A new fashion boutique has opened its doors in Sunderland, bringing a touch of South Asian splendour to Sunniside.

Alessa’s Boutique, at 14 Norfolk Street, officially opened its doors on 19 December, providing a friendly environment for women to drink tea, socialise and try on new clothes.

Set up by social entrepreneur Poppy Green, the store boasts an array of pre-used, luxury Western infused South Asian clothing and accessories, at a fraction of the usual retail price.

By exclusively stocking brands that have sustainability at their core, the store also aims to provide an eco-friendly alternative to the ‘fast fashion’ brands that are responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions.

Poppy said: “All of our clothes and accessories are a fusion between South Asian and Western cultures, making it accessible to women from all backgrounds.

“We have an incredibly rich culture here in Sunderland, with people from lots of different backgrounds, and our aim is to provide residents with a greater understanding of what different clothing means to different people, while making luxury clothing more accessible to everybody.

“All of our products are also sustainable and pre-owned, meaning we are helping our customers play a part in fighting climate change by tackling fast fashion and providing a more sustainable alternative to traditional brands.

“As the climate crisis worsens, there are an ever-increasing number of consumers who want to lead a more sustainable life and do their bit, but if there aren’t any businesses out there providing products for them, then their hands are tied.

“That’s where we hope to provide an alternative solution and we’ve been delighted by the reception we’ve received so far.”

Poppy, who moved to Sunderland over 25 years ago aged 20, initially started trading 12 months ago from a mobile pop-up store until increasing demand for her products required her to find a permanent address.

After viewing multiple units across the city, she received a tour of 14 Norfolk Street in the Sunniside Quarter of Sunderland city centre and stumbled upon the ‘perfect space for the business.’

“The pop-up store was great for taking our products on the road and meeting new people, however, as demand began to grow, we were soon running low on space to store our products and really wanted somewhere we could call home,” she said.

“By moving into our own store, we’ll not only have more space, but we’ll also be able to provide a comfortable space for women to try on their clothes and we will have an area where people can simply pop in for a chat over a cup of tea or coffee. It’s perfect for what we’re trying to create.”

As well as providing a space for women to socialise and shop, Allessa’s Boutique will also provide a home to Women’s Community Boutique CiC, a social enterprise Poppy founded which uses fashion as a catalyst to promote body positivity and confidence.

“Having Women’s Community Boutique delivering its services in-store will also really add to the social element,” Poppy added.

“As a social enterprise, it provides a whole host of health and wellbeing activities for women such as swimming, walking, dancing, cooking and social activities, so by being based out of the store it will really bring all of this together under one roof and will be a real unique concept for Sunderland.”

Poppy received support from the Business Investment Team at Sunderland City Council prior to setting up the store, in the form of signposting her to suitable premises and support.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “What Poppy has achieved with Alessa’s Boutique over such a short space of time is fantastic.

“Not only is she helping enhance our city centre retail offer, but she is also providing a space where people from different backgrounds and cultures can get together and socialise, which will really enhance our cultural offering.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have supported her on her journey and would like to wish her all the best for the future.”

For more information on Sunderland as a city to do business, visit: https://www.mysunderland.co.uk/business-and-investment