Leaders with Lacqua: Fashion Designer Anya Hindmarch

Leaders with Lacqua: Fashion Designer Anya Hindmarch

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Few have managed to capture the fashion and business worlds like the British handbag designer. Nothing much. She's won fans around the world with her range of luxury bags turning her label into a fashion powerhouse. It's really fun starting a business. It's fun growing a business. I feel it's a real privilege. And I started my business officially at 18 but I think I knew I wanted to do it very definitely from about 15 foot high. Mark has also become known for her stance on sustainability working to eliminate single use plastics before we became a global focus and safe and sustainable. I'm quite scared. I'm very scared by some situation that we only look at this last summer and look at the flash floods and the

fires and the you know the heat waves in a measure that was a monthly situation. And I think that you know we all have to change our behaviour in this episode of leaders would like we talk too much about building brand making luxury more green and the challenges of leading a company through the pandemic. Johan. Thank you so much for speaking to me. Leaders with LaCour that's lovely to be here. Thank you very much for having me. I know you're one of the most fascinating entrepreneurs because you all started really young. What did you learn. Did you always think that you'd be an entrepreneur. Probably yes. I think which

is a bit sad. What is it. I'm not sure. I come from a family of entrepreneurs so even I probably can spell the word and still can't get it. It's sort of in my blood but it's it's really fun starting a business. It's fun. During a business I feel it's a real privilege. And I started my business officially at 18. But I think I knew I wanted to do it very definitely from about 15. But I'm sure it's you know you if you're surrounded by it it feels very natural. So. So yes it's it's it's fun. Started how you started by making you went to Florence. It was in Italy and you started handbags. Yeah. So I knew I was actually given a handbag by my mother when I was about sixty one of her old handbags. And I remember how it made me feel. And I think

fashion is fascinating for the mood changing the confidence boosting aspects of tribal aspects of what fashion does. And so I went at 18 to Florence knowing that was the home of a leather goods which is what interested me. I just wanted to learn actually and be surrounded by craftsmen who are making things as important. And that's going to be very interesting I think over the next sort of ten years. I think the on shoring of craft and manufacturing is going to be fascinating. When I watched the offshoring. I literally saw it. And I think we're gonna be seeing that coming back to local. We have to when we were

looking at our objectives in terms of carbon proximity is going to be key. So what will that be inflationary. And without you know turning to business. But if you bring back that this is supply chains moving. Yeah it's huge. I mean I think that it's you know it's going to be quite significant. I mean we watched it happen and it's going to possibly reverse. Who knows. Maybe there'll be some amazing technological discovery that allows us to to move things around that you know

doesn't harm the environment. But I think naturally we will look to places supply chains. There will be a cost to that. Probably. And so there is going to be this this aspect was saying earlier of buy buy less buy better. And and that's very interesting actually. And those those companies that are preserved craft manufacturing are going to suddenly be in the driver's seat. So

I talked to me from that day where you said right I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to go to Florence and learn more about leather goods. You've had you know immense growth also challenges along the way. What was most challenging. Well I think you know growing a business is like a game of chess as now. It's the most fun. I love every second of it. Navigating investment and and and sometimes actually I think one of the things that was was challenging for me is actually I was always CEO and and creative. And I split my role too. And I moved creative and brought in a CEO. And I heartily and ISE were

brilliant brilliant people. But actually I think losing the founder in that role often can be quite challenging for business. And I think one things I've learnt often is not always visit it caps it can work. But I think often actually growing underneath that sort of natural succession planning. So there's there's quite a lot to learn on on growing a business and not tripping over. But I think ultimately if you're passionate about product and your you know you're really hard working because it's really hard and it's a good life commitment. I mean just not working now. I'm always working but I love it. You love it.

Is there anything that you hate about your job. No not really. Actually I mean listen all the normal things but I love what I do every day. Feels like a lucky day. Never quite sure what's going to come come into the inbox. What's your best piece of advice that you've ever got. I think your father was a mentor. Yes. Him as himself was like an entrepreneur.

