The Hemingways do justice to their name. The creative spirit is in their genes. From a young boy whose grandma dressed him up as Elvis, Wayne Hemingway has grown into an international design heavyweight. And yet he is surprisingly humble. It’s refreshing.
He and his daughter Tilly talk to us about their collaboration with Royal Doulton, responsible design and being real.
Wayne Hemingway is a decent bloke. He’s insightful, understated and comfortable in his own skin. He grew up creating his own fashion, a fact he credits to his mother and grandmother.
“They made all their own clothes, mainly out of necessity. I don’t know what drove it, but, when you look back at the pictures, they were bloody stylish. They were into fashion in a big way.”
This was back before the vogue of vintage shops. “It’s hard to imagine now, because everyone’s doing it, but back then nobody else I knew was going to charity shops and buying things and messing around with them.”
He met his match in Gerardine. His now-wife was cultivating a style all her own. “Up North, where we come from, the way that she dressed was – well, it was weird. I mean, when I met her, she had knitting needles in her hair. I’d never seen anyone with knitting needles in their hair!”
A rash decision to squander their rent money on a rehearsal studio for his band would reap unimaginable rewards for the young couple. In a desperate attempt to come up with cash, they raided their closets and headed down to the fledgling Camden Markets.
They came home with six times their weekly rent and the seeds for Better Red Than Dead were sown.
Crafting their own clothes scoured from charity shops became a multi-million dollar designer label. Soon they had 23 outlets, and they were selling to Maceys and Harrods, supporting a staff of 400. “We just had a clear run at it, and in business when you have a clear run at it, you’re set.”
Better Red Than Dead would adorn the international catwalks for 21 consecutive seasons before the couple were ready to move on. They sold the business and launched Hemingway Design but this background in fashion would continue to inform their work through their signature exploitation of texture, line and form.
Hemingway Design is a multi-disciplinary design agency focused on affordable and social design. It’s headed up by two generations of Hemingways. Tilly Hemingway, daughter of the fashion-forward couple, is the force behind this current collection of homewares. It pairs Royal Doulton’s expertise in craftsmanship with the unique Hemingway aesthetic. It celebrates 200 years of tradition for Royal Doulton.
An inspired designer with an eye for the intricate, Tilly has crafted a range of ceramics that work as stand-alone pieces as well as in collaboration. The collection takes its inspiration from mid-century design, drawing together an eclectic mix of shapes and embossments and colours. It’s old meets new – representing a style dialogue between two times, imbued with history whilst also recognising that the world moves on.
“It couldn’t be just, ‘That’s a sixties design that they’ve brought back’,” Tilly says. “It had to feel fresh and modern as well. And I think the palette does that well. It’s not too retro, it’s also contemporary.”
Tilly did a lot of research into ceramics, looking at shape, not simply in the Royal Doulton’s archive but across other UK brands. The embossments within the collection draw on the Hemingway design portfolio – “They’re patterns that we’ve used on other products and fabric ranges,” Tilly says, “but in different colours and scales and textures.”
Working on this project has proved a personal pleasure for Tilly. “I’ve really enjoyed working across a range of products. It seems like such an eclectic yet decorative collection. And yet they talk to each other.”
It’s also yielded an unexpected boon – an ongoing interest in pottery. Tilly now crafts and fires her own pieces in her kiln before work. This says something about the young designer’s tenacity and spirit of adventure.
We’re crushing on this collection in a big way. How about you? Shop the look here.