MAY Book Of The Month: If In Doubt Wash Your Hair by Anya Hindmarch

'I am often asked what my best piece of advice would be for a busy woman and I nearly always reply with "If in doubt, wash your hair."'

Helena Nuttall

The Anya Village

I’ve always loved walking past the Anya Hindmarch shop windows and with the opening of her ‘village’, and the release of If In Doubt Wash Your Hair, I couldn’t wait to find out more about Anya’s career and the stories behind her brand.

“I have learnt that I have to over-communicate, be honest and make lots of lists – at home and at work.”

What struck me straight away when I began reading her book was just how relatable Anya is. She doesn’t claim to be superwoman or an utterly ruthless businesswomen, but instead honestly reveals the struggles she’s faced “balancing work and motherhood” and talks about “kindness” being one of the most important qualities in the workplace. She goes as far as saying “a growing business is built on emotion”; contrary to popular belief that entrepreneurs have to be hard-as-nails, uncaring types. For business (and home life!) to run smoothly, remaining open and honest, communicating clearly and keeping as organised as humanely possible is vital.

“Entrepreneurs need to be determined, dogged, hard-working, resilient. They need the ability to try something, fail, and try again. To lean into the problem rather than abandon it. I often think of this quote attributed to Albert Einstein: It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

Anya is brutally honest about what setting up and running a business entails. Chapter 5’s title Tight Ropes And Triangles Of Pain aptly summarises the section of book that follows. Long hours, loneliness and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable come part and parcel with entrepreneurship. I think this chapter is applicable to any career or leadership role, as the tools for progression are much the same and many of them are often (mistakenly) overlooked. For example, it’s an amazing feeling when you reach the stage that you are able to delegate jobs to either people you have hired or the people you been hired to manage, as delegation is crucial for advancement. However, what people frequently fail to realise is that in appointing tasks arises a new responsibility; one in ensuring said person is happy, motivated, and ultimately, on-your-side. As Anya succinctly puts it, when you progress, you may not have to “[…] change the toner cartridge anymore. But you do have to keep the person changing the toner cartridge happy and motivated (and working hard).” An individual’s people skills, or rather their ability, to “[deal] with people” is incredibly important.

“I think a lot about the planet that I am going to leave behind me. I see the challenges of protecting the planet as this generation’s war.”

Anya has made herself fully aware of the issues that are arising with fast fashion and its enormous strain on the environment. Handbags have a bad reputation when it comes to sustainability and Anya has undertaken several campaigns to raise awareness and prove that this doesn’t have to be the case. An example of a campaign was during the February London fashion week 2020 when instead of hosting a show; she filled her stores with 90, 000 plastic bottles – representative of six seconds of the world’s consumption.

“I think it’s important to accept that you cannot do everything, and try to focus on the things you are good at.”

Much of Anya’s wisdom is derived from the challenges she has overcome, and learning to make “peace with [her] core.” She encourages us to think about who we are, what we enjoy, and to put less time and energy into thinking about what others think of us and instead think about who it is we would like to be, and what we can work on. The media, including Instagram and glossy magazines put forward “unrealistic ideals”, and it’s important to limit the time we spend obsessing over these or at the very least take it all with a pinch of salt. Embrace your own qualities and you will flourish.

“So take a risk. Gain some confidence, then take a slightly bigger risk. Dare yourself. Do things. Push yourself a little bit. Build trust in yourself. Not to the extent that you feel a failure, because there’s no merit in that. Just a bit beyond comfortable. You will be amazed how far you can go.”

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