Homegirl London pays homage to HemingwayDesign. What can I tell you about Wayne Hemingway of HemingwayDesign? Well, I used to know him quite well back in the early 90’s but lost contact after that. I could tell you a few things about him that wouldn’t have changed though … If he were a stick of rock he’d have the word ‘family’ running right through the middle. He’s as down to earth as you can get and above all a decent bloke. He’s got an exceptionally good eye for style and design combined with a brilliant business brain, a pretty unique combination. His design style is retro-modern, quirky with a big dollop of humour and he can’t resist a good bargain. You probably know that he was co-owner of the highly successful fashion brand Red or Dead, the fashion business which grew from humble beginnings – a market stall at Camden in the early 80’s which he ran with his wife Gerardine. Since then he’s become an MBE, professor, author, a renowned popular British culture collector and curator, The Vintage Festival founder and has built a family empire – HemingwayDesign which he started in 1999 with Gerardine. The multi-disciplinary design agency is led by two generations of the Hemingway family with a wider team of talented designers. They design everything from houses, to home wares, wallpaper, tiles and even garden sheds. I caught up with Wayne to ask him a few questions …
Q: Tell me about HemingwayDesign, how did it all start and what’s the business about?
A: When we sold Red or Dead we really fancied doing something a bit different. We felt we could improve life and live-ability and were never afraid of a challenge as we were brought up to believe it’s about trying so we had no fear of failure, if you tried your hardest and had no regrets that was the main thing. We looked around at what could be done better like social housing, festivals and gave it a go. We aren’t trained; we don’t need training, its ideas and drive to make things happen. In fact, Gerardine is worse than me, she hates not delivering and she’s a perfectionist and puts a ridiculous amount of effort in to the projects.
Q: What made you branch out into products for the home?
A: Wallpaper was a natural progression with our design background, Red or Dead was print heavy so we had a massive amount of inspiration around us. When doing our housing projects, we’d look for tiles and wallpaper but never found anything we liked so we thought we’d make our own.
Q: You’re an avid collector of British cultural objects, what’s your most prized procession and why?
A: I don’t have one prized procession; it’s the whole collection at Land of Lost Content www.lolc.co.uk I’ve been collecting things for thirty years which were cheap – records, magazines, art and objects. An opportunity arose to pool it all together with a friend (Stella Mitchell) to make a permanent show. Not everything is in the collection, like my clothes and records. I’ve got about 1700 pieces of art which aren’t all on show because there are too many. So I’d say it’s the collection in its entirety rather than just one thing is what’s important.
Q: Tell me three of your favourite places to buy vintage furniture and objects from.
A: I love Brighton and mid-century modern furniture and there are three stores I shop at – Brick a Brick (25 Gloucester Road, BN1 4AQ), In My Room (35 Gloucester Road, North Laine, BN1 4AQ) and Snoopers Paradise (7-8 Kensington Gardens, BN1 4AL).
Q: What’s been the most satisfying project you’ve worked on – what was it and why was it satisfying?
A: We’ve worked on so many interesting projects but the best one has got to be The Staiths, South Bank in Gateshead. We criticised the Wimpeyfication of Britain in the national press and George Wimpey invited us to create an 800 home community. It was a massive undertaking from design of the homes to the layout; it’s just about finished now, works a treat and looks lovely.
Q: What new ventures are you working on?
A: We’re working with G Plan, the iconic brand, to bring them up to date and give them a cool shot in the arm. Making art for John Lewis which is inspired by the collection at Land of Lost Content, designing luggage for Antler and a project with Nissan. The Vintage Festival is 13-15 July 2012 at Boughton House, Northamptonshire which celebrates music, fashion, film, art, design, dance and food from the 1920s to 1980s.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone setting up a business what would it be?
A: Whatever business it is you’ve got to want to do it, rather than make money. So first, passion but married with understanding the value of money. There is no substitute for hard work but you must know when to let go if something isn’t working.
Q: Do you think you’ll ever retire and what would you do with your time if you did?
A: Yes I expect I will retire at some point. I want to keep on running till I’m eighty, I love running. Play football, cricket and spend time with the family, grandchildren and great grand kids.
HemingwayDesign has created a collection of Vintage wallpapers for Graham and Brown, you can click through to buy from HemingwayDesign Website where you’ll also find their other fabulous home brands. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of HemingwayDesign, Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway picture by Trevor Leighton, special thanks to Wayne Hemingway.
Loppy Lines, £30 per roll
Do the Stretch, £30 per roll
Deco Diamond, £30 per roll
Grid, £30 per roll