Fashion is a bit more fun with British designer Anya Hindmarch around. Her runway shows are legendary for their theatrical, inexplicable settings: human conveyor belts, enormous domino mazes, true model homes, barren geometric spaces. She is outspoken, down-to-earth, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire on account of her many contributions to fashion. She has a reputation for crafting curiously covetable accessories. (Her “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” tote took on a life of its own in the aughts.) She frequently stages crazy window displays in her stores, which can become guerrilla art installations in public spaces—like her Chubby Hearts over London series this London Fashion Week. And her quirky bag charms can be found on many street-style stars’ totes.
Now you can step into her unique process by creating your own bag through her Build a Bag collection. The experience allows shoppers to select the leather color, bag strap and accessories to construct a custom creation. Visitors to our Vancouver Pacific Centre store on Thursday, February 22, will get to try their hand at being an innovative bag designer in their own right—maybe even earning themselves a medal, or at least treating themselves to a bag charm.
We spoke with the iconoclastic Hindmarch about her career, the Build a Bag program (including her own zany, luxurious purse) and why humor is so important to fashion.
What drew you to designing handbags?
When I was 19 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 realize how powerful accessories can be in forming a perception of a woman. When I returned to England, I approached Harper’s & Queen (as it was then known) about a special commission. I designed a bag for a special offer for the magazine; 500 were sold and the Anya Hindmarch brand was born!
Why did you decide to make them customizable?
Our brand has always had playfulness at its heart, together with craftsmanship and personalization. With Build a Bag, you get to play with the ingredients, and make something that’s entirely your own—with almost no wait time until it’s in your hands! As shoppers we’ve never wanted instant gratification more, and I think the appeal of Build a Bag possibly comes down to people not wanting to be the same as everyone else anymore. I love beautiful things and won’t compromise on quality. This bag is made from the most expensive, full-bodied but very soft leather. Its simplicity is its beauty, and as a consequence it falls really well and molds to your body. And it’s fun to mess up! It makes it yours and can make a beautiful and seriously made piece lighthearted. I love this irreverent approach combined with absolute quality. For me the two attributes deliver more than the sum of the individual parts. Build a Bag has been on a global tour from New York to Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul—I’m very excited and really quite honored about its Canadian debut, exclusively at Nordstrom Vancouver!
Why and how is humor important to your designs?
What you wear can absolutely transform your mood. I think that fashion should make you smile even if it’s in a discreet way. Playfulness when combined with beautiful craftsmanship has been at the heart of every collection since we began 30 years ago. A really good example is how seasonally we are inspired by everyday familiar items and transform them using beautiful materials in our workshops in Italy to make them in the most luxurious way.
Chubby Hearts over London, photo courtesy of @anyahindmarch.
What does your own customized bag look like?
I love the navy Build a Bag base and then messing it up by adding an egg tassel, a shearling handle and jeweled strap.
How would you describe your personal style?
I tend to let my bag do the talking!
SHOP: Anya Hindmarch