“For me, it starts with two words: common sense,” said British designer Anya Hindmarch during a presentation at Shoptalk Europe on how to achieve lasting sustainability. The retail show, which is currently taking place from June 6 to 8 in London, sees over 3,000 experts from the industry come together to share insights through exhibits and panel discussions.
“My approach is actually less about invention,” Hindmarch continued, in conversation with Vogue Business trends editor, Lucy Maguire. “It is more about going back a little bit to when we used to buy things and refill them, we used to wash things up and reuse them, we used to mend things and wear them for longer.” According to the London-based bag and accessories designer, it is more important to refocus on where fashion comes from and start from there.
“Everything that we buy and eat and wear is farmed. It all comes from soil,” she stated. Hindmarch believes that the next ten years will be about localisation and that it is incumbent on all of us to look into regenerative design.
“When you hear, for example, the words vegan leather, you think that it is a good thing – it's not. It's just plastic,” she said. Fashion brands need to be careful to not just jump on the bandwagon of trendy alternatives. Instead, they must inform themselves and develop a balanced argument – Hindmarch’s key message. “When [leather] is sourced locally, it's a byproduct of the meat industry. It's tanned, finished and made responsibly, it is actually an incredibly smart way to use a natural resource. Animals from a regenerative farm are very, very good for the environment.”
“There is no waste in nature…”
Since founding her eponymous label in 1987, when she was just 18-years-old, Hindmarch has established herself as a sustainable pioneer in the fashion industry. In December last year, the luxury brand teamed up with global supermarkets, beginning with the UK’s Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, to launch a reusable, circular shopping bag made from 100 percent recycled material and, in October 2021, introduced a collection of biodegradable leather bags. Building on many years of efforts to combat single-use plastic and save post-consumer waste from landfill with projects like ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ and ‘I Am A Plastic Bag’, Hindmarch created a bag that would never end up in landfill.
“There is no waste in nature,” she explained. “If an apple falls from a tree, it biodegrades, It breaks down, it's eaten by flies, it sinks into the grass and nourishes the soil, compost and feeds the next growth in the soil.” With her ‘Return to Nature’ collection, she set out to make fashion work in the same way. “How to design the end of life into the design of the products is really something we need to all be thinking about right now,” she said.
So what’s her advice on how to build a sustainable business? “It is impossible to be perfect. We have to be realistic about what we can do,” Hindmarch exclaimed. According to her, the important thing is to just get going. “Start with one thing that you feel you can chip off quite easily. And you'll be amazed how satisfying it is, not only for you but how incredibly rewarding it is for your business and for your profit margins too.”