alistairwelch

Journalism portfolio of Alistair Welch

Month: August, 2016

Style counsel

From New Design 121

Alistair Welch chats with fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, a man who is eager to share his passion for vintage culture

He made his name as the founder of globally celebrated fashion label Red or Dead, now you’re most likely to find Wayne Hemingway admiring a classic Jaguar or rifling through Northern Soul vinyl. Morecambe-born Hemingway is carving quite a reputation as an events organizer as his calendar of Vintage Festivals goes from strength to strength.

The concept is a relatively simple one. Find a venue, bring along a great range of stall holders with superb vintage clothing and wares, add a rally of classic cars, organize some top DJs and live acts, garnish with some top-notch street food and open the doors to the public to enter the vintage spirit.

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All this begs the question, what actually is ‘vintage’? How does an object, a garment, or a record qualify for the tag? Surely it’s about more than simply age. Hemingway agrees, for him vintage is about age, yes, but age mixed with that most essential of ingredients: style.

Hemingway traces his interest in vintage culture to his upbringing in the 1960s and 70s in the north of England. “I grew up wearing second hand clothes because that’s all I could afford,” he says. “Both me and my wife are from fairly poor backgrounds and the whole of the punk movement, especially up north, was about adapting second hand clothes so they didn’t look like charity shop clothes.”

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Wayne with his wife Geradine

Hemingway turned his passion for clothes into a business when at 18 he and his future wife Geradine moved to London and began selling second-hand clothes on Camden Market. Initially trading to earn enough to survive, their venture grew into something much larger to the point where they were taking over £10,000 a weekend. By the age of 19, Hemingway had opened his first shop.

A life-long thriftiness also plays into Wayne’s love of vintage. “Constantly buying new is wrong and you don’t need to because if you’ve got any style you can make old things look up to date,” he says. “I’m wearing vintage now, just a sweatshirt from the 80s and a pair of brown cords which are probably 70s. If I said I’d bought them in Paul Smith last week nobody would have known the difference. I’ve got an interest in timeless design – things that don’t go out of fashion.”

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This ‘timelessness’ is important to Hemingway’s understanding of vintage; a term that he sets in opposition to ‘retro’. “Vintage has to be something that is still relevant because otherwise it becomes retro,” he argues. “[You can] get dressed in leggings and listen to Cyndi Lauper, but Cyndi Lauper has never been cool, it’s kitsch.”

Along with poor Cyndi, Hemingway suggests Findus Crispy Pancakes and Wagon Wheels as cultural phenomena we might safely label retro rather than vintage. “Certain foods that were around in the 70s are still relevant and some aren’t [he’s looking at you Findus Crispy Pancakes] because they have been improved upon,” he says. “If you could improve on Stevie Wonder he wouldn’t be playing Songs in the Key of Life to a sold out Hyde Park. People are not going there because it’s kitsch, because it reminds them of a time they were eating Findus Pancakes, they are going because that album is as good as it gets.”

Hemingway sees his Vintage events as the antithesis of an 80s reunion weekend which, throwing another word into the mix, he calls ‘naff’. “Naff we should leave behind,” he asserts. “Naff we should leave behind and not naff we should show to a new generation.”

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He continues: “There’s a difference between vintage and just looking back. You look back so you can see the things that have a massive influence on today. To look back at the 1950s and the Festival of Britain and Robin and Lucienne Day is absolutely valid, but you can also look at the 50s and see things that are like ‘what’s the point?’”

There is certainly a point in reflecting on the heritage of automotive design and a celebration of the motor car was at the heart of Hemingway’s latest event: The Classic Car Boot Sale. Held across an April weekend in the King’s Cross area of London, the event brought together over one hundred classic cars, motorbikes, and scooters, alongside vintage traders and a curated host of design-makers. 21803113558_9844884718_o.jpg

“We started Vintage because we felt that going to festivals and events was too full of Bieber and Rhianna and hippy massages and wellbeing,” explains Hemingway. “I was a punk so grew up not liking all that crystal stuff, and in the festival scene there was a lot of that going on. We’ve always liked dancing, going out, and watching bands. One of my favourite clubs was one in Manchester where you could go into a punk room, soul room, a 50s room – some people would dress accordingly for the room. One moment you would hear Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, next it would be Marvin Gaye.”

A similar eclecticism informs the vibe of Vintage events. “Add some amazingly designed cars, good DJs, good bands and great street food and we’ve achieved a fun weekend out,” he concludes.