Absolutely. And one of his his best mate advice is which would be the one advice one that I would pass on would be actually if you just keep going you just don't give up then you succeed. It's not often about succeeding is about just not not succeeding not not failing in a way. So I think that's a good bit advice. Also things come of things. If you do things things happen. And so. So yes lots of things that have helped me sort of in its itself. And you're hitting a brick wall. You've got to find a way round it through it all over it or. Confided to so is it always as you know chief executive and founder is it always the end of the day what your gut tells you. I think what's really important actually and I've learnt actually a couple of times

the hard way by not listening to my gut. Actually sometimes you sort of feel he should be you know listening to some other advice. But actually I think gut is a very good very important one for expansion like everything. Actually I think hiring him it's all about people ultimately. I mean ultimately businesses is successful. I think through people and your team and the loyalty to your team and their loyalty to you and that tightness that the health of your your your senior management team I think is sort of as in the health of the relationships is probably the single most important thing. And interesting I think is often the thing that is not has no value on a balance sheet. And actually if you were to I think do all the sort of due diligence on a company always the most important thing would be to actually take the senior leadership team out to dinner and then assess how you know how happy they are to joke and jibe and have a laugh. I think that's incredibly

important and I feel very lucky and I have a great team I work with. You've also been always very generous with your time your UK trade ambassador. You do a lot of stuff for you know diversity and promotion inclusion the British Fashion Council. Is this an idea of you have to give back or do you just enjoy imparting wisdom. I think it's that you know it's really nice to get back. I've been so lucky to receive so much great advice from so many. And it's also that I find it fascinating. I've learnt so much through those roles or those institutions and really just just seeing how really great people behave you know even down to how they receive a cup of tea from someone you know in a big board meeting and the manners and all the sort of rules or learnings you get from seeing a really great chairman chairing a meeting and a really beautiful way. So I it's very

much a two way street but it is lovely too to various organisations I've been involved with and that in the UK. And it's lovely to also get a building and give out where I can even a creative. I remember the hearts that were sparked all around London when of was the Anya village with you know the greengrocers. I think the cafe and also the hairdresser. Like where'd you get this inspiration. Well I think creativity is important to me as part of what my brand is. And I think that is interesting. The village was the idea of actually rather than having stores all over the world actually going local. It's that local thing again and bringing the creativity to an experience. I think retail absolutely has a place in this digital world but

the needs their reason to visit and the villages. A group of stores in Knightsbridge and Chelsea are based around my very very first stores. It's like going back to my roots. We have a little cafe there. We have six little stores. And actually I think it's so lovely to meet. I'm there the whole time. Unlike the stores I had around the Web and I didn't I wasn't able to visit didn't know the team so well. So it feels more authentic. And it's a lovely place to kind of meet my customers and to use as a platform to talk about the things that I care about. It kind of goes back to this idea of local more sustainable not necessarily downsizing but being more I guess for more down to earth. What's a down to earth as important to me. But I think

it's not my whole career has been to the backdrop of that word globalisation global global. And I watched it and I did it. And now I have this magnet actually to have localization. It really feels like we're changing. And so therefore I'm sort of bringing it back and it just felt completely right to strip it right back in to go back to where I started and to really engage and communicate. And it's become this lovely little area where we have all these fun ideas and people really get engaged. Up next March started focusing on sustainability long before it became fashionable. Her views on how retail needs to change and what motivates her to be great. I think it's very hard to imagine anything being very luxuries and fashion if it's doing

harm. So for me it's it's I suppose it's my happy place is what I'm interested in and feel I should do. Your Hindmarsh has turned to a fashion accessories brand into a global name. After starting the company as a teenager but she's

also become known for her stance on sustainability. Working supermarkets to eliminate single use plastics and pushing to create for her products to discuss how it all stand. Talk to me a little bit about sustainability it permeates through most of your designs and 15 years ago you started with a canvas bag that was called I'm not a plastic bag. Yes it has. It sneaks its way through my life. Fashion is a very welcome stranger in many ways. When it started back in 2007 when we were approached actually to talk about a book that was trying to encourage people not to use single use plastic.

