Together with his wife Gerardine, Wayne Hemingway MBE is probably one of the UK's most famous and prolific designers, although pinning him down to one genre is almost impossible.
From Red or Dead clothing in the early days to affordable homes, he has his creative fingers in many pies and is particularly associated with the popularity of vintage themes, not least because of his annual music, fashion and cultural festival, that celebrates all things vintage.
Now he's working with us to produce fun and witty products for your home - these wonderful deckchairs in a proper seaside theme, and these cheeky canvas wrap pictures. We asked him to tell us a bit about his life and career.
How did you get started with Red or Dead, and what do you think were the reasons for its success?
We started purely by chance; in short, Gerardine and I met as teenagers on a Northern Soul dancefloor in Burnley, and with a shared passion for going out, dancing, watching bands, buying records and dressing up, we fell in love!
We gave things a try in London; I formed a band and spent all the rent money put aside for our flat on band rehearsals! Then we heard about a new market opening in Camden, so in order to find the rent we emptied our wardrobes of my secondhand clothes and Gerardine's self-made clothes to sell there (she made everything she wore and I only wore secondhand - we both came from hands-on DIY families). It was a success from day one, so Gerardine opened a stall in the sadly-missed Kensington market, selling clothes that she made on her little sewing machine right there on the stall. We got a massive order from Macy's New York, and two young people suddenly had a fashion business!
Gerardine and I were on a mission in the early days of Red or Dead to bring designer fashion to the masses. In the mid 1980s, we broke all the then "rules" by selling our designer fashion collections to Top Shop and Miss Selfridge and shoe collections to Dolcis. Today we're proud of our continued success in bringing well-thought-out design to the high street with our tiles in Topps Tiles, paints in Homebase and sheds in B & Q, and we're looking forward to further success with John Lewis!
What inspires you to get involved in the many projects you're engaged in?
We focus on affordable and social design, with a core philosophy of aiming to "improve things that matter in life" As human beings and designers, we see things all the time that we feel can be improved - hence our attempts to shake up the affordable housing sector, and our Vintage Festival that came about through us feeling that summer festivals could be more inclusive, by being less about 16-year old on the lash, and more about glamour and a multi-generational celebration of creativity.
Who are your design heroes?
Gerardine number one - but also Robin and Lucienne Day, coincidentally another husband and wife team and the greatest husband and wife design team there's ever been. (Also coincidentally, both were associated with design at John Lewis at various points in their lives.)
Just like with my own situation, theirs was a partnership and life underpinned by a shared passion for being creative and a shared passion for design as a force of good and a tool for lifting spirits. The Days' first home, a flat in Markham Square , Chelsea, was described as "make do and mend modern". Their creative re-use of furniture chimes with the philosophy that Gerardine and I bring to our homes and projects. We, like the Days, have always been evangelical about design and its ability to be a force for good, and the importance of it permeating all levels of society.
What inspires you about vintage and the 1950s in particular?
Vintage has always been important to us and plays a big part in how we approach our own home. Our house looks modern, but the vast majority of items are things we've sourced and found ourselves. We don't slavishly follow fashion and trends, and we feel that is what allows us to be creative. Vintage is about looking at timeless elements of design and finding and creating an enduring style. It allows you to be creative in the way you use products. If you're looking to use vintage there are many ways to make it look different.
Vintage is not just about looking back - so we don't use the word retro - it's about celebrating a wonderful creativity that is timeless and deserves an airing to generations that were not around when the design/film/art/music first came out. Some things will always resonate, from Rock 'n Roll to Northern Soul, to a Lucienne Day print, to an Aston Martin . Great design is great design is great design - no matter when it was first conceived
How did the collaboration with John Lewis come about?
John Lewis fits the HemingwayDesign aesthetic like a glove - affordable without compromising quality. John Lewis is a retailer that "does the right thing" both in terms of its philosophy in terms of employment, and its philosophy to serve as many folks as possible but maintain standards . We also like JL's attention to detail in sourcing , its ethical and sustainable stance, and it is bloomin' friendly!
What's the most important project on your list for 2012?
We have some wonderful projects on the go, from the "re-imagining" of some 60s social housing schemes, to sustainability-led projects with multinationals like McDonalds, Nissan and Coca Cola. But apart from our work with John Lewis (of course!), the Vintage Festival in July is our priority right now. It's the hardest project we have ever undertaken, but it gives so much pleasure to so many people, and to us that's what being a designer is all about. It has never been a desire for wealth or fame that has driven us , but rather a sense that many things in life could and should be better.
Find out more about Wayne Hemingway's life and career on YouTube, about the Vintage Festival and at www.vintagefestival.co.uk (all open in a new window. Please note that we can't be responsible for the content of external websites).