Walpole Summit

'Visionary' Anya Hindmarch CBE on Sustainability, Community and Innovation  

This year's Walpole Visionary Award was given to Anya Hindmarch CBE by guest presenter Richard E Grant, in association with The Times and Sunday Times. Anya was honoured for her work in tirelessly championing a more sustainable fashion industry - challenging the world to think about the way it uses plastic, not once but twice; her experiential approach to retail; and her ‘never say never’ mantra for life.
17th Nov 2021
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Walpole Summit 'Visionary' Anya Hindmarch CBE on Sustainability, Community and Innovation  
Anya was also a guest speaker at September's Walpole Future of Luxury Summit. During her session, in conversation with Kate Reardon, Editor in Chief of The Times LUXX, Anya discussed putting sustainability centre-stage with a focus on circularity - and a rethink of the local retail experience. 


Back in 2007, Anya Hindmarch launched the groundbreaking initiative I Am Not a Plastic Bag, which aimed to raise awareness of problematic throwaway consumer culture. Sustainability has remained central to the brand ever since. Kate Reardon spoke to Anya about how the luxury industry could minimise its carbon footprint and maximise the creative opportunities of a greener economy – as well as her new locally focused retail project ‘The Village’.

“You don’t need to know how to spread the challenge between making a profit and environment but you do need to try,” said Hindmarch. “However it's okay for us to say we don't know the answers to this. Equally, when I speak to experts on the various projects that we've done, they don’t either, a lot of the time. I think that we all need to go back to common sense — that's my North Star.’ She insisted it doesn’t have to be expensive or hard to work out what your carbon footprint is. “I’m not convinced that you have to have a fancy company to do this. There are lots of ways online to help you work out where you are – and by the way, it changes every day. It's not an exact science.”

Offsetting isn’t always a ‘cop out’, as long as it’s backed up with other change. For Hindmarch it’s the first thing a business should do: “As you start to work out what your footprint is, you can see that you can reduce your footprint in many ways, and actually without too much impact on your life.” She approaches these environmental changes in a typically pragmatic fashion: “It's amazing how so many of the things we do are just habits.”

For Anya, learning how to keep products in circulation is key to a sustainable econom. She recommends that brands that are truly interested in making a difference should visit their local recycling centre or landfill to find out about the science and potential around recycling and material reuse. For the luxury industry, in particular, she notes the challenge is in working out how brands can make something that’s simultaneously sustainable but also innately desirable.

“You need to give your customers a reason to visit a physical retailer,” she advised. “If it's the same offer as online, then why would you bother going?”

After buying back her shopping business in 2019, she had 60 stores worldwide, but spreading one single vision around the globe didn't feel very authentic to her. It led to the creation of The Village, a collection of five small stores around her first-ever shop on Pont Street, in Knightsbridge, as an ever-evolving crucible for her creative energy and collaborations. “My entire career has been led against the backdrop of globalisation, but I think the next 10 years will be about localisation.”

Getting it right in retail sometimes involves getting back to where you started. ‘What's your USP, what feels the most natural to the brand?’ Hindmarch asked herself. “I think we will probably end up with The Village and do shows and collaborations. I had a magnetism toward going small — and that personal touch was the difference.”

anyahindmarch.com

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