Style with a smile

Since launching her eponymous brand 30 years ago, Anya Hindmarch has carved out a popular niche with her playful but luxurious accessories – like the exclusive collection of bags and wallets she has created for Eden Being. Laura Lovett meets the British designer who believes fashion shouldn’t take itself too seriously.

Few fashion brands focus on smiles as much as Anya Hindmarch. For this British fashion designer, the iconic “Smiley” symbol has become something of a house signature. “I think the element of humour is really important and that not taking yourself too seriously is absolutely vital,” she says. “Yes, fashion is a serious business. But it should be about making people feel good. Giving someone a reason to smile really appeals to me.” She adds wryly: “Luxury doesn’t save lives – but it can certainly make you feel better.”

Best known for her playful luxury lifestyle accessories – from the “I am not a plastic bag” ethical campaign, designed to encourage shoppers to opt for reusable carriers, to her kitsch range of crisp-packet clutches and cereal-box styles – Hindmarch is a true trailblazer. Having launched her eponymous business in 1987, working from her kitchen table, she has since grown it exponentially into a global company with more than 40 stores across nine countries.

Anya Hindmarch, whose witty creations have made her one of the UK’s best-loved designers

 

Hindmarch has carved out a niche in creating luxurious, beautifully crafted products with personality – something that extends to her experiential fashion shows and events. In an era when more and more of us are seeking out meaning from the day-to-day, her Chubby Cloud installation was an immersive experience that saw visitors to London’s stately Banqueting House sink into the world’s largest bean bag and gaze up at the magni cent Rubens ceiling while listening to a series of talks, meditations, music and bedtime stories.

It was something, says Hindmarch, that “hopefully gave everyone some time off from their normal lives”.

In addition to her role at the helm of a multi-million-dollar company, Hindmarch wears many other hats. A non-executive director of the British Fashion Council, she is also a UK trade ambassador and a trustee of both the Royal Academy of Arts and the Design Museum in London, and a mother of five children. So for her, taking time out is vital. “It’s important to use holidays in lovely locations like Jumby Bay Island and Eden Rock – St Barths to actually pause and rest.” And she was keen to convey something of a vacation mood in the Anya Hindmarch for Eden Being collection of accessories, which includes leather pocket wallets, bookmarks and washbags featuring blissful images from across Oetker Collection’s portfolio, embossed with pithy quotations such as “Sunshine in my pocket” and “The story goes on”.

Hindmarch’s Eden Rock – St Barths washbag, part of her new accessories collection created in partnership with Eden Being

 

“When you’re on holiday, you’re porous,” Hindmarch muses. “Something that you buy when you’re away becomes a memory of that moment – and luxury should be about stories: ‘I have a memory of that,’ or, ‘It was made for me because,’ as opposed to a generic thing that everyone else has.”

Travel is always a precious moment to step away from your routine and reflect on whatever challenges or opportunities may arise on your return, but for Hindmarch, what’s next is anyone’s guess. From candles to clouds, bespoke bags to backpacks, she seems to have conquered it all. “What’s nice is that on holiday you tend to have more time to read but you also have time to stop and think, make decisions, make plans about what you next want to be and do,” she says. “I do my best thinking when I’m away or at 30,000 feet. Every time I travel I have some of those contemplative moments. In our normal life we don’t stop. There’s not enough thinking time.”

Iconic image, captured by photographer Antoine Verglas at Eden Rock – St Barths, that Hindmarch used for her stylish washbags

 

As the fashion industry morphs for a new digital age, Hindmarch continues to innovate, as unconventionally as only she can. “I can’t predict where I’m going next, business-wise. It’s an interesting time in fashion; it feels like an industrial revolution,” she says. “It’s a time to be brave and make changes, to stay creative. Everything is changing, so follow your gut. If in doubt, do it. Often, with the best decisions I’ve made, there’s been no rhyme or reason – it just felt right. So I trust that.”
For someone for whom happiness is so fundamental, where is her happiest place? “Home. I love my kitchen table; friends, wine – what I crave is very low-key. And time on my own: give me a train journey, a newspaper and an empty table. Time where you can do emails or watch TV are like gold dust to me.”

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