And it was a bit of an aha moment for me in the sense that I think I was struggling with how to make a difference and how to effect change in my own life and in my business whilst hearing this word environment environment and just didn't know what to do about it. And I felt I could use the platform of fashion to communicate a sort of change in behavior and fashions brilliant like that. Fashion has an amazing sort of purpose in the sense that it really can change the way people behave and dress and and look. So. So that was the project called I. I am not a plastic bag which went mad. It was a simple sold out in two hours. Eighty thousand people queued in one day to give

you a sense and it rolled on around the world. I mean 30 people at the hospital in Taiwan of course I'm not at all proud of that. And we halted at that point. But the point is we had the aim of awareness and awareness we got. But it actually it made a difference the project. So prior to the project I think the UK British Retail Consortium says that something like ten point six

billion bags were used in a year and I think it was reduced to about six. So it really did make a difference which was exciting. And then legislation came in and so on. So yes that was Project A I think every line in my face with that project. But Project B was really back in 2020. That lovely year we've all just shared. It's easy. Nothing happened at Vonnie Quinn a pandemic in the past year. And and I felt I wanted to revisit the subject because actually

the problem is still there. You know think eight billion tonnes of plastic on the planet 31 points. So we've brought out a bag called I Am a Plastic Bag which was two years in the making which was incorporating recycled plastic bottles. But actually to make the aim is to make a very luxurious beautiful product out of plastic that would've been destined for landfill then because it was so luxuries and beautiful as behaved like the beautiful cotton drill that we set out to replicate. And so we managed to find a way to coat it in the plastic. The film that's between the windscreens on cars. I mean Randy Wise it was quite complicated but it was it was a good project to raise awareness so that people said that you also get people talking about as you say fashion has an immense power of changing behavior and what people want. Yes absolute is about awareness. It's also in the case of the bag it's saving plastic from landfills. It's just a very direct response. But I hope it also prompts you know

just people to stop and think and then discussion about when we launch that project. And we actually closed all of our stores for Fashion Week and we fill them with ninety thousand used plastic bottles which is probably why I got Covid ISE. But the idea was that you collected. We literally collect the whole company collected bottles and we fill the store to the brim with bottles to show to connect people to what eight minutes of landfill looks like. Because actually when you see it it's quite shocking. And the response to that must have been amazing. It was really viral. And we did the same in Tokyo at 7 Hong Kong. It's rolled around the world. And I hope it's really contributed to people thinking

about actually how they consume recycled materials and how they can consume differently. So it's sort of yes as you said snake through my life. And you also work now on leather that then can if you put in the landfill can basically be recycled but it doesn't go to waste. Well yeah. So after those two projects we we just watched another project. I'll come back to do the supermarkets again with recycled plastic. But all the products we've worked on about saving plastic from landfill and actually prompting you know considering using recycled materials and a different way of thinking. But actually I certainly thought well someone said to me actually that there's no waste in nature. And it was such an obvious statement. But actually why on earth are

us stupid humans using landfill when nature's got it all sorted out. So I wanted to try and replicate nature in designing a fashion product. So we brought out a project called Return to Nature which is a really peaceful beautiful leather bag. And we can come to y leather in a second but beautiful leather bag which is made in a way and treated the way it turned. And we

finished in a way that means that were it to ever end up in landfill it would naturally biodegrade and compost and in fact supports 20 percent stronger plant growth. So actually it can't do harm. And that felt like a rather academic project in many ways. But I think it's important to look at end of life and fashion this huge polluter that fashion is and to see that there could be another way. You do this for the kids of the planet. Where do you get the inspiration or the drive to actually do more sustainably. I'm quite scared. You know I'm quite scared by this climate situation but I'm very scared those climate situation. And I think that you know we only look at this last summer and look at the flash floods and the. High Flyers and you know that the heat waves and you know measure that was a monthly situation. And I think that you know we all have to change our

