My First Job: Wayne Hemingway, designer and Red or Dead founder
'We started with nothing. We never borrowed money, so there was no fear'
Thursday 06 May 2010
"At the start of my second year at UCL [University College London], I'd spent all the rent money on stuff for the band I was playing in – and it was due the following Monday. On the previous weekend, we had passed Camden Market when they were putting out the tables. I didn't want to be out on the street with Gerardine [now my wife], so I said: 'Why don't we sell some of our clothes?' Gerardine sold the excess clothes which she had made for herself and her sisters – New Romantic clothes, the movement happening then, which was pre-Boy George and Culture Club. I had my old punk collection and a good selection of second-hand, art and kitsch clothes. For us, everything revolved around fashion.
We spent £6 for the rent of the stall and we took over £100 on the Saturday and the same on the Sunday. I said: 'Why don't you make some new clothes?' Next week we took even more money.
I was going round charity shops and jumble sales, which I'd get into early by saying I was buying costumes for a university drama group. At first, we carried them on the Tube in Chinese laundry bags and then we bought a van. We had six stalls which became 16 – it was like an outdoor supermarket. We were making five grand a weekend, with £100 rent. After a few weeks, we had a massive order from Macy's, the store in New York.
Mum left her job in a pub and was making clothes with Gerardine's sisters. I would buy damaged Dr Martens for 10p and fix the soles with a soldering iron. We became the major designers for Dr Martens and exported them all over the world. For us, Camden Market went on for 15 years. We had staff, but I probably did every weekend for 10 years.
We weren't under cover. One issue was keeping ourselves and the second-hand clothes dry. We were near a shelter for the homeless, and they would help us load up for a few pounds. During the night, they used to sit under the stalls and the first thing you'd do in the morning would be to swill away the sick. We kept disinfectant in the van.
We'd be assembling the rails at five in the morning with fingers that in winter felt frostbitten. The Japanese would turn up at seven, in the dark – the early bird catches the worm.
We started with nothing; we never borrowed any money, so there was never any fear. Our stalls were making money which funded Red or Dead. Camden Market is not what it was, a hot-house. It's more commercial. The band kept going for a while – and then broke up in a cloud of booze."
Wayne Hemingway is co-founder of Vintage at Goodwood, marking five decades of British cool (13-15 August at Goodwood Estate, near Chichester)
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