Wayne Hemingway on design

,  22 June 2012

Wayne Hemingway reveals how he got into design, the importance of mentoring and how to survive a recession and use it to your advantage.

Inspiration and starting out in design

"The inspiration came from having been bought up in a creative household.

"My mum always made her own clothes, my nan always made her own clothes. My pop – my granddad – was always out making stuff for the house and then it came out of necessity. 

"Nobody’s ever asked me, ‘what degree did you get for design?’"

"I met my future wife Geraldine and we both moved to London, again with no money. I spent all our rent money in a band that I was playing in, on some rehearsal rooms and buying a saxophone.

"We were going to be kicked out and we thought, 'how are we going to pay the rent?' which was due on Monday.

“We emptied our wardrobe. We went to a local pound store and bought a few of those chequered Chinese laundry bags. We loaded them up with a mixture of Geraldine’s clothes that she’d made, my secondhand clothes and old punk clothes, took them down to Camden Market and took a load of money.

"We quickly realised that we could actually do this more often and did it every week.

"That’s how the business started. From there opened in Kensington Market, and then the story of Red or Dead began."

Skills to be a designer

“I didn’t realise you could actually be part of the creative industries, and be a designer, until Camden Market happened. It was by chance and then it didn’t really matter that neither of us had any education.

"Nobody’s ever asked me, ‘What degree did you get for design?’. We’ve employed hundreds of people and I’ve never ever looked to see if any of the designers that we’ve employed have ever got their qualification.

"What we ask them to do is show us how creative they are and what they can do for our businesses."

The benefits of mentoring

“Being creative can be a lonely existence. But when you’ve got more than one of you to start off, being able to bounce ideas off somebody else who might have a different take on things, and who can say, ‘that’s a bit of a stupid idea’ or ‘that’s a great idea’.

““You need help all the way through. You’re going to get help if people like you and trust you."

"Those kinds of things were really useful. Your mentor doesn’t have to be somebody who’s done it – it could be somebody who shares that passion for success and creativity with you.

“You need help all the way through. You’re going to get help if people like you and trust you and know that you’re not going to shaft them. So you need to be a decent person. You also need is the ability to work your backside off.

"Sometimes design can be quite troubling, but the good designers turn it towards a positive. The ones that will make it are normally the ones who have that passion for design, have that passion for change, have that passion for moving mankind on a little bit."

Overcome the fear of failure

“If I was starting out and I had a product or I had an idea, I’d want to get out there and make sure people were looking at it. And if that meant going down to your local market, standing on the street showing people, just be brave about it.

“The fear of failure is something that stifles lots of creative people, because there’s a lot of pride in creativity. But pride comes before a fall. I was always taught that by my family."

“Every time there’s been a recession there’s been exciting things come out of it. The recession is coupled with a situation where we’re questioning our very existence and how we’re treating the Earth.

"I just think it’s one of the most exciting times. We’ll look back the next ten years from now and think, ‘my God. I think the next ten years we’ll have worked out new ways of living on this Earth.’

“If I had any inkling in terms of starting my own business I would be confident about starting it now. Rents for places are going to go down. You’ll probably be able to rent spaces and just pay the rates probably on zero rent.

“There is opportunity people are looking for something different. There’s a whole new economy out there in terms of sustainability in terms of new products."

How to apply for a design job

"The rest of the world is desperate for what we’ve got, in terms of our reputation and what we’re able to provide.”

“If you want to work for somebody, don’t just photocopy or email your CV. Show somebody why you can help that company what you can offer what you can give them.

"The best thing you can do as a designer is to design something that you think is right.

"Whatever you’re doing, come up with something that’s specific for who you want to work for, and you are better to target your dream job."

Being world leaders in creativity

“We’ve got a head start in Britain, in terms of creativity, because we’ve got a strong history of good design education. I think if you ask the rest of the world who are the best at design education, then probably we are.

“Secondly, we’ve got a history of youth culture of creativity for whatever reasons. Probably to do with climate more than anything and probably because we’re in a crowded island. The rest of the world wants a bit of it so you can’t rest on your laurels.

"The rest of the world is desperate for what we’ve got in terms of our reputation and what we’re able to provide.”

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