behavior I think and what we do. And and so I think you know I have a I love fashion with purpose. That's actually interesting for me. I think it's very hard to imagine anything being very luxuries and fashion if it's doing harm. So for me it's it's I suppose it's my happy place. It's what I'm interested in and feel I should do. And do you see a big shift actually in fashion overall. Because at the same time you know you make profit by selling. And so how do you match the two. You sell more but also you want to be more sustainable. It's really hard sort of circle to square that. And I think it's really important question

because actually we need to maintain a healthy economy. We know that probably the thing that will answer the climate issues the most effectively will be big governments paying off less wealthy governments to you know to stop deforestation or whatever it might be. So we need to make sure that we're we're buying things and contributing to tax so that we can do these good things. And so and and of course you know we need to employ people. And fashion is a fantastic employer. So how do you square that circle. And I think the fact is that we want to carry on buying and purchasing. But by better buy less. Buy better it's the

classic thing. So you know if you gonna buy five T-shirts you buy two but buy really good t shirts the same four foot four bags and for any aspect of any clothing. And do you think there is a shift overall for a fashion to be more sustainable. And is that driven by stakeholders by chief executives entrepreneurs or is it actually the end consumers that just want to buy better. You know I think what's love is it's coming from both both ends but it's actually coming particularly from the younger generation. And quite right too. I mean it's going to it will touch them without a doubt. You know the climate situation. So I love the fact that it's my kids who are the most passionate but I feel very very responsible. I mean we use it like smoking. We

didn't know a home doesn't mean smoking. You know it's the same with the climate. So I feel very responsible. And I just think that you know we're far from perfect but we're just trying to chip off every bit we can and communicate loudly about. It's really fun. It's exciting. And you don't have to not be successful. In fact I would argue I think you could be more successful by having a responsible business. How do you think the younger generation will be different to us. Do they did they shop less. Was a shop differently. Do they go out to the street and pick it. Well all of the above I think. But I think the bit that's the most effective as they shop differently and I know that my kids all buy secondhand clothing they rent. They are

very aware of the brands they buy from. And it's really cool. You know I'm not sounding patronizing super proud of my kids. Know that generation for how they behave. They're really leading the way. Coming up leading a company through the pandemic the lessons learned through a challenging period for businesses and society. Fashion is a bit old fashioned. Honestly the timetables are out of sync. We're delivering went to in summer and summer and

winter and we decided it was the moment to make those changes permanently. So we decided also to use it. British handbag designer and entrepreneur Mark has a unique insight into leadership building her company into a global fashion force. We discuss emotion in boardrooms and navigating her team through a challenging time for both business and society. How difficult was it for you. What did you learn about yourself in the company in the pandemic. Well I felt actually so lucky in many ways. And I felt guilty saying that because it's been so hard it still is so horrible for so many people. So to still get silver linings was really inappropriate. So forgive me but I

felt it made me realise how lucky I was and the people I work with and and my family because actually you know we sort of we sort of double down and just rolled up our sleeves and got on with it. And of course there were times it was not easy. And but I just most of all want to make children felt safe. And and in a lot of we have a lot of people whose parents are overseas. But also we looked at it from a you know from you know overused word reset moment. But you know fashion is a bit old fashioned. Honestly the timetables are out of sync. We're delivering winter in summer and summer and winter. And we decided it was the moment to make those changes permanently. So we decided also to use it to actually you know really reset our calendar where we work. We did it. And so many nice projects for the NHS which was really satisfying for everyone.

