Back in Autumn we had the pleasure of hosting one of our EA Festival Chestnut Tour talks with renowned designer and eco-fashion pioneer, Anya Hindmarch, at The Crown. Anya shared some of the wisdom and insights from her first book, the Sunday Times best-seller, If In Doubt Wash Your Hair. Drawing on what she has learned during her busy, multi-hyphenate life (mother-designer-businesswoman), she told us of strategies for becoming an even-more sustainable business, balancing family-life with work-life and the pro's and cons of social media.
It was clear from the sizeable audience, of whom many came bearing Anya's bags, that her business model and general persona has resonated with a lot of women. The recognisable, playful designs are popular with many celebrities and royals including The Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Eugenie, Alexa Chung and Emma Watson, but not only are they iconic in appearance, the idea that they assist the every-day mother in 'getting organised' with many styles having an embossed leather label, so there is a place for everything, is undoubtedly one of her most influential emblems.
If, unfortunately, you were unable to hear her talk, we were lucky enough to catch up with Anya beforehand and gain some extra insight into her book, business and day-to-day life.
Yours is a sort of 'bags to riches story' being inspired by Italian design and then introducing some British humour and quirkiness into your take on bags. Can you tell us a little about that please?
I started the business in 1987 having been passionate about handbags, leather craftmanship and the mood-altering joy of fashion. I started learning from the Florentine craftsmen and started selling my designs in London and then the business started to grow abroad and it grew and grew until we had 65 stores in many cities around the world. I sold part of the business but regretted that and bought it back again in 2019 and I am much more focused on localisation rather than globalisation and have opened a little ‘village’ of stores near to my home with a café and creativity at it’s heart. It is fun. I love what I do and the team I work with and we are lucky enough to dream up all sorts of mad products and projects and make them happen.
We loved reading your book - If In Doubt Wash Your Hair - an interesting mix of sound advice, creative tips and humour. Was it fun to write and will there be other books?
Thank you so much! I have come to understand there is a process for me to go through once an idea has bubbled up and it was the same experience when writing the book. It goes something like I love it, I’m nervous, it’s hard, I’m not sure, it’s too hard, actually it’s ok, I like it, in fact I love it. It is always best to hang on for the journey if you can and this was a great project to put my mind to over lockdown.
I love it, I’m nervous, it’s hard, I’m not sure, it’s too hard, actually it’s ok, I like it, in fact I love it.
For a private person like me, putting so much of myself down on paper was hard but I felt it was the right thing to do. It is for all those women who have approached me and told me about their fears. I am so often asked what my best piece of advice would be for a busy woman, and I nearly always reply with, if in doubt, wash your hair. It is the answer that almost every woman seems to understand – at least, it usually elicits lots of knowing smiles. On the one hand it is flippant, even trivial but it literally sums up how much better I feel with freshly washed hair. That small window of time and space to yourself is so valuable. On the other hand, it is about putting yourself first and learning to live a doubt-free life.
Who is your most famous/most exciting client?
Honestly, it brings me so much joy to see people wearing and enjoying my designs to this day. They are intended to be beautiful, useful and share a little joy. People always ask me about Diana, the late Princess of Wales and I can say she was utterly charming. We always joked that the clutch bags we used to make for her were her ‘cleavage bags’ as she found them very useful to cover herself from the paparazzi.
You design plenty of incredible concept stores, such as Anya’s Café and Ice Cream Parlour, but if you were to design a pub, how would you put your unique stamp on it?
Well we did actually open a pub. It was called the ‘Bag & Bottle’ and it was in a famous old pub where the great train robbery was planned. We brought in an incredible chef for the best British classics like ‘ham egg and chips’ which is surprisingly delicious if the ingredients are exceptional. We had a darts champion and Richard E Grant was in charge of the pub quiz and Barbara Windsor was behind the bar and pulled the pints. I could go on…
we did actually open a pub. It was called the ‘Bag & Bottle’ and it was in a famous old pub where the great train robbery was planned.
And finally can you tell us about your ideal staycation… where you’d like to be, what you’d like to be doing.
I am always at my happiest at home, ideally at the kitchen table surrounded by friends and family – roast chicken, a good bottle of wine and those I am closet to. I never get to spend enough time there.
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To read more of our interview with Anya Hindmarch, take a look at our Winter edition of In A Nutshell when you're next at one of our pubs.
Some photographs used in this blog post were either sourced from @anyahindmarch Instagram or Vogue (https://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/anya-hindmarch-vogue-pub-quiz and https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/princess-diana-bags)