Words to live by: Anya Hindmarch CBE on her rise to fashion stardom

The award-winning designer started her fashion empire as a teenager in 1987, after being inspired by a second-hand Gucci bag. Today, at 54, she has 15 luxury stores worldwide and counts the Duchess of Cambridge as a loyal customer

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A good scrub with shampoo never fails to make me feel calmer and more confident. This started as a slightly flippant joke, but I think most women understand that if you feel good about yourself you actually stand up straighter and look people in the eye. I think doubt weaves its way through most people’s daily lives, whether you’re a president or the Queen.

But often, doubt is an incredibly good thing. It keeps you safe when trying new things. It’s your checkpoint. I think we all need to learn to reframe how we look at doubt.

I really thought writing my first book would be like writing eight essays. But, in fact, it’s quite hard to be publicly vulnerable. It goes against the grain, but I was inspired to write it by the younger generation. They’re very good at being open about how they feel and, frankly, that’s very impressive. I thought it was important that my generation does the same, but perhaps with some added layers on the experience we’ve had.

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I talk about the ‘transition generation’ in the book: women who work as hard as their dads but still do all the work at home. There’s a lot of pressure on women to do everything. I am not an amazing homemaker who produces lovely home cooked meals – I struggle to get any kind of meal on the table with five children. I can be planning the next board meeting and managing a diary for five different schools at the same time. There’s a lot of stuff going on in my head, which my mother didn’t have in the same way, and it can be overwhelming. I realised I have to cut myself a bit of slack. It was a lightbulb moment.

In the boardroom you are encouraged to slightly offset your emotions but, actually, I realised that I’m driving a business, driving a team and driving products – without emotion, I would be terrible at all of that. Emotion is so much part of what I do. If you are running a team or a family, it’s imperative that everyone’s feeling happy and things going well.

This ties into being kind. For me, it’s hard to imagine that kindness is not the norm for some people. Kindness is about respect. It’s woven into any success story, be it managing relationships, a family or an entire workplace. Without kindness, you don’t breed respect and loyalty. And so, if you’re not kind to people they won’t be kind to you.

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Equally having a sense of humour brings people together and makes work more engaging. And I think self-deprecation is very important; it creates a platform that means shyer people don’t feel afraid to share ideas with other people.

In my book I include the analogy that life is a fast flowing, often turbulent river. You just need stepping stones. We can feel guilty about putting ourselves first because there are so many other things that need to be looked after, but stepping stones are really key to managing your own energy levels, and staying positive and upbeat. Put a day in the diary for some free ‘me time’. There are so many fun things you can do – even if it’s taking a break to read a book. This is actually a responsibility, not a luxury.

One piece of advice I live by is, ‘Be yourself: everyone else is taken’. Everyone strives to be super cool, rich and beautiful, but I think the people who are genuinely the coolest are those who are just really happy with their lot. They have an aura of confidence. They love their family, their home, their friends and radiate a kind of inner peace and happiness. They’re not searching for the next big thing. That’s pretty cool in my book.

‘If in Doubt Wash Your Hair’ by Anya Hindmarch (Bloomsbury) is available now