Anya Hindmarch

We Chat To Anya Hindmarch


Fashion designer Anya Hindmarch talks to Holly Louise Eells about the bag that kick-started an eco revolution, her love for south west London, and her honest new book on life…

Featured image: Portrait of Anya by Marloes Haarmans

It seems there is nothing globally renowned businesswoman Anya Hindmarch can’t do and to be honest I don’t know where to begin in introducing her. She is an inspirational entrepreneur, environmental activist, a huge advocate of British design and art, a mother of five, a stepmum…

The sustainable-fashion pioneer was appointed Governor of the University of the Arts in 2010 and a Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador in 2011. She holds both an MBE, a CBE and is a Trustee of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. But why stop there? She has two honorary doctorates from the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex, which she remarks is a real privilege.

“The fact I don’t have a degree is a huge honour. To brag to my children, who are very bright and some have been to Oxford, I like to say my honorary doctorate is bigger than a degree!” she laughs.

Anya founded her luxurious brand as a teenager in 1987 and at 19 she opened her first shop in a small unit in Chelsea. She has evidently proven that with hard work, willpower and believing in yourself you can turn your dreams into reality. “When I was younger, my sister and I always used to say that you can do almost anything if you are determined enough.”

Fast forward several decades later and now in her early fifties, Anya is releasing If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair, an uplifting book that shows a vulnerable side to a woman who appears to be successfully juggling it all. “It aims to make women feel better about themselves, and also to be deeply practical, rooted in an understanding of how women’s lives really work – and how we can work towards leading our most doubt-free lives.”

“It is such an honest book and if it helps anyone it has been a good thing,” Anya explains. It shares what she has learned during her incredibly busy and eclectic life, along with practical tips, valuable advice and quick fixes as well as profound observations about confidence and creativity.

It states in If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair, “I never imagined I would write a book. I am by nature an intensely private person and there were so many reasons not to put my head above the parapet and commit to paper for all eternity the jumble of thoughts that passes between my ears.”

“But, having hit fifty, I suddenly felt that I had a lot to say. Not because I have always got it right but mostly because I haven’t. And now I realise this is actually okay too.” Whether it is family life, running a business, stress, or essential life topics we need to be talking about, it will be an inspiring manual you will go back to time and time again.

I am a plastic bag - Anya Hindmarch
Image: ‘I Am A Plastic Bag’ by Anya Hindmarch
Eco Awareness

Anya is famously passionate about climate change. In 2007, she launched the extremely successful, ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’ campaign, which raised awareness for the global plastic bag crisis by offering instead a canvas tote – on the day of launch, some 80,000 shoppers queued to get the £5 bag from Sainsbury’s, and it achieved iconic status.

“People were realising there was a problem with plastic bags, but I didn’t know quite what I could do,” says Anya. “It was a contribution to try and raise awareness on the misuse of single-use plastic. I feel lucky to be in fashion and to have a platform to talk about these things. It is a lovely privilege but at the same time a big responsibility.”

In the face of a worldwide environmental crisis and a decade or so after the launch of ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’, Anya’s new initiative, ‘I Am A Plastic Bag,’ seeks to make a small difference but a big change by re-using discarded plastic to create durable tote bags, handbags, purses and accessories. Each bag is made from an innovative new cotton canvas-feel fabric that’s created from recycled plastic bottles. The brand mission notes that there are eight billion tonnes of plastic on the planet and when you throw a piece away, there is no ‘away’.

“ I suddenly felt that I had a lot to say. Not because I have always got it right but mostly because I haven’t. And now I realise this is actually okay.”

The eponymous label that knows its voice is of value didn’t stop there. During London Fashion Week last year, it created eye-catching window displays in its stores with a vision of a sea, filled with 90,000 plastic bottles.

With 15 Anya Hindmarch stores  worldwide as well as a dedicated Anya Hindmarch Bespoke store in London, the brand will also be launching The Village, a completely new retail concept and the realisation of Anya’s long-held dream and still with the planet in mind.

Says Anya: “I wanted to return to my roots in Pont Street, the site of my first store, and embrace ‘localisation’ rather than ‘globalisation’ which has been the word that has dominated my whole career, but now no longer feels so modern. If retail is to exist in a post pandemic, digital world, there needs to be a reason to visit.”

The Village will be a collection of five neighbouring Anya Hindmarch stores located on Pont Street, just off Sloane Street, including The Anya Café, The Village Hall and The Plastic Store.

Local life

On the topic of localisation, Anya was born and bred in Essex but has lived and worked in south west London for many years. Living near Battersea Park, she counts herself very lucky. “The parks in London are so special,” she says. As a passionate early morning walker, she might start her day by visiting Pear Tree Café in Battersea Park.

She also loves Elizabeth Street, over in Belgravia, which has a hub of local shops and restaurants.

Anya has a beautiful head office on Wandsworth Road. She says: “If you take a map of London, put the dot in the middle, it is quite near to get to lots of different places. I feel very lucky to be in the middle of London and I enjoy it a lot.”

Anya Hindmarch – If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair (Bloomsbury Publishing) £18.99.