The design champion with a love of retro styling has worked on everything from fashion to social housing and is bringing his latest venture, the Vintage festival, to London’s South Bank this month
A determined business sense combined with an instinct for design has given Wayne Hemingway the tools to build many a successful brand. Starting from a market stall in Camden, Red or Dead, the fashion label he created together with his wife Gerardine Hemingway, enjoyed 21 seasons on the catwalk at London Fashion Week and won the British Fashion Council’s Streetstyle Designer of the Year award for three consecutive years from 1996.
The Hemingways then sold Red or Dead in a multi-million-pound deal and set up a design practice, Hemingway Design. It focuses on affordable and social housing — its projects have received many awards — and has also picked up a long list of product design commissions.
Latest on the agenda is Vintage, a themed festival and emerging brand that aims to celebrate Britain’s rich cultural history of music, fashion, art and design. Vintage at Goodwood launched last year to widespread acclaim and the second edition, Vintage at Southbank, will take over London’s Southbank Centre. Running from 29 to 31 July, the event will feature live music at the Royal Festival Hall, vintage retailers, catwalk shows, dance classes and an array of special retro-themed events. The idea for the event came about when Hemingway and his family were at a festival and became disillusioned by its lack of style. ‘We were all dressed up but no one else was,’ he remembers, ‘and the place was horrible! We got talking about the 1970s, when fashion and design were equally as important as the music, and wondered if it was possible to create an event for people like us with a creative mindset.’
Hemingway then carried out some in-depth research into the vintage scene, working with the research team at the University of Wolverhampton, where he is a professor. ‘The idea was to look back to look forward,’ he explains. ‘We looked at great art and design movements from the 1920s to the 1980s, how they are represented today and the people who celebrate them.’
The research findings highlighted a niche in the market so Hemingway Design embarked on the arduous task of creating the event. ‘It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done in such a short time,’ he says. ‘But we have now built a valuable brand with enormous potential.’ This brand is set to grow exponentially — there are plans to launch a range of interior products under the Vintage label.
The research conducted for Vintage links in with another of Hemingway’s endeavours, the Land of Lost Content — the world’s largest electronic archive of 20th-century popular culture. The online resource features more than 500,000 images relating to every area of design, accompanied by detailed background information, for use by students and teachers of design (find out more at www.edu.lolc.co.uk).
Just as Vintage stemmed from a personal interest, Hemingway attributes his aptitude for housing to a similar ethos of ‘designing for people like ourselves’. His self-professed ‘crusade’ for better-designed affordable housing is gauged by highly personal standards. ‘We always ask the question, “would we live here?”,’ he says. Dedication to the cause has led to family holidays touring dozens of housing developments around Europe, learning from an absolute absorption in the subject. Since 1999, Hemingway Design has worked on large-scale, high-profile housing projects. These include Calderwood, a scheme of 2,300 properties in Lothian for Stirling Developments, and, more recently, Evenlode, the regeneration of a large, 1960s housing estate in Maidenhead. Most well known is The Staiths Southbank, an 800-property development on the banks of the River Tyne at Gateshead for Taylor Wimpey Homes, designed with architects Ian Darby Partnership. Praised for its focus on green space and range of property layouts, the development has won many accolades, including Housing Design awards, a Building for Life prize and an 85 per cent assessment score from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. In an unexpected twist, Hemingway was invited to design The Staiths after he criticised the developers in a newspaper article. It is this no-holds-barred honesty that has earned him celebrity status as a design commentator over the years.
With countless design collaborations in the pipeline for clients such as John Lewis, Crown Paints, Hush Puppies, Antler and Coca-Cola, plus a top-secret Olympics project, this status shows no sign of diminishing.
This article was first published in idfx Magazine.