Jo Blackwell Writer & Photographer Northampton

Jo Blackwell Inspiration Station

The Value of a Good Designer


I’ve been inspired this afternoon by British Designer, Wayne Hemingway MBE.

Speaking at The University of Northampton, the co-founder of the fashion company  Red or Dead now runs HemingwayDesign with his wife and business partner, Gerardine.
The talk was aimed at the Fashion students who took up most of the hall. For me, being the same age as the speaker, it was at times, like a trip down memory lane. Recounting the music, political influences and social expectations of his youth made me realise how very old I have become. Indeed, at one point Wayne Hemingway insisted that it was time for my generation to step aside for youth as, no matter how well meaning, we can’t really understand what the new generation wants their lives to be.
I can’t say that I agree 100% with that sentiment – I’m certainly not ready to be put out to grass quite yet – but I do agree that we should act as “elders” to guide the next generation of creative entrepreneurs.
He began by challenging the fashion students to declare who owned a sewing machine and who made their own clothes. There were a fair few, yet to his clear disappointment, none were wearing their creations. In this age of social media and virtual living, hard work, they were told, is still essential to succeed.
Get out in front of your potential clients – look them on the eye and see their reactions to what you are selling them.
His advice is applicable to entrepreneurs in any field, and of any age. Be bold, he urged. Make your views known – be visible.
Develop a philosophy that runs through your life and your work.
Know who you are and what you stand for. Once you’re known for your philosophy, work will come to you. This has certainly been the case recently when he was given the opportunity to put to good use his Degree in Geography and Town Planning. HemingwayDesign was approached by Housebuilder, Wimpy, to design affordable housing after the designer went public about his horror at the “Barratification” and “Wimpyfication” of Britain. The result was The Staiths, South-Bank, in Gateshead, a project which has lead into further adventures in housing design.
Design is about improving the things that matter in life
What matters to Wayne Hemingway? Happiness, contentment, community. Of all his achievements – and there are far too many to mention here – he professes to be most proud that he has had the opportunity to build those values into affordable housing design.
He might have stepped away from the world of fashion (though not quite, having just redesigned the uniforms for McDonalds’ employees and London Transport Staff) but the Designer, whose work was once described as “the sick face of British fashion” has lost none of his passion.
We all fear failure. We all know it’s part of being an entrepreneur. I think what resonated most with me this afternoon was Wayne Hemingway’s exortion to:
Be prepared to fail and fail heroically.
And with that, I’m off to be a hero.

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