate. The company is continuing to innovate in the space, supporting established brands to meet their sustainability goals too.

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Zoa Rental 

As renting goes mainstream, with two-thirds of Brits intending to use clothing rental companies, in April 2021, Hirestreet launched the UK’s first white label rental-as-a-service platform which eliminates barriers to enable retailers and fashion brands to adopt a truly circular model. The platform allows retailers to do everything they need to launch a rental service, including the warehousing, cleaning and reporting to rent out their stock under their own brand. 

By November 2021, Zoa announced it was launching Marks and Spencer’s first clothing rental service – a significant move for a company merely seven months old. Recognised by Tech Nation as a Rising Star at the end of 2021 and Startup 100 as a disruptive and innovative UK business, the platform is creating opportunities for retail businesses to reach the next step in their sustainability journeys.

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Ruma Lifestyle

With sustainability at its core, Ruma Lifestyle is a clothing and homeware brand selling pieces that are strictly sustainably made, shining a light on the family manufacturers – not fast fashion providers – who make the products. 

With a belief that sustainability is integral for three parties (the crafter, the consumer and the future), Ruma’s ethos truly aims to reduce the impact and fascination of fast fashion. As mass manufacturing became standard, small family manufacturers lost out and Ruma is working hard to reverse this. 

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The Handbag Clinic

With fashion sustainability such a key factor to purchasing decisions for consumers, the resale market has experienced unprecedented growth of late. The pre-owned handbag market has always required extensive knowledge and patience and is the epitome of circular fashion. 

The Handbag Clinic’s CEO, Charlotte Staerck, drew inspiration from local restoration service, The Furniture Clinic to make her hobby into a career back in 2015. Through restoration and repairing and reselling pre-loved handbags, The Handbag Clinic is fostering a circular economy in the luxury space, right from its HQ in the North East.

In September 2021, the business received a significant £800,000 investment which will be used to create new jobs and strengthen its senior management team; a sign of significant things to come for the North East business.

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