Infusing fun, creativity and wit into her creations, Anya Hindmarch’s love for handbags began when she was given her mother’s cast-off Gucci bag at the age of 16. The bag, along with her mother’s chic wardrobe was the catalyst to a design career that is almost 30 years old. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the dynamic woman about early beginnings and the beauty of great craftsmanship
How did it all begin?
When I was nineteen and living in Italy I noticed that all the stylish Florentine women were wearing a drawstring leather duffel bag. I loved its shape, style and the ease with which it was worn and it made me realise how powerful accessories can be in forming a perception of a woman. When I returned to England, I approached a friend who worked at a fashion magazine about a special commission. I designed a bag as a special offer for the magazine and five hundred pieces were sold. And that’s how the Anya Hindmarch brand was born!
How do you juggle being a mum of five with your work as a designer?
It comes down to a lot of hard work and the fact that I love my job. These aspects and the support of my wonderful families at home and at work, help me balance it all.
Your collections target a very vast audience. Was this a conscious decision?
Not particularly. I am a mother, wife and run a business and I also like to have fun so I design with all these roles in mind. I think bags can really make a difference to how a woman feels and the ‘role’ she plays. The bags also have to work. Functionality is very important to me.
You’ve maintained a strong British sensibility to your designs through the years. How have you been able to do so?
London, as a city, inspires me every day. For the irony of the British, the history, the architecture, and the fact
that it’s home for me. Humour is one of the things I love most about England. Laughter is the lifeblood at the Anya Hindmarch Headquarters, which I think comes through in the product. Oh, and cake, that’s our lifeblood too!
Seasonally, we are inspired by everyday items that are familiar to us all. From the packet of chips to a can of 7Up, we give a luxurious makeover to these products by using beautiful materials and craftsmanship in our workshops in Italy. Our influences are global though, one entire collection was inspired by a toy I discovered while travelling through the Narita International Airport in Tokyo!
What is your favourite part of the design process?
The brilliant people in Italy who actually make our bags, they are magicians. The craftsmen are heroes in my eyes. Craftsmanship is integral to our brand and part of our DNA. We work with beautiful materials – the leathers we work with are made especially for us in the world’s best tanneries, while exotic skins are hand dyed in wonderful colours to fit our collections.
How do you constantly find inspiration to design such unique collections every time?
A thousand things and people inspire me – I find inspiration in anything and everything, from architecture to travel and chocolate too! The Spring Summer 2016 collection is an exploration of pattern and abstraction. Born from my fascination with recreating the everyday in the most luxurious way possible, I have taken the patterns that surround me – those that I have always known yet don’t always notice – and worked into them. When tessellated and played with using myriad different techniques, these patterns emerged as something new and unexpected. Some have taken on an 80s sporty aesthetic, others have become modern, geometric patterns. We’ve explored each pattern using innovative and complex leatherwork techniques, such as fusing, high-frequency heat bonding and leather marquetry.
What have you discovered about yourself through the years of running the brand?
Food seems to be a real thread throughout all our collections – we have transformed everything from packets of chips and Kit Kats into handbags.
Photograph by Andrew Woffinden