Yesterday. designer Anya Hindmarch was in Manhattan to personally witness the chaos her "Not a Plastic" bags created. And just in case you missed it: There were 20,000 totes up for sale in New York's Whole Foods stores, for $15 each. Within the hour, all of them were gone - despite a flood of rain so epic, it scared Fashionista into buying an ark on eBay. Meanwhile, Ms. Hindmarch took her PR team and her umbrella (ella, ella...) and swept into the Bowery Hotel. That's where we had a chance to ask her what some of you have asked us all along - is this all overhype? And in Beijing, counterfeit "plastic" bags have already hit the streets... but that's another story. Ours is posted below.
Anya, say your name for us. It's Hind-marsh, like a hind leg. It looks very German but it's just an English last name! So say "hie-nd." And now explain how the Plastic Bag mission started... Well it started when I was introduced to an organization called We Are What We Do. It's this great organization, very young, not worthy or preachy, and they put out a book called "How to Change the World for a Fiver." And one of the things they said was, decline plastic bags. And they said something that stuck with me, that when you throw something away, there is no way. And that's when I started thinking we could do something. That was the bag. You must have known it would be big. Sure, but with all of the lines and the mobs... the Whole Foods here was so crowded, and I suppose I didn't expect the turnout. We've come straight from Tokyo, where the response was similar... it's been an unbelievable experience. We've touched such a chord, and we have created awareness beyond our wildest dreams. What about people who say it's just another marketing gimmick or status bag? "Status bag"... well... The thing is, the bag is a vehicle for behavioral change. It's like how people started wearing their baseball caps from back to front, it started virally. Right now, it's considered cool to have the bag, but even if people have them because they think they're being trendy, they're still being a billboard. I think it's quite hard not to be affected by the message, even if it just walks past you several times. The bag is meant to create a tipping point, where you can't not think about it. And has it? Absolutely. I was out shopping the other day, and the two women beside me refused to take plastic bags for their purchases, and I swear, they were complete strangers and they had no idea who I was. I think the bag is really just a product to drive the action home. But it's also a cult fashion item. You could have sold it for a lot more... Didn't your publicist, Isabel, get offered a hundred dollars for hers? Yes, and in England... it's been weird. People I haven't seen since I was four have been finding me, asking me for a bag! We've gotten all sorts of bribes, and phone calls, and I always want to be like, "Please don't invite me to dinner, I know all you really want is the bag!" It's a big deal. We didn't mean for it to be exclusive, we just didn't expect them to go so fast. If anything, we could have made more. We tried to make our own... But that's great! That's the point - there are a million ways to make it cool to not use a plastic bag. You can make your own tote, you an even re-use a plastic bag over and over, that's fine, just don't keep taking them. So if another designer made a similar bag, would you care? That would be totally brilliant. There are a lot of causes that need help. Do you think more women are realizing that they can help the environment just by bringing their own bag? Even supermarkets are realizing... at Whole Foods today, we saw people buy our bag and then buy a few other canvas bags from their store, and that was great... and if one supermarket can stop giving out plastic bags altogether, eventually they'll all stop. What's next for you? Honestly? I need a holiday. But then it's back to business as usual. We have 20 new stores opening up in Russia, America, England... and there's new collections coming, too. This bag has been fantastic, but now it's time to get back to the rest of our bags... maybe in the future we'll release another product like this, but definitely not this year! Anya's publicist looks down at her Blackberry, then looks up. "I've just got another email from an editor," she says. "Hi, do you have any of those bags left?"