Away from the manic commuters of Piccadilly, and hidden below the foyer of Flemings, lies The Grill, where 40 Miss Jones members gathered on Thursday night to drink wine, eat risotto, and be inspired by one of Britain’s most celebrated female designers: Anya Hindmarch.
And no, she’s not Russian; she’s all Essex, baby.
The venue was perfect: Fleming's Grill reminds me of a new age jazz bar, with it’s dark décor, soft lighting, and low ceilings, but the space is made to feel larger with the numerous mirrors lining the walls. With this came the stark realisation that I don’t look so hot when I’m eating, but then again, who does? The evening began quite civilised; PAs old and new, and other guests of Miss Jones, got to know each other over white wine sodas, a low chatter complemented by low music filled the room, while we all anticipated the arrival of our guest speaker. It only took half an hour tops for pretenses to be dropped and un-ashamed ice bucket looting to break out (this would have happened sooner but we were all waiting for someone else to do it first…), then Anya arrived and mingled with some delighted PAs before we all took our seats to listen to her speech.
I was pleasantly surprised, but not altogether shocked, to discover what a warm, intelligent and funny individual Anya Hindmarch is. She spoke with a contagious passion about the enterprise she had founded all those years ago, and I was blown away by the focus she had obviously demonstrated at the mere age of 18, when most of us were throwing away our fake I.D.s, and rejoicing in the fact we could now go out and get trollied. Legally. You don’t end up with 50 stores in 7 countries and the Duchess of Cambridge regularly showcasing your mini-masterpieces without said focus, but Anya is not just about World handbag domination.
Her 5 children are her proverbial pride and joy, and she is obviously still very much in love with her husband; she has done various things for charity and the environment, including the highly publicised ‘I’m not a plastic bag’; add to that she looks closer to 22 than 42 and you actually want to be a little bit sick. However, she did admit that a lot of what she does, and has done, is due to the support of her PA, Kate, or ‘my Kate’, as Anya affectionately referred to her during the evening.
We all know that the work of a PA is never done; being a PA is not like running a business, it is running a business. Your boss’ business. So when the hard work and clairvoyance is recognised and appreciated, it really makes a difference in a PAs professional life, and Anya certainly appreciates the work PAs do, which is one of the reasons she so kindly agreed to come and speak to our Miss Jones members on Thursday night. She hadn’t even finished her speech and I wanted to leave to start designing ponchos or knitting mittens to sell to the masses (I’m not cool enough to pull off ‘handbag designer’), and she had the same effect on each and every woman in that room. She left to raucous applause and many a cheer just before the main was served, and although the risotto was absolutely delicious, I barely touched mine due to my incessant talking; Anya certainly left us with a lot to talk about.
We were inspired by this creative yet business savvy Essex broad, who took a teenage dream and turned it into a world-class fashion empire; if anyone in that room hadn't been an Anya fan before, they most certainly are now.