Interview: Anya Hindmarch on her new book and iconic tote bags

We’re constantly on the lookout for new sustainable lifestyle brands and products all over the world. When Anya Hindmarch, an award-winning British fashion designer and entrepreneur, opened not just one but five stylish boutique stores in upscale London, published her first book and launched a new edition to her iconic eco tote bag collection – all at the same time – we knew we wanted to interview her about it!

Don’t forget that we’re running a giveaway where you can win one of two copies of Anya’s book If in Doubt, Wash Your Hair. Head to our IG (@8shadesofficial) to get the details on how to enter!

We got the chance to review Anya’s book – check out what we thought about it!

1.You reinvented the retail space in London with the recent launch of The Village – a new retail hotspot that features five very unique stores. How did this concept come about?

The idea of The Village was a 2-year-long dream. 

We all know the retail world is changing and the idea of 60 cookie-cutter stores all over the world being the same no long felt very modern to me. The backdrop of my career at that point has always been about globalisation, but I think the next 10 years need to be about localisation – it’s not about jumping on a plane anymore; it’s more about looking after each other and looking after our community.

In a digital world, what’s the point of visiting a store? I really wanted to reinvent that, so I actively reduced the number of stores we had worldwide pre-COVID so we could really focus on The Village and made sure each store has proper touch points that truly engage with our customers and our community, and offer something different from the online experience. 

2. Could you tell us a little bit more about the five brands you have and how you landed on this collection?

We have The Labelled Shop which is all about the art of organisation. We have The Bespoke Store, which is about personalisation and longevity of beautiful items made to be handed down through the generations. We have The Plastic Store which is committed to our passion for the circularity of materials. We have The Village Hall, which is an ever-changing space that is open as the hair salon called Shampoo & Therapy, where you go in, maybe with your girlfriends, have a nice head massage and a good time, then come out feeling reborn with beautiful hair. It’s been a COVID-safe reunion and it was a COVID-safe book launch for my first book. 

The Plastic Shop.

And then there’s also The Anya Café, which for me, is the heart of the little village. It’s a British café – but reimagined British cakes with the most wonderful ingredients. It’s so much fun because I get to put all the creative ideas I have into cakes basically. It’s a really lovely way to engage the brand. 

3. On top of launching The Village, you also published your first book new book called If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair: A Manual for Life. We’re intrigued. Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind it?

I did lots of talks to women about business and fashion as you would expect, and it’s funny how at the end of the talks, a lot of women would come up to me and ask about how I manage (I’ve got five children, a business, etc.). They want to know my journey and what advice I have for a busy working woman. And I would always jokingly reply: if in doubt, wash your hair. 

I think it talks to the fact that we should look after ourselves first, because if we don’t, we’re no good for anyone. The book has the word “doubt” in it, because I think everyone suffers from doubt. Doubt can be the thing that makes you good; it can drive you to be the best version of yourself, so it really is about how we deal with doubt. I’m a mother, I’m a stepmother, I’m a woman in business, an entrepreneur, a creative… I have all of those roles and of course doubt sneaks its way to all of those roles. I’ve just been very honest about how I feel and how I navigate that, in hopes that it can benefit someone. 

I think when you get to 50 – I’m now 53, you realise you know more than you think. 

4. Let’s talk about your iconic tote bags. We love everything about them – the design ethos, the sustainability statement, the craftsmanship, and the awareness they have achieved. They went through quite an evolution from the OG I’m Not A Plastic Bag in 2007 to I’m A Plastic Bag now. Have you noticed any progress or shifts in consumers’ perception towards sustainability over the years?

When we did the project in 2007, the word “disposable” was not in our vocabulary, so the first project was really about awareness. And the second project was about the circularity of materials. 

If we keep a linear line of taking things, using them for five minutes, chucking them and taking more, we’ll just end up with landfill after landfill which is just crazy. You know, there are eight billion tons of plastics on the planet right now, how can we keep that in circulation and not take more? How can we reuse what we’ve got, repair it, reinvent it, and keep it in circulation? 

When we launched I’m A Plastic Bag, we closed all of our flagship stores in London during fashion week and filled the stores with 90,000 used plastic bottles – which was part protest and part art installation because it looked rather beautiful – which we’ve then made into something that we want to keep on our shoulders instead of landfill, and that visualisation made people think. 

“I am a Plastic Bag” Source: Anya Hindmarch

Someone once said to me, when you throw something away, there’s no “away”. That’s why the word “disposable” has to go. And if you really have to use plastic bottles, no problem – reuse them! I know it’s not the sexiest, but that’s the magic of fashion, it can make something that doesn’t feel fashionable look cool. 

5. It’s fascinating how you seeded these totes into the market. Your team has a track record of coming up with bold and brilliant launch ideas. Could you let us in on what you’re about to do next?

We have a very exciting project coming up soon. I think what excites me is fashion with purpose. I no longer feel that fashion for fashion’s sake is really enough. You know, I’m the first person who loves beautiful things and dressing up and showing my character through what I wear, and I will continue to do that. But I don’t want to endlessly buy new things and have fashion for the purpose of status. When I buy a handbag, I want to know what the point of it is – it is doing something? Is it using recycled material? Is it donating to charity? Is it making me feel more confident or organised? To me, fashion with purpose is really important, and we will continue to work on those projects because that’s what gets me out of bed every morning. So stay tuned!

The Labelled Shop.

6. Last but not least, we need to know – out of all the self-care rituals, why washing hair?

You know, there’s just something lovely about getting into a hot shower, having that ten or five minutes where you don’t have your phone, no one is bothering you, no children tapping on your door (hopefully). It’s where I come up with some of my best ideas actually. If I’m tired or jetlagged, washing my hair gives my brain a rest and it just makes me feel reborn afterwards.

I remember during the launch of The Village, things were mental and I did so much talking, so I went into the basement of one of the stores just to gather my thoughts. My lovely assistant saw me and suggested a hair wash at the salon, which turned out to be a fantastic idea. There was beautiful music from the 70s, the light was slightly dark, I leaned back, I had a brilliant hair wash and I came away feeling like I’ve just had a meditation. 

So go get a hair wash – ten times a day if you need to, and doubt be gone! 

Remember to check out our IG(@8shadesofficial) to learn how to stand a chance to win one of two SIGNED copies of Anya’s book!