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The Interview: Anya Hindmarch

Tom Shearsmith
01 September 2022

Anya Hindmarch founded her business in London in 1987 and it has since grown into a global brand. Today, it is as known for its luxury, organisation-obsessed accessories as it is for its groundbreaking work in sustainability and its playful experiential retail concepts.

Creativity, modern craftsmanship and personalisation sit at the heart of everything Hindmarch does.

Hindmarch is committed to creating responsibly, and constantly strives to innovate to reduce its impact on the earth, while also using its platform to drive education and discussion around sustainability.

Testament to this are projects such as I Am A Plastic Bag, launched in 2020 to tackle post-consumer waste, with each bag crafted from 32 half-litre recycled plastic bottles.

Hindmarch has recently joined the #LeatherTruthfully campaign, a new resource from Leather Naturally for journalists and consumers who want quick access to key information about leather. It is an easy-to-read summary of the facts that has been created to address the most common misconceptions around leather and leather manufacturing.

TheIndustry.fashion speaks to Anya Hindmarch about her business and supporting the new campaign:

How would you describe your brand and its customer?

I would say that we are a luxury accessories brand best known for our organisation obsessed accessories, work in sustainability and more recently, our playful experiential retail concepts.

I am passionate about leather, craftsmanship and personalisation and I want to make pieces that last through generations and are tied to special moments in life. That is why the Bespoke store, our very first store, is so close to my heart. These are pieces that have our customers names on and not mine.

I am also a self-confessed organisation nerd – I love for everything to have a place and be in its place. That is where the Labelled collection really grew from, we have pouches, bags and cases to systemise almost every aspect of your life. It really helps to give me, at least, a sense of control when I really am not!

More recently, we opened The Village, a 5 store retail concept on Pont Street, the home of our Bespoke store. I very much believe in bricks and mortar retail but also believe that physical retail needs offer something that cannot be replicated digitally. This is what The Village is all about, these are ‘miss them or they are gone’ experiences.

Since opening, we have hosted over 2,500 people to visit Father Christmas in our grotto, hosted back to back nail appointments in our salon, were awash with dogs when we opened A.Houndmarch, a doggie butcher to launch our first dog collection, and most recently have seen people queue for over 2 hours for our unexpectedly delicious ice creams. It is lovely to see The Village becoming a real destination for Londoners as well as domestic and international tourists as travel continues to open up.

Finally, sustainability is at the core of everything we do – luxury cannot cost the planet. We have recently launched a collection called Return To Nature, a fully traceable leather that is fully compostable and is proven to benefit soil health at the end of its life.

Our Universal Bag aims to continue to reduce single use plastic bag consumption – to date we have partnered with Waitrose and Sainsburys in the UK and City Super in Hong Kong. We have lots more partners in the pipeline. I am very committed to using our platform to create responsibly and drive for change and education.

Leather Truthfully

Tell me about the #LeatherTruthfully campaign and why you’ve decided to back it?

#LeatherTruthfully is shining a light on leather and its place in the environmental discussion which is often misrepresented.

I think we need to trust in and return to nature as much as we can. Leather is an incredible, natural, waterproof, flexible, durable material that should not be wasted and has an important place in any circular economy.

Ultimately #LeatherTruthfully is a long term campaign that aims to maintain a truthful and global conversation about all aspects of leather manufacture and making.

What is your personal perspective on leather making and its associated industry?

There are some very interesting and innovative products coming to the market and I will look at anything that makes sense.

My research into the subject proves to me that leather, farmed in a regenerative way which is then tanned and finished in a responsible way, is often the most sensible solution when a byproduct of the meat industry.

Leather makes sense to me in a natural, circular economy. It is also a brilliant natural fibre that is waterproof, flexible, durable, and beautiful.

Most of your own products feature leather, some as a major component, how are you educating your customers about the use of leather?

Our Return To Nature collection has been a major project for us – it has been at least 2 years in the making to find partners and develop processes to create a fully compostable leather. I do believe leather is a fantastic natural material when produced and finished responsibly. Inspired by the fact that ‘there is no waste in nature’, we set out to make a bag that could never end up in landfill. In nature, if an apple drops from a tree, it breaks down and composts and in turn nourishes the soil to support new plant growth. So, we set out to do the same with a bag.

After two years of research and development we launched Return to Nature, a collection of bags that biodegrade (audited ISO 20136) and compost (audited ISO 20200) and in turn deliver 20% stronger plant growth. For this project we used pioneering new tanning and finishing methods developed with Nera Tanning and Richard Hoffmans (est. 1899), resulting in a product that is chrome, heavy-metal and aldehyde-free.

The skins are sourced from Scan-Hide Swedish farms that offer full traceability to the field, and that have some of the highest standards of animal welfare. The hides are tanned with zeology, an innovative new way of tanning that replaces chrome (which hinders biodegradability) with zeolite. It refrains from the use of PU coatings, so common in leather, and is finished instead with Activated Silk Technology.

This project was in part also inspired by the words of Arizona Muse on the podcast Wardrobe Crisis and each bag sold donates £5 or £10 to Dirt, Arizona’s foundation for the regeneration of the earth.

Anya Hindmarch leather bags

Sustainability awareness in the fashion industry has increased dramatically in the last five years, but there’s obviously further steps needed. How are you challenging or charging awareness of sustainability?

We are committed to creating consciously and put sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

We are proud to have signed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which was created in 2018 as a holistic commitment to climate action for the textile, clothing and fashion industry. Its mission is to drive the fashion industry to net-zero Greenhouse Gas emissions no later than 2030 in line with keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.

We work to the mantra ‘progress not perfection’ and are committed to doing everything that we can to continue to drive for urgent positive change.

What are your thoughts on vegan leather?

I am always curious and open minded about leather innovation. However, it is impossible to make comparisons between vegan leather and natural leather. They are different materials with different composites.

There are some very interesting and innovative products coming to the market and we will look at anything that makes sense. My research into the subject proves to me that leather, farmed in a regenerative way which is then tanned and finished in a responsible way, is often the most sensible solution when a by product of the meat industry.

Have you learnt anything from being involved with the #LeatherTruthfully campaign?

There are lots of misconceptions about the leather industry and it is good to be able to shine a light on producers and innovators that are doing great stuff in the space.

Can we expect anything from the Anya Hindmarch brand in the next 24 months that reflects anything from this campaign?

We always have lots of projects in the pipeline! We will continue to develop our Return To Nature collection and hope to be able to announce lots of new retail partnerships for our Universal Bag.

What do you hope the long term achievements will be from the campaign?

I hope that #LeatherTruthfully will impact consumers, media and influencers in understanding how leather is made and its role in a sustainable economic future.


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