Eco-conscious fashion, once a niche practice relegated to the fringes, is now an industry-recognized norm. Designers and executives are tweaking their brand’s long-standing tenets to become more environmentally friendly, showing they recognize that sustainability is not just a fleeting trend but a necessary course of action. In addition, plant-based and lab-grown materials engineered to decompose naturally (as opposed to sitting in landfills for hundreds of years) are becoming increasingly widespread. Earlier this summer, PANGAIA dropped a loungewear assortment made of organic matters such as bamboo and eucalyptus. And now, Anya Hindmarch launched a biodegradable leather bag collection made with the intention of not leaving an impact on Mother Earth.
The brand’s eponymous founder, Anya Hindmarch, became a figurehead for sustainable fashion within the last decade. In 2007, the British designer launched the “I Am Not A Plastic Bag” collection, which included canvas tote bags adorned with the tongue-in-cheek phrase. The campaign from the late aughts kickstarted an eco-revolution, eventually leading Hindmarch to release a new handbag collection — this time dubbed “I Am A Plastic Bag” — made from repurposed plastic water bottles in 2020.
According to Business of Fashion, Hindmarch cited her label’s previous sustainable campaigns as inspiration for her to pursue a bag collection made of biodegradable leather. “[I thought,] where are we going wrong with all the projects that we’ve done on plastic and trying to stop things going to landfills and keep them in circulation? Why are we making things that don’t naturally break down?” the British designer told BoF. Thus, Hindmarch set out to create items that would decompose on their own, ultimately resulting in her biodegradable bag collection called “Return to Nature.”
The process of developing a leather that would fully biodegrade took Hindmarch over two years of research, development, and disintegration tests. In the same interview with BoF, she described how the bags are made from start to finish. The leather is sourced from Swedish cattle farms, a German tannery, and leather goods manufacturers based in Andalusia, Spain. Once acquired, the leather is treated with zeology, a sustainable tanning alternative that’s chrome-free, metal-free, and aldehyde-free. Lastly, the bags are coated in wax made from natural oils, which, Hindmarch explained to BoF, owners will need to continually re-apply.
The end result is a collection of three different styles — a bucket bag, a tote, and a crossbody — and for each of them, shoppers have the option of two colorways, deep mahogany or light chestnut. Furthermore, every bag is hardware-free, unlined, and stitched together with biodegradable cotton, meaning 100% of the piece will decompose. “We want this [bag] to last forever, and it should last forever if you look after it,” said the designer in conversation with BoF. “The point is that if this ever did end up in landfill, it would break down ... [but] if you did actively want to compost it, I’d rather you [sell it on] eBay or [give it to] someone else.”
The “Return to Nature” collection is available now on anyahindmarch.com and matchesfashion.com. In addition, £10 from every sale will be donated to Dirt, a regenerative soil charity founded by model Arizona Muse.