Working mothers often describe balancing the needs of children and business as juggling, but how's this for a circus act: Anya Hindmarch, the 40-year-old British handbag designer who has 52 stores worldwide plus a robust e-tail presence, not only creates bags (and shoes and a capsule collection of clothing) and is managing director of an eponymous company, valued in excess of $40 million; she also has five children ranging in age from 5 to 19.
What gives? "We were thinking about a second home in the country, and then I came to my senses," says Hindmarch with a laugh. She's certain that keeping everything close is the secret to making things work: the family (at 24, she married a widower with three children, and the couple added two more) lives four minutes' drive from the converted stable near London's River Thames that houses her global HQ, her husband James Seymour joined the company in 2000 as finance director, and the couple sit next to each other at work. "Otherwise, if we'd kept two separate businesses going, maybe we'd only bump into each other in Japan!" says Hindmarch, whose brand appeals to those wanting fashionable, practical bags not smothered in initials. Madonna and Reese Witherspoon are among those who actually pay for the fruits of Hindmarch's obsessions, which include comfortable straps; useful, secure compartments; and a place to stash car keys so you can access them with a child on one hip.
Hindmarch says she has loved "putting things in compartments" since she was a little girl, and she started her bag business not much later; she was only 18 when, eschewing university, she headed to Florence to learn Italian, designed a drawstring leather bag and then, using a still evident good-mannered persistence, persuaded an editor at a glossy magazine back home to offer it as a special purchase to readers. Today prices for an Anya Hindmarch bag range from just $15 for the "I'm Not a Plastic Bag," the cotton tote that became a global eco-sensation, to thousands of dollars for a bespoke Ebury.
A typical day for Hindmarch kicks off at the breakfast table, wrangling the schedules of three young adults (Hugo, 19; Tia, 18; Bert, 16), before a chat with the nanny about plans for Felix and Otto (8 and 5) and, at the same time, an at-home manicure. Next it's off to the office for design meetings or a consultation with directors from private-equity firm Kelso Place, which acquired a nonmajority stake in the company in 2006. Dinner might be with the British Conservative leader David Cameron (she is passionate about politics); later, at about midnight, Hindmarch will have her customary cup of tea beneath a WW II poster that has pride of place at home. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON is its British stiff-upper-lip instruction.
"There are times when I am worried, but I think if you can thrash that out, you can find your equilibrium. There's no reason to be negative!" says Hindmarch. Marion Hume
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