A determined business sense combined with an instinct for great style has given Wayne the tools to build many a successful brand. Starting his adventure selling second-hand clothes on a market stall in Camden, his passion for sustainable clothing soon became the basis of his fashion label, and together with his wife Geraldine, the Red or Dead brand was born. After 21 consecutive seasons on the catwalk at London Fashion Week and winning the British Fashion Council's Streetstyle Designer of the Year award three years on the trot, Wayne and Geraldine sold Red or Dead in a multi-million cash sale in 1999.
Fresh from the realms of the catwalk and the fast-paced fashion industry, Wayne then turned his hand to other creative projects with his new design practice Hemingway Design, specialising in affordable and social housing projects.
After once again building a brand into a highly successful business and scouting other members of the family to trust his eye for design, he now also heads up the Vintage Festival which comes to Boughton House in Northamptonshire for its third successful year in the summer.
Cheap and cheerful
Growing up in a less than privileged background, recycling old clothes and giving materials a dual purpose was all part of the Hemingway way of life.
“I was brought up in a thrifty and really creative family,” Wayne explains. “Sewing machines were used everywhere and my mum and nan were brilliant with using the resources around them to create something original. Back then they never had magazines or people in the media dictating the trends to them and Morecambe wasn't exactly the centre of the fashion world, but somehow the ladies in my family always came out looking like film stars in their handmade gear. It didn't just stop with my mum and nan either, my granddad made all my toys and was always growing vegetables or dabbling in some DIY. My whole life revolved around thrift and nothing was ever thrown away – I just throught it was normal and that's the way everybody lived.
"By the age of 13, wearing second-hand clothes had no stigma attached to it, it seemed like the sensible thing to do and was a great way to make things last.”
After being surrounded by this sustainable ethos for his entire childhood, he soon developed a passion for second-hand clothes and utilising materials in any which way possible. Then, after meeting his wife, he took this onto the streets of London in an attempt to make a quick buck or two.
“My wife came from a very similar background to me and when I met her on the dancefloor of a nightclub, I was drawn to her individuality and quirkiness expressed in the way she was dressed. In 1982, money was tight so we decided to empty our wardrobes onto Camden market to have a go at selling them, never expecting it to take off in the way that it did. We soon realised that people liked our second-hand clothes and our taste seemed to be reciprocated.”
By the end of the year, the small selling operation had expanded into 16 other stalls, with shipments of second-hand clothing and footwear being brought in from all over the world. It was a definitive success. After a decade in Camden, Wayne decided to don his business cap and created fashion label, Red or Dead.
“We did that for 10 years, before setting up our fashion label Red or Dead which still echoed our sustainable ethos. It was an affordable label, made out of found and recycleable materials. One of our flagship stores in Kensington used old wires that were taken from an old run-down BT depot nearby. Even when we sold the company, we still carried on this economical philosophy and since we had the money to build our own house, we were able to design it exactly how we wanted. We done it up with recycled products – our sofa is made from an old boat – but it still encapsulates a completely modern persona.”
So what it is about recycling clothes and materials that gives Wayne such a buzz? “I think upcycling and reusing things not only gives you a sense of pride, but it makes a better way of living. You can make things last longer, make your money go further while also gaining a lot of personal satisfaction from a project. Saying this, although vintage and the second-hand culture has lost its stigma – it's no longer seen as just something for poorer people – it is still a minor sport and far from making it into the mass market.”
The Hemingways have had some huge projects to tackle over the past few months, from working with McDonalds and upcycling company Worn Again to design the uniform for its 85,000 employees in time for the London Olympics, to collaborations with G Plan, Antler Luggage and Hush Puppies. Not to mention the small task of co-curating the official party for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June 2012 in Battersea Park, which was nothing short of spectacular.
Party like it's 1920
Now the team is gearing up to host the third Vintage Festival in its newest location of Boughton House in Northamptonshire. Described by many as the most ambitious and coolest festival ever, the Vintage Festival brings together the best of British talent for a creative feast that lasts for one glamourous weekend. It celebrates the music, food, fashion, art, dance, film and food from the 1920s to the 1980s that helped make the UK a cultural hot bed. The first festival was in 2010 on the Sussex Downs which saw 50,000 party-goers attend and since then it caused quite a stir on London's Southbank in 2011 and looks set to be a fantastic success again this year. Over three days, visitors can learn the dances, take in special live performances, exclusive DJ sets and catwalk shows, taste the food and cocktails from this era or take advantage of the decade-specific hair and beauty makeovers and all the vintage shopping on offer.
“After going from festival to festival and finding that none of them suited what we really wanted,” says Wayne, “we came up with the idea for a totally different vintage festival experience. It's not just about standing there gaping at a band, it incorporates music, fashion, art and design into one venue and gives visitors the chance to learn new skills and find out more about all aspects of the festival. When we were growing up it was very rare to have a fashion movement that didn't go hand-in-hand with a fashion style; punk, mods and rockers and disco for example. So we wanted to bring this back and give a new generation the chance to experience music they wouldn't normally be exposed to and see how it really has stood the test of time from the reaction it gets. I love the fact that we've focused on vintage and what we've done to promote it throughout our lives together.”
This entirely new concept is one of Wayne's finest ideas and captures the trends from eras gone by to transfer to the next generation as well as inspiring more people into his way of sustainable thinking.