Matthew Arnold writing in the 19th century thought culture to be “the best which has been thought and said.” Wayne Hemingway’s understanding of vintage culture isn’t too far away: it’s the most stylish garments, the most beautiful cars, the most timeless tunes committed to vinyl. And, above all, that which isn’t naff.

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On the slide

Riding the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide for ND123

It seemed somehow fitting that on the day of the EU referendum I was preparing to propel myself into the dark unknown. At the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the Anish Kapoor sculpture of winding red metal that dominates the space between the Aquatics Centre and what is now West Ham United’s home ground on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, I was ready to ‘Ride the Slide’ – a souped-up helter-skelter designed by Belgian artist Carsten Holler that over the course of 178m and 12 twists plummets you the 76m from the viewing gallery back to terra firma.

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Nattily accessorised in a scrum cap and elbow protectors I pushed off with some trepidation. I’m not afraid to admit that taken aback by the speed and tight turns of the ride I screamed like a giddy teenager for the 40 seconds or so it took me to descend and emerge into the daylight. What I anticipated might be a gentle cruise to the bottom turned out to be a thrilling ride that certainly got the heart racing.

The slide is the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide and riders can expect to experience speeds of up to 15mph during their descent – although I can attest that it certainly feels significantly faster within the confines of the 800mm diameter tube.

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Carsten Holler designed the slide at the invitation of the Orbit’s original architect Anish Kapoor, who was eager that his distinctive work of public art should be augmented by an experiential element. Holler is no stranger to such rides having conceived the giant slides that occupied the installation space in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall during 2006. His vision for the Orbit slide includes a particularly fiendish tight corkscrew section dubbed the ‘bettfeder’ after the German word for ‘bedspring’.

Construction was led by Buckingham Group Constructing using specialist abseilers provided by CAN Structures, with structural engineering work provided by BuroHappold. The Slide has been manufactured by world-renowned slide manufacturer Wiegand and British firm Interkey, who are based in Corby. Steel has been contributed by ArcelorMittal, whose original donation made possible the realisation of structure for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Polycarbonate sections of the tube allow riders to see out of the slide for certain sections of the ride, providing that is they are brave enough to keep their eyes open the whole way down.

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“Since 1999, I have built a number of slides, both free-standing and attached to buildings, but never onto another artwork as in this case,” explains the slide’s designer Holler.“Now that the two artworks will be intertwined with each other, I see it as one of these double situations that I am so interested in. I like it when a sense of unity is reached in two separate entities, and you can find this thought to repeatedly occur in my work.”

“I am delighted that my work, the ArcelorMittal Orbit at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the site for a collaboration with Carsten Höller. I believe it will result in the making of a new work which will bring two works of art together in an ambitious way,” adds Kapoor.

Unlike the result of the EU referendum I can guarantee that this particular venture into the uncertain will put a smile on your face. And there’s no need to be too frightened, although the ride is speedy the plunge is nowhere near as steep as the dive the pound took on Brexit day.

Out of bounds

Short piece for New Design 122 (June 2016) on the Visionary Crazy Golf project for the London Design Festival which sadly failed to reach its Kickstarter funding threshold

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Hole concept by AtelierBowWow

Golf hasn’t had the greatest of press recently, what with the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers deciding against allowing women to become members of the famous Muirfield course. Stroll up to the tee then a group of leading designers who in a stroke for golfing inclusivity have unveiled plans to transform Trafalgar Square into the country’s most visionary crazy golf course.

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Paul Smith’s hole on the steps of The National Gallery

The project, led by fashion designer Paul Smith (a man whose association with golf you might think runs as far as smart sweaters), will see nine avant-garde holes installed around Nelson’s Column for the duration of the London Design Festival (September 16-22). The ambitious installation is seeking crowd-funding via the Kickstarter platform with backers able to select rewards including early-bird tickets to play the course and limited edition Paul Smith socks.

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Hole concept by Tom Dixon

Smith himself has proposed a challenging hole that would see golfers putt up and down the steps of The National Gallery. Other high-profile designers who have devised concepts for the course include Tom Dixon, Camille Walala, and the Japanese architecture practice Atelier Bow Wow. Before her sad death in March this year, Dame Zaha Hadid contributed to the project, designing an undulating hole over two levels that traces the shadow of Nelson’s Column.

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Mind the pigeon – Ordinary Architecture

At the time of writing the Kickstarter fund stood at just over £20,000 pledged out of a £120,000. So, if you will indulge another golfing pun, there’s a fair way to go and if you want to be putting amongst the pigeons this autumn it’s up to you to support the project. Plus fours strictly optional.