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Wayne Hemingway on the impact of Red or Dead

With an exhibition celebrating the 30th anniversary of Hemingway's anarchic brand at the Truman Brewery, we caught up with the creative to talk attitude and legacy

What does it take to change fashion? Humour, print, colour, and people who love you for your madness, says Red or Dead's Katie Greenyer. The label started by Wayne Hemingway and his wife, Geraldine, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with an archive exhibit at the Dray Walk Gallery in London. The pair began with one stall on Saturdays in Camden Market. Soon, there were sixteen stalls – and three Street Style Designer of the Year awards from the British Fashion Council alongside a coveted spot at London Fashion Week. We caught up with Hemingway to discuss punk attitude, showcasing archive imagery – it’s easy to forget Red or Dead’s playful, anarchic impact on British fashion, at a time of Cool Britannia.

Dazed Digital: What led to your opening of the first stall in Camden Market?
Wayne Hemingway:
I was playing in a band at the time. We were just two young people whose only interests were music, fashion, art and design. We needed money so we started to sell things in Camden Market, like a lot of people start. We were club kids who had lots of friends who were club kids and college dropouts – we were just close to, I think, what young people wanted.

If you have the kind of mind that we had, you're always questioning everything. We didn't give a toss about parties or being political. We always lived in a different world than all that. We wanted to change the face of fashion but we never went to the parties, we never talked to any of the other designers. We did it without going down through the normal channels, without playing the fashion game. We believed that design was about improving things that matter in life. There is very few designers' clothing we ever aspired to. We always felt we could do it better. It's the same with music. Nothing's going to stand in your way until you prove to yourself you can do it or that you can't do it.

DD: You brought designer clothing and ideas to everyday people. This caused a stir and London Fashion Week had to invite you to show...
Wayne Hemingway:
I think we did because we didn't do that thing about having celebrities in the front row. We didn't invite Harrods or Harvey Nichols. We wanted, on our front row, people with boutiques and shops, you know, standard shops that selling things at mid-price. That was a big change.

We preferred to have a music magazine rather than someone like Vogue because our customers simply didn't read Vogue. They were more interested in going out to gigs and things. That's why we had a lot of indie bands as models.

We're all ex-punks and come from that DIY ethic. It was a very can do attitude. It's the generation who created magazines like The Face and Dazed & Confused.

DD: How did you nurture the spirit of it?
Wayne Hemingway:
It was like being in a band, a band that wasn’t manufactured and who was in charge of the record company itself. We were just a group of friends on a journey. Amazingly, we never created a business plan. We never advertised or had a marketing department. We only followed a gut feeling of what to do next. Still, we were careful with money and never borrowed or needed an investor to come in and tell us what to do.

DD: How do you see the legacy yourself and Geraldine created with Red or Dead?
Wayne Hemingway:
I think that without Red or Dead, Topshop wouldn't be showing at London Fashion Week or employing designers fresh out of college. We were all creative people who have done things differently. We created something with longevity!

Red or Dead: 30 Years of Eclectic British Fashion runs from 9th-11th November at The Dray Walk Gallery, The Old Truman Brewery, Dray Walk, E1 6QL

Archive imagery courtesy of Red or Dead