He’s an iconic designer who has turned his hand to everything from high street fashion to huge housing projects. We spoke to Wayne Hemingway MBE about why Britain is such a creative powerhouse, what the future holds, and why we should be glad it rains so often.
“The world revolves around creativity,” Wayne Hemingway says in the midst of a passionate defence of design and technology teaching in schools. He started the world-famous Red or Dead clothing label from a market stall and is best known as a fashion designer, but he has harnessed his considerable talents for urban, housing, graphic and product design as well.
Creativity is at the heart of what he does, and he believes the UK is the most creative country in the world.
“I think you can prove that in a number of ways. Look at the amount of students being sent here to be taught; we have a fantastic creative system and that helps because if you are educating tens of thousands of people every year you get a nice creative base.
“We have a history of creativity which helps, a kind of store of great music, fashion, art and design for young people to aspire to reach or try to beat. Then look at the number of British designers working around the world – in the automotive industry in Italy or fashion design in France.”
But he also believes there is a much less glamorous component in our creative arsenal – the famous British weather.
“Even in the summer you are not thinking, ‘Let’s head to the beach,’ like an Australian might. You don’t want to toil away in a studio if it’s 30 degrees outside, but we have a very short summer and a very long – and in many places very wet – winter, autumn and spring. People have to make their own fun and one of the things people do is be creative.
“I know when it’s raining outside I am more creative myself. If it’s not pissing it down then I might go for a run or play tennis with the kids, but if it is I will go and work on something.”
Although born in Lancashire and having his family home in Sussex, Hemingway Design is based in Wembley and he says London is a perfect city for designers.
“Firstly you’ve got all these hubs going on and you are never far away from what you need. If you are working on a project and you need some help from a graphic designer or a web designer there is always one close by. But also there’s inspiration wherever you go – the architecture, the music, all the things that are
“The London Design Festival is recognised around the world as another reason to bring people to London. It is part of the British creativity brand.
“It needs to grow organically – you need more and more people doing their little bit. These things build up over a number of years. It’s like the Edinburgh Festival – that is now world-renowned but it’s taken years to achieve that. Now it goes from strength to strength and the organisers can trust other people to take bits on and deliver something new.”
As a multi-disciplinarian, he loves the diversity on show at the LDF and believes talent can be applied to whatever challenge comes around.
“Design is just about coming up with ideas that make life a little more enjoyable, palatable or profitable. Design skills are totally transferable.”
With that in mind, it will be fascinating to see what wanders into Wayne’s world next week, next month and next year.