Anya Hindmarch: the whimsical accessories brand with a world mission

Anya Hindmarch - accessories brand with a world mission

Anya Hindmarch: the whimsical accessories brand with a world mission

By Fiona Ward

Anya Hindmarch is a designer known for her kooky accessories with bold, playful designs, but some might be surprised to learn that she was once more of a maker of the classics – with one very specific famous customer.

Princess Diana was a regular shopper with Anya Hindmarch for a very specific style of handbag – which she jokingly called her ‘cleavage clutches’ – named as such because she would use them to cover her décolletage as she stepped out of her car.

A modern version of the pretty, pearl clasp bag remains one of the more low-key designs on the Anya Hindmarch roster. But these days, the brand is more known for its cutesy ‘Eyes’ collection and tongue-in-cheek food-themed accessories, from the iconic crisp packet clutch to branded bags themed by colourful logos such as Kellogg’s Frosties or Heinz Baked Beans.

Anya was also an early adopter of activism in fashion, and defines her mantra as “progress, not perfection”. She is known for her famous ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ tote, launched in 2007 to tackle the mass single-use plastic bag use in the UK within retail – after 80,000 people queued to purchase the tote from Sainsburys on its launch day, the project gained huge press coverage globally, and contributed to the eventual decision to charge for plastic bags at supermarkets and shops in the UK. Impressive.

These days, there’s now the ‘I Am A Plastic Bag’ collection, too, made from recycled plastic bottles and finished in fully-traceable leather. “Despite the impact of our 2007 I’m Not A Plastic Bag project, the problem of single use plastic is far from solved. The mission has changed however, from ‘awareness’ of the problem to ‘circularity’ of materials, something we’ve spent the last two years working on with the I Am A Plastic Bag project,” Anya said of the development.

As for leather, the brand launched its ‘Return To Nature’ collection in 2021, after years researching how to create a fully-biodegradable handbag.

The leather used in the collection is chrome, heavy-metal and aldehyde-free – and therefore able to biodegrade and compost. By using a zeolite-based tanning agent and avoiding PU-based coatings, tests found that the Return To Nature bags biodegraded almost as quickly as untanned skin – and even nourished the soil as it did so.

Anya told Business Of Fashion of the innovation: “[I thought,] where are we going wrong with all the projects that we’ve done on plastic and trying to stop things going to landfill and keep them in circulation? Why are we making things that don’t naturally break down?”

As for the biodegradable collection’s longevity, she joked: “We want this to last forever and it should last forever if you look after it. The point is that if this ever did end up in landfill, it would break down… but if you did actively want to compost it, I’d rather you sold on eBay, or gave it someone else.”