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If you want to do something you just need PASSION!

Posted by on Tuesday, 17 September 2013.

Wayne Hemingway (middle) at the recent

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to sneak in on one of the University of Cumbria’s Knowledge Action Network (KAN) events. I was interested in the theme of Innovation and Collaboration but even more interested to hear what the keynote speaker, Wayne Hemingway, had to say. After starting by declaring “I’m not going to talk a lot, this is going to be an interactive session” Wayne proceeded to pour out his life story for over an hour. It didn’t matter as I could have listened for another hour.

Born in Morecambe and brought up in Blackburn, Wayne’s career started in the early 80s after he moved to London with girlfriend, Gerardine to try to make it with his band. When they couldn’t afford their rent Wayne and Gerardine decided to sell some of their second hand clothes on Camden Market. They made £100 on their first day and within weeks they were making thousands of pounds with shipments of second hand clothing and footwear being brought in from all over the world and from Shoddy yards in Dewsbury.  (All very intriguing for me as I was a student in London at the time this was going on and I wondered if I’d bought anything from one of their market stalls!) With help from family and friends back in Blackburn, Gerardine soon developed her own clothing brand and the label Red or Dead was born in 1983.

A turning point in the Hemingways’ careers came when they were looking for someone to manufacture a new shoe design. After a few false starts they met a factory owner who not only gave them the time of day but gave them the best advice they’d ever had. He asked them what their brand meant and as they started to explain about the “better red than dead” slogan that had been adopted by anti-nuclear war campaigners at the time, the factory owner stopped them and asked “What does your brand mean? What’s behind your brand?” After discussions about favourite cereals and what it was about these cereals that attracted Wayne and Gerardine they realised that they needed a philosophy behind what they were doing. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Hemingways were the first producers of affordable design, and in 1999, having sold Red or Dead they set up HemingwayDesign, which specialises in affordable and social design. HemingwayDesign has a core philosophy that design is about improving things that matter in life and this philosophy informs their choice of projects which range from mass market housing projects to vintage festivals.

Wayne and Gerardine have never written a business plan, never had any training in design, never paid for advertising, but Wayne prefers to work than to go on holiday (although he says he feels like he’s never done a day’s work) and believes that if you want to do something you just need passion. His advice is to “live your brand”. They live a sustainable lifestyle (he still wears second hand clothes) and so they get asked to work on sustainable projects. His top tip of the moment is to create a video for You Tube to show case your business/lifestyle/story and make your company visual. Check out their collaboration with Hush Puppies http://www.hemingwaydesign.co.uk/projects/fashion/hemingway-for-hush-puppies

Oh, and also he said, get blogging!

KAN http://www.knowledge-action.co.uk/

HemingwayDesign http://www.hemingwaydesign.co.uk

Karen Bentley-Brown

Project Development Manager, Nurture Lakeland

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