And I think you know to some extent we had we had a good war if you like. And I feel terrible for saying that. But I think it was it was we learnt a lot about ourselves probably. So I guess a real reset or is it a reset. A momentary reset has to be a real reset. I really do. And it was quite in some ways worrying to me seeing how so many things just went straight back

and not to point fingers because that's not appropriate and not fair. But I do think that you know that the climate situation is so serious we can't just go back to the way we've having the need to be some serious changes. And so I'm very determined that we sort of stick to our guns on those changes. Who will drive that change. Well for us the company is completely committed. That's our agenda. And that's to do with timetables. It's to do with the way that we have sales for example. I mean the Black Friday fills for us to be completely wasteful. In fact we we don't obviously participate in that to just think about how we

we source things. So we will be driving that. And obviously I think everyone's thinking and finding their way through. But it's hard. It's really hard. It's hard for a lot of people right now. You also wrote a brilliant book that is very inspiring for many women because you talk about being emotional and in the boardroom and actually how that's okay. And actually it should also be a strength. I want to thank you. It was a very honest book. It's the least cool book I would say. But I wanted to

write as if writing to my daughter or to my younger self about what it's like and and that you know life isn't always easy and actually that it's important to be honest about doubt. So it's a book about doubt and about sort of managing the many roles that women I think juggle and indeed men juggle. I wanted to share honestly about how how it feels because I think people always going to go you're so lucky you've done well and actually know it's a tough journey. And I think

it's important to be honest. And to your point about the notion the boardroom so often I think as a woman in a boardroom you you feel it it's wrong to be feminine or to to be you. And actually I was once someone said to me you know Anya said aggressive with the name Anya you must take the emotion out of this. And I felt a bit stung. And after as I realize actually now I mustn't actually emotion is what drives my business is what actually I

stand for. It's what I think I'm good at. And I think women are very good at emotion and it's a very important thing in the workplace. So actually I think we need to stand up for ourselves a little bit more. And so I was just a very honest book that I hope if it helps one other person then it's on this job. Is that you think it's changing. I really do yes. Because I think I talk about my generation our generation and but older. But as the transition generation which is that you know we are working as

hard as our fathers did. And yet I have the memory of how my mother was when I was growing up where she was very much the homemaker and she did everything so beautifully. But you can't do both roles and survive yourself. So it's been quite tough I think for the transition generation. But it has trans transitions to some extent. And I think therefore I can see in my children that they understand that you know it shouldn't always be a woman's job to do that. All the home life admin for example. And I can see that changing. Right. Everything you do is also it's not only creative it's it's a bit quirky. It always

brings a smile to everyone's face to have you. Is this what you are. Is it your leadership motto. Why do we have leadership. I've never really believed in mottos but I do think that fashion should make you smile. Fashion is you know it shouldn't be taken too seriously. It's about making you feel better. No one needs more clothes or more handbags. So it is about actually making

you feel happier and more confident. And listen if we can add a smile and you know the chubby hearts that we did was almost fleeting. And it was just a moment in London whenever I was a bit sad and it was just a nice surprise. So why not really. And I think creativity often is a lovely way to communicate and to to pull people on a journey that you're passionate about. So so we do it. I you look at all these amazing you know projects. And it also is with the. Rose roses lit up roses that you know are for remembering people that you lost that we loved. Do you have special projects or is it like asking you to choose between your

children. Probably. I think the I mean they eliminated raised garden which is called the Ever After Garden which is in Grosvenor Square here in London for December. And there's 25000 illuminated roses. And we wanted to do something to benefit the Royal Marsden cancer charity which is the most amazing research cancer hospital. And it's a very simple idea. It was it was a fundraising idea. And actually to donate a raise and contribute is just as a why not.

This is quite a special experience. But I think for me the chubby hearts would be one of my all time favorites. But then the chubby cloud. So what's in store for you in the next five years. That little question. Thanks for that. Well listen we've got so many projects so many exciting projects coming and we want to lean into those those projects we've started. I care passionately about using a fashion platform to you know for a better purpose in a way. And we want to grow business in a healthy good way. That's that's respectful. So there's a million different projects. And I'd have to kill you if I told you obviously some sort of. Thank you sir.

2022-02-05 08:06

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