Next month, on Wednesday 5 October, the Imperial War Museum North is hosting an In Conversation between designer Wayne Hemingway and journalist and author Lucy Siegle. Inspired by IWM North’s major Special Exhibition Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style, which coincides with 75 years since clothes rationing was introduced in Britain, the pair will take lessons from the Second World War as a starting point to discuss modern challenges and creative solutions in an ever evolving industry. We spoke to Wayne ahead of the event to get a taste of what to expect.
What can people expect from your In Conversation with Lucy?
The pair of us know quite a lot and we also know each other very well so we’ll have a few laughs as well. We’ll have a lively, witty conversation which has some very serious things to be discussed. But we will also involve the audience, both of us are very open like that, it won’t be a po faced discussion it will be entertaining, fun and hopefully enlightening.
Why is sustainability important to you?
It’s a good way and a right way of living. My mum always said to me that you are supposed to leave this world a better place than you found it and you don’t do that by taking advantage of resources and people and so the idea that should just leave as light a foot print on the earth as possible and a positive one. So sustainability isn’t just about not consuming but about how we should consume ethically, and it’s about improving people’s lives who are making things. Because consuming can be good, as long as people and the world doesn’t suffer for it.
Then there is the other side of it, as well as I’m sure you know, where sustainability is often linked to thrift, as it should be. So if you can turn your consumptive habits into something that doesn’t cost you very much then you don’t have to spend your life chasing money, making yourself unhappy. There are so many angles as to why sustainability is the right way to go; ethically, financially, socially and environmentally obviously.
How can we move towards a more sustainable approach to consuming fashion?
There are a number of ways, the main way is that people realise that consumption for consumptions sake is naff. There was a long time when people defined themselves by consumerism and shopping but now things have changed. It’s about defeating that idea that you have to have the flashiest most expensive things; cars, kitchens for example. Because actually often that’s quite naff and it’s much cooler to say ‘I’ve been creative, I’ve bought a kitchen that will never go out of style or I have bought carcasses from Ikea and I’ve bought the front from this old upcycled place…’ and then you get individualism and the pride in the fact that you have made it.
My Nan and my Mum always had pride in the fact that they looked cool by making their own clothes, their house looked great and it was done cleverly and intelligently by my Pop making things and doing things. That to me is a badge of honour .. But my view is still in the minority but it’s nowhere near as small a minority as it was a decade ago.
Are there any current or future technologies that you see helping to promote sustainability in design?
Well there are new technologies coming along all the time, most designers come from the part of society that understands sustainability and thrift and try to work as hard as they can to be more sustainable and environmentally aware. The young generation now, who are the first generation to be worse off than their parents, have to be thrifty which means more sustainable by the very nature of not having much money. The world is moving that way.
Do you have any advice for people who are just starting their career in design?
The first thing is to get your stuff in front of people and don’t be afraid if they don’t like it, you only learn by getting it out there. Face to face not just over the internet, you learn from being in front of people.
If you liked the sound of what Wayne had to say and want to find out more about fashion and sustainability then you can buy tickets for his In Conversation with Lucy Siegle here.
In Conversation: Wayne Hemingway and Lucy Siegle on Fashion and Sustainability
Imperial War Museum North
Wednesday 5 October, 7pm
£12, £10 concession