Wayne Hemingway curates Craft

Thrifty thinking coupled with great creativity will get the marketing job done for brands of all sizes, says Hemingway Design co-founder Wayne Hemingway.

Wayne Hemingway curates Craft

The graphic device we worked on for The London Community Recycling Network is a pretty simple concept; drop the "f" from Refuse and what do you get? Re-use. For us trendy designer types, with, as my nan would have said, "our fancy London ways", it's a clever play on words and an opportunity to be creative with typeface.

But for my nan's generation refuse to re-use wasn't cool or novel it was just common sense, everyday thrifty behaviour. I could write this whole piece as a list of things that took place in the 1960s' and 1970s' Hemingway household that fit under the umbrella of re-creating, re-inventing, re-using, and repairing.

Watching my mum carefully folding wrapping paper to use next year is a cherished Christmas memory. My pop's shed was a shrine to re-use; cut-off bottles were filled with turpentine to ensure paint brushes stayed as good as the day they were bought and scraps of wood and lead were used to make forts and toy soldiers (which have been passed down to my kids).

There was the constant whir of the sewing machine as my mum re-imagined her mum's clothes and took old fabrics to make her versions of those London Biba styles that were a pipe dream for a young woman living in Morecambe.

We all thought nothing of it. When I turned my thrift-driven wearing of second-hand clothes into a significant business in London in the early 1980s, it all seemed natural. My nan said: "Where there's muck there's brass." She was indeed correct. Taking £10,000 a weekend on Camden Market for minimal outlay allowed my wife Gerardine and me to fund our brand Red or Dead and build something that we went on to sell for more than my family could ever dream of.

Governments and banks are trying every economic stimulus possible to get us back out consuming - or, perhaps, over-consuming. Should we trust them?

In my house we get joy on a daily basis from a pair of sofas fashioned from the wreck of an old wooden fishing boat. In the garden it's the tepee made from old telegraph poles and the tree house made from flotsam and jetsam found on the beach. All of these are a result of imagination and that inbuilt instinct to re-create, and yet governments and banks are trying every economic stimulus possible to get us back out consuming - or, perhaps, over-consuming. Should we trust them?

Wasn't it another word for over-consumption, "greed", that got us into this mess? We recoil at pictures of people in Africa combing refuse tips for useful stuff. I remember on my early visits to India in the 1980s thinking how daft the taxi drivers were for turning off their headlights in the city when they could see without them, thinking that it would save the car battery.

They may not have had a full grasp of technology, but they most certainly hadn't lost the survival instinct. A couple of Christmases ago, I took my family to those same Indian cities and found that taxi drivers don't turn their lights off any more. When a continent of 1.12bn starts to lose touch with the DNA of thrift, then we really are in a mess.

Maybe it's this immersion in thrift that has made me acutely aware of marketing that is done on the cheap. In the 18 years that we built Red or Dead into the widely recognised fashion brand that it became, not once did we pay for an ad - but, rather, we constantly thought of products and stunts the media couldn't ignore.

The Southbank Centre has created possibly the most uplifting, inclusive and generous area of London on marketing budgets dwarfed by the public sector in a series of buildings that were written off as carbuncles three decades ago. Meanwhile, Daft Punk's album Random Access Memories has returned to a time when investment in the music is put before the hype, with a campaign that allowed the fans to do the marketing for Columbia Records, leading to the fastest-selling album of the year.