by jill sieracki | November 25, 2013 | Style & Beauty
Anya Hindmarch with embosser John Stalley working in her Madison Avenue custom handbag boutique
When Anya Hindmarch opened her new flagship on Madison Avenue in August, it marked not only the designer’s first location to contain both seasonal offerings and bespoke services under one roof, but also more than 20 years since Hindmarch opened her first boutique on London’s Walton Street. “I’m so bad with time—I’m often forgetting how long I’ve been married or been in business, but it’s difficult to look back when there’s so much to do going forward,” says Hindmarch.
The whimsical 2,000-square-foot space on the Upper East Side is the second location to offer custom services (the first was on London’s Pont Street). “It was a project of passion,” says the designer of the New York atelier where craftsmen sit among tools of their trade, customizing bags with embossed messages in a shopper’s own handwriting or engraving clasps with personal notes, such as the humorous dig Hindmarch gave a good friend to mark the recipient’s 40th birthday: older than me. “I wanted to connect the craftsman back to the customer because I feel the customer is so removed from how things are made,” says Hindmarch, who ripped up financial analyses on break-even figures just to do “something I absolutely love” when planning the store.
The new flagship’s ground-floor display
The boutique’s bespoke offerings range from embroidered handbags and intricate, multilayered jewelry boxes where buyers can have personal photographs printed on the silk drawer linings, to embossed key fobs and bookmarks. For Hindmarch, such haute personalization is more than brand differentiation. “I think luxury is such an overused and almost meaningless term now because it’s spread so wide,” she says. “Luxury is about stories, and this is a store of stories.”
The boutique, designed by Ilse Crawford, who also created Manhattan’s Soho House, showcases Hindmarch’s current Cascade collection, worn by such style setters as Alexa Chung, Emma Stone, and Poppy Delevingne. You’ll also find the new board-game-inspired clutches, like the Duchess and Duke in domino and backgammon patterns, respectively, the Marano in kaleidoscopic motifs, and totes in “eye twister” styles. There are classic Hindmarch favorites like the Maxi Zip and Bathurst, as well.
Customizable leather pouches ($195 each)
“I think [design] has to be a little bit mad, or it’ll be boring for me,” says Hindmarch, who rather than introduce the Cascade collection with a runway show used an intricate 50,000-plus domino-fall performance art piece created by The Netherlands’ “Mr. Domino,” whose company specializes in domino productions. Cascade couldn’t be a more appropriate collection to toast the flagship at 795 Madison Avenue—a location once home to Paraphernalia, British designer Paul Young’s boutique. An influential source for “The London Look,” the ’60s-era shop was a popular hangout for artist Andy Warhol, as well as Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy. “I’m a great believer that buildings are more than the sum of their parts, that they kind of have an atmosphere,” says Hindmarch. “I felt some good Brits shouting for me in the walls.”
While the ground floor of the new boutique offers Hindmarch’s latest collection, the second story houses her men’s line, where you’ll find the new Walton bags, one of which already has been gifted to Prince George; it’s also where the bespoke services are offered. Here, in-store craftsmen emboss leather goods, embroider satin Maud clutches, and create made-to-measure men’s wallets—first in low-grade leather so men can test-drive their pieces before they are constructed in high-end materials. “We’ve had the most amazing reaction to these services,” says Hindmarch, who went to great lengths to craft a wallet from a very specific bit of crocodile for her friend, British journalist A. A. Gill.
Ebury bag ($1,595) and bespoke tassel key ring ($175)
The personalization that’s a key element of Hindmarch’s brand identity plays out throughout the store’s design. An alcove has handwritten messages of goodwill from visitors; framed messages such as a letter from one of Hindmarch’s inspirations, Margaret Thatcher, line the walls; a framed tote bag with the handwritten message do i look like a f---ing plastic bag? as a not-so-subtle tongue-in-cheek nod to the I’m Not a Plastic Bag totes Hindmarch designed for Whole Foods in 2007, has a place of prominence. “I am very proud of that project,” says Hindmarch of the totes. “The consumption of plastic bags has been dramatically reduced, which is a good thing, but I would hate to be defined by that project. My obsession is with craftsmanship, design, and leathers. But because that project had such far reach as it was affordable to so many, and political to a certain extent, it did get a huge amount of publicity.
An assortment of travel and keepsake boxes with customization options ($295–$1,450)
Today, Hindmarch still maintains her Be a Bag program, which launched in 2001 and allowed buyers to print a personal photograph on a bag—a first of its kind—to benefit charity. “Fashion is a great platform for communication, and it’s a great platform for raising money,” says Hindmarch, a UK Trade Ambassador. “I’m very charitable, even though I should be saving for my five children, but ultimately I think every business has a responsibility, so we try to do our bit.” 795 Madison Ave., 646-852-6233
photography by Evan sung