If 2019 was the year of making people aware of the climate crisis, 2020 is the year to act on it. Fashion’s dangerously high environmental impact has started to become a talking point within the industry, and a more sustainable mindset has been enforced by a flurry of designers. For Anya Hindmarch, it doesn't need to be that complicated. “I’m no expert, I’m no eco warrior, I’m just trying to apply common sense to what I’m doing.” Now that’s a statement we should all adhere to.

Despite her detachment from the sustainable labels, Anya’s certainly got her head in focus when it comes to climate change awareness. Instead of continuing her series of creating art installations to showcase her newest collections (last season, The Postbox Maze was an immersive art installation to celebrate the Postbox Bag), Anya has opted to close all her London stores over London Fashion Week, to fill them to the brim with 90,000 plastic water bottles. “I think unless you connect people to see how horrible it is, you often don’t affect change,” says Anya. “I wanted just to use the platform of fashion and what we have, which is these lovely visible stores to actually communicate this problem, and to talk about what the project we’re launching is really about  - let’s not make new stuff, plastic’s brilliant, but let’s just re-use it, recycle it and be responsible.” While interviewing Anya, several employees walk past the office, carrying shopping bags of clean and washed plastic bottles, “I mean it’s been such an ordeal, I can’t tell you, we’ve got literally a whole warehouse through there full of it!” Exclaims Anya. “Everyone has collected hundreds and hundreds of bottles across the whole company, and we also work with a lot of recycling and waste management companies to recover bottles, so it’s been a really huge project.” But the seriousness of the topic isn’t dismissed. “This climate emergency is our generation’s war,” states Anya. “The younger generation are kind of shaming the older generation in many ways, which I think is quite brilliant, going ‘we really care’ and you know I applaud that, I think it’s amazing.”

Putting her preaches into practice, Anya is launching the upgrade of the 2007 classic, I am not a plastic bag bag, which was released as part of a project to create awareness about the harmful effects of single use plastic. In 2020, two colourways of the I am a plastic bag has launched, made from recycled plastic. “It’s made out of recycled PET bottles, each bag takes 32 half-litre bottles to make, we take the plastic bottles, we chip them down, we clean them, we then melt them into little pellets and make them into a yarn, and then we spin that yarn into a material. That material is something we’ve worked on for two years, to make it like a really beautiful cotton canvas.” shares Anya, but as a businesswoman who always thinks of her customers needs, she’s decided to coat it to make it easier to clean, with recycled PVB - the plastic between car windscreens.

Anya’s endeavour to find the best sustainable materials and practices, have taken her on down a winding path of miseducation, having to riffle through multiple layers of misinformation, to get to the facts. It seems that the easiest solutions seem not to be the correct ones, especially when it comes to leather. “When I started I thought we were going to use recycled leather (obviously), the problem with recycled leather, when we dug down, is that they take the leather, mash it up, then they mix it back together again with plastic. So I thought 'Why would I do that?'” shares Anya, and with Vegan leather being plastic, and the plant-based alternatives not being developed enough yet to be adapted for a bag trim - “We want to make a product that people want to keep, because people don’t tend to add bags to landfill, they tend to use them or sell them or rent them.” Meant there was only one option left. “We went full circle going back to leather, now we work with this amazing tannery called Dani, who are an Italian gold standard working leather group, meaning they ensure the traceability of the skin, so it’s an animal that is reared locally. They’re all European skins, so they monitor the water usage and the use of substance and chemicals. It’s also a bi-product of the meat industry, so that skin would have gone to waste had it not been made into leather.”

Not only is she thinking of how to make the commercial products more sustainable, she’s applied this to every, unnoticed facet of her business. “Transitioning, we’ve looked at every aspect, for example, the packaging, we’ve now moved to all FSC certified packaging, which protects forests and is recyclable. But even the tissue and the sellotape, we are using a cellulose sellotape, which decomposes and is biodegradable, and we’re using soy ink for our printing. So wherever we can.” Her outlook on her business, which has now been running for over 30 years, is less economically orientated, but more with a Samaritan mindset. “I don’t think life’s just about making money, it’s about doing projects where you can make a difference.” While she might not label herself an Eco Warrior, we can certainly preach that when it comes to sustainability, Anya Hindmarch’s head is firmly screwed on

Buy the bag at anyahindmarch.com

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