British fashion designer Anya Hindmarch first made waves in the fashion industry for her range of Italian-influenced handbags and high-quality workmanship. In 2007 she completely disrupted sustainability in fashion with her limited edition ‘I’m NOT a Plastic Bag” tote which was an immediate sell-out and brought the subject of plastic pollution and sustainability into a now-continuous conversation in regards to fashion. Now, she has designed a new bag, created from brand new innovative fabric which is made from recycled bottles, aptly named ‘”I Am A Plastic Bag”. We caught up with Anya to talk the environment, wasteless fashion and PPE pollution.
The “I’m NOT a Plastic Bag” tote was an immediate sell out, and dramatically helped reduced the amount of single-used plastic being used. Anya describes the 2007 launch as her “lightbulb moment” as to the scale of the problem, “we were raising awareness at a time where the conversation of single-use plastic still felt ‘new’ and a lot of us were asking ‘What can I do as an individual?’ But we felt quite hopeless”.
When it comes to the impact of this project the figures speak for themselves, “The British Retail Consortium estimated that in 2006, before the I’m Not a Plastic Bag project, the UK used 10.6 billion plastic bags. In 2010, after the project, this figure dropped to 6.1 billion” says Anya. “The impact was phenomenal and it really hit a nerve. The problem today is far from solved. I believe (and hope) that we have shifted from an awareness to resorting to taking action as we become increasingly aware of the problem. This is our generation’s war. We must start seeing waste for what it is, which is ‘a resource.’ As a brand, we are continuously striving for circular wasteless fashion using creativity and craftsmanship. How can we repurpose materials and play our part in reducing waste. This is a journey but one that we need to accelerate fast.”
“There are 8 billion tonnes of plastic on the planet but when you throw a piece away, there is no away”, Anya tells us, and the I Am A Plastic Bag project is here to tackle just that, “taking a material that would otherwise end up in landfill and creating something beautiful from it”. “It took over two years of testing and research to create but I really wanted to get it right. Each bag is made from an innovative new cotton canvas-feel fabric that’s created from 32 half litre recycled plastic bottles, whilst the fabric is coated with recycled windscreens. It is designed to never be thrown away and that was really important to me.”
Known for her stunning craftsmanship, it’s needless to say that Anya puts an enormous amount of research and knowledge into each and every element of her products. “The bag took a huge amount of engineering and really pushed modern craftsmanship” Anya explains. “The material feels like a rich cotton fabric, it’s very natural. I also wanted to add a coating to the bag so it would last longer and that in fact took a very long time to find. I think every line on my face has to do with it! But the bag is beautiful and the response from our customers has been amazing, we sell out every time we put new products online”.
Finally, we discussed the rise of plastic during the pandemic (yes, we’re throwing major shade at you, disposable masks), with Anya saying “it’s frightening to think that as we emerge from lockdowns, plastic is back with a vengeance”. “Some of that has been out of necessity, other times I think we can be mindful in our use: choosing to buy soap over hand sanitiser when washing our hands at home, using a reusable mask and gloves, finding delivery services that are actively reducing plastic, etc. Whilst most of us spend more time at home, it can be confronting to look at other areas of your life where you are using plastic unnecessarily. I actually did a whole study on this a few years ago and started with my bathroom, setting out a number of alternative plastic free products. Honestly speaking, I had to kiss a few frogs however I encountered some great finds that we actually shared on our brand’s Instagram and website directory”. We stan a sustainability queen!
Anya Hindmarch is available throughout the Middle East at Level Shoes.