Founder of this summer's highly successful Vintage Festival at the Southbank Centre, Wayne Hemingway knows a thing or two about stylish, but sustainable design.
Starting out in fashion (turning a second hand clothing stall in Camden Market into cult fashion brand Red or Dead, which he later sold in a multi-million pound deal) Wayne switched focus and set up HemingwayDesign with his wife, Geraldine, which specializes in affordable and social design. He's also comitted to up-cycling (transforming old furniture and objects into new pieces) - such as his latest project with Coca-Cola, an umbrella made out of recycled Coca Cola bottles. We sat down with the iconic designer to discuss design, returning to fashion, and his fabulous home filled with up-cycled products...
When did you decide to adopt up-cycling as a lifestyle choice? How did you get started?
Partly because of my upbringing and partly due to how myself and my wife, Gerardine started out our Red or Dead business at Camden market back in the 80’s.
Growing up, it was instilled in me to not waste anything, but to conserve as much as we could. My nan would get all the old soaps together and melt them down to make new ones. Nothing would ever go to waste.
Then with us starting out in the fashion business, it all started at Camden market, which was again up-cycling. Emptying out our wardrobes, making new looks out of old clothes. We aim to reuse and repair generally at home too, rather than waste. I can’t stand to waste. There is no need for it.
Your home is full of beautiful up-cycled pieces you've created (as the photos below shows). Which up-cycled object are you most proud of?
Our sofas that are made from an old boat - (pictured above) they make great talking points with friends and family. We spotted this old boat in a mud bath many years ago and asked a carpenter friend of mine to help restore it. He then borrowed it from us as he had started working on the Isle of Wight. However, one day he got caught in an awful gale and our beloved boat ended up washed up on the shingle beach of Hayling Island. So, I organised for it to be lifted and brought back home, where we turned in to our now very comfy sofas.
If you could live in any building in the world, where would it be?
I really like mid-century modern. I love buildings like the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, the Barbican…those types of buildings. My own home is very modern in design and aesthetics.
Which iconic piece of design do you wish you had created, and why?
The catflap! Let’s cats in, but burglars don’t fit!
You and your wife run your design company together. Do you always have similar taste when it comes to design/decorating, or disagree on certain things?
I often agree with Gerardine. She is infallible. Our family home was Gerardine’s design.
Up-cycling and vintage seem to have become bigger than ever – why now?
The new generation are really embracing up-cycling and vintage today. I think it is more accessible and celebrated. It is also fun, creating your own looks and interiors.
If our readers wanted to start up-cycling, how would you recommend they start?
There are a multitude of places to look today with charity and vintage shops being so popular. You can search out second hand fabrics and furniture and make them into something new – you just need a bit of imagination. Furniture is a great one to up-cycle. Don’t look at something as if it is for the rubbish tip, think about how a lick of paint could transform it or maybe by creating a distressed look, could make a new piece for your home. There are also up-cycling markets now, with lots of new young designers that have up-cycled old clothes and items. You will certainly have something that is different to the high street.
Can you see yourself returning to fashion (perhaps an up-cycled range)?
We would happily work with our younger generation of Hemingway’s and support them in their fashion ventures, but unlikely myself and Gerardine would return to fashion just as the two of us. We have done that, been successful at it and so now enjoy new challenges.
We do really enjoy exciting projects, like my current design collaboration with Coca-Cola. I have designed and created an umbrella, whereby its fabric is made out of recycled 100% plastic bottles to try and demonstrate what great things can be made when we recycle our plastic waste. Projects like this excite me, as they marry fashion with an important message. Plastic needs to be remembered as a valuable resource and we want to inspire people to recycle more.
The collaboration is timed with the launch of Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle plastic packaging – the brand’s first ever 100% recyclable plastic bottle, partially made from plants. Packaging is a bug bear of mine, so when I heard about what Coca-Cola was doing I jumped at the chance to get involved.
Why did you choose this particular piece, and what inspired the design?
We chose an umbrella because it tied in with the autumnal launch of Coca-Cola’s new PlantBottle packaging. An umbrella felt relevant, topical and seasonal. The design graphic is inspired by Brazilian sugar-cane, which is the plant based material in the new sustainable packaging. We felt this delicately told the story through design and would capture peoples interest.
This season, fashion seems more vintage-inspired thank ever – with sixties, seventies, forties and twenties inspired looks on the catwalk. Why do you think fashion designers are constantly referencing the past, and do you think this is a good thing?
I think it is inevitable. There are only so many body shapes and designs that suit, so the trends from the past keep on being referenced again & again. It is nice to see design classics coming back on the catwalk – I support this. The Vintage festival I curate each year is a great array of styles through the ages.
Wayne's design i s available on cokezone.co.uk throughout October
Main picture credit: Rex Features