In a new series of interviews, Desert Island Designs, our writer Imogen Adams talks to British designer Wayne Hemingway about his most treasured possessions – all mid century of course – and his own design philosophies. Wayne featured in the very first print edition of MidCentury magazine, where he shared his thoughts on the impact of the Festival of Britain, and so it seemed fitting that he kick off this series of articles for us.
Photographs courtesy of Wayne Hemingway
Wayne Hemingway: designer and champion of all things vintage
It’s hard to know where to start when introducing Wayne Hemingway’s diverse and revered career. Alongside his wife and collaborator, Gerardine, Wayne Hemingway has established an internationally famous clothing brand, designed housing projects, consulted the government on youth prospects, and has written multiple books. However, a keen eye for mid century design and its legacy runs like a thread throughout. In addition to his and Gerardine’s landmark fashion label, Red or Dead, the pair have had an important influence on vintage design, championing its merits and reinventing it for contemporary audiences. In 2012, he and Gerardine began The Vintage Festival, an annual event celebrating British design from the 1920s to the ’90s. The festival proved an immediate hit and moved to the Southbank Centre in 2011 to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary celebrations marking the Festival of Britain. Furthermore, Hemingway Design collaborations include a much-lauded range with G Plan, a vintage inspired paint range for Crown, and a furniture collaboration soon to launch using Formica. I spoke with Wayne about his iconoclastic approach to collecting, why mid century design has stood the test of time, and the family house that Gerardine designed with their mid century possessions in mind.
The carved wall cabinet shipped to England from Melbourne; photograph Dan Duchars
Wayne Hemingway: a forever home
Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway actually built their own house just over fifteen years ago, which Gerardine designed and the pair furnished. He tells me they’d only design their own place again if given the choice to commission another house. The same self-sufficiency is apparent in their home’s contents, which features several of the Hemingway Design range for G Plan. Wayne explained how he is careful not to ‘slavishly ape’ the mid century period, but let its influence be more loose, letting the hallmarks adapt to the times rather than remain imperviously stuck in time. Indeed, this loose interpretation of the period brings a sense of personality and humour to their house that would be very difficult to replicate.
‘Harp’ chair by Jorgen Hovelskov
Wayne Hemingway: A passion for mid century furniture
Wayne Hemingway’s collection started decades ago when he and Gerardine were just 19 years old and running their stalls in Camden market. Their choices were always instinctual, they didn’t know what the provenance of what they were buying was, and nor did they mind. They picked things that they liked and that they believed would furnish their flat in a comfortable and distinctive way. A number of the things they picked up from this time remain in their house today, most notably, a stunning pair of Scandinavian ‘Harp’ chairs, designed by Jorgen Hovelskov. Their eclectic choice of items, unhindered by pedigree, labels, or designer names, still defines their taste today. Most of what they have is anonymous, it’s aesthetics and quality marking it out as special in and of itself.
Refreshingly, Wayne Hemingway has no wish list, explaining how, “By the time you get to our age, you have everything you need”. The pair still enjoy browsing charity shops and markets, yet, if they find something, they generously gift it to one of their children or a lucky friend. Judging from their previous finds they certainly have a good eye. One of many statement pieces occupying their living room is a wall cabinet with an exceptionally animated surface provided by a plethora of carvings across its front. The beauty of the cabinet exerted enough pull to entice Wayne to have it shipped back from a Melbourne junk shop, as he explained, “it’s a real one off, with a quadrophonic sound system and wheel-out hostess trolley”. It certainly makes for a lasting souvenir!
Wayne and Gerardine in their ‘wrecked’ mid century boat converted into a one-off sofa
Wayne Hemingway: the longevity of mid century design
“The Holy Grail for a designer is to design something that stands the test of time”, hypothesises Wayne. “The era of Robin Day did that. Royal Festival Hall is timeless”. He believes it is the ‘very cool’ and ‘minimalistic’ nature of mid century design that has ensured its continuing popularity, for “if you can design something that’s not fussy, more often than not it stands the test of time… fussiness loses its appeal.”
Read Wayne Hemingway’s commentary on the Festival of Britain in MidCentury Issue 01
Find out more about Wayne Hemingway’s design ethos at Hemingway Design