"It’s all joined up, everyone’s working together, and that creates a positive atmosphere for visitors."
When they turned up at Camden clutching a bag of clothes to sell for rent money, Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway couldn’t have known that their trader days would lead them to create their own fashion label, and later, their very own London street market.
Not that SAMPLE can be compared in any way to the more traditional Camden Lock. A new twist on the popular, three-year-old Urban Village Fete, it pops up on Greenwich Peninsula on the weekend of 4-5 March, with an inviting medley of homeware and fashion by emerging design talent, seasonal ingredients, and independent music all set within a landscaped garden
For the husband and wife team behind Red or Dead, SAMPLE is “a take on the village fete”. And timed with Old Greenwich’s Royal Observatory marking the spring equinox, it’s perfectly placed to stimulate fog-dulled senses and put the kibosh on any lingering winter blues.
For Gerardine, the event’s timing is more than just “a symbolic end to a cold, dark winter”, it’s all about looking forward to the new season, “whether that’s with a new eating regime, a new wardrobe, or new ideas for your home”.
There’ll be hyacinth and jasmine for the green-fingered and a marketplace for offbeat homewares for all living spaces. If you’re looking to breathe new life into your kitchen, a buffet of take-home produce and freshly prepared street food comes with a soundtrack arranged by live DJs. And it’s well worth de-cluttering your wardrobe in advance too. The spring collections of avant-garde designers like Copenhagen-based Wood Wood, and British-heritage inspired Universal Works, will have you counting the days to warmer weather.
For the Hemingways, SAMPLE is the culmination of a career begun on traditional London markets. Wayne was just 18 when, desperate for cash, he and Gerardine emptied out their wardrobes and sold them off on Camden Market. The stall cost them £6 and that day they took home £100. They doubled their takings the following day. They knew they were on to something, so they began scouring charity shops and jumble sales for clothes that Gerardine and her trusted sewing machine could transform into something desirable. One stall soon became 16, and within a couple of years, their empire was bringing in £10,000 a week.
Their literal rags to riches story saw Gerardine grow in confidence, taking out a stall on Kensington Market to sell her own designs. It was here that, during London Fashion Week 1982, the Hemingways’ designs came to the attention of Macy’s of New York. A huge order was placed, a factory opened, seamstresses employed, and a brand name decided on: Red or Dead – a take on the Cold War slogan, ‘Better Red than Dead’.
Initially snubbed by London Fashion Week, this award-winning streetwear brand would go on to open 20 stores, and break the designer-fashion mould by selling high-end garments at a price people could afford.
The Hemingways’ time as impoverished market traders is a distant memory. HemingwayDesign has stamped its distinctive creative mark on everything from Transport for London’s staff uniforms to the interiors of the London 2012 Olympic Village. But those early struggles remain a driving force behind the couple’s desire to offer a helping hand to today’s fledging artists. “It’s not easy for new designers,” says Wayne. “Today a single stall can cost you hundreds of pounds a week.
The upshot is that designers – who might be hobbyists who have a regular Monday to Friday job – can’t afford to experiment, so markets tend to end up being very commercial and full of the same type of things. “SAMPLE gives new, talented artists a cost-effective way to trade and have a go at selling – they can take risks, because they’re not going to be financially ruined if it doesn’t work out. But it’s our job to pick out the independents, the entrepreneurs, the designers and the makers who will make a success of it.”
SAMPLE may be giving young and emerging design talent the chance to make their name, but this is no ‘queue up and pitch up’ marketplace. The programme has been artfully curated by HemingwayDesign and the cultural team at Greenwich Peninsula, both of which, says Wayne, “have a good antenna for knowing what’s a cut above the average”. With so much choice out there for people, both Greenwich Peninsula and HemingwayDesign felt it was important to “offer some curation and showcase items of quality that are genuinely interesting.”
“Markets have come a long way since our days on Camden,” says Gerardine. “We wanted to take that concept of putting artists right in front of their customers, while presenting an amalgamation of talented designers, makers, buyers and sellers, in a way that could give people a full day’s experience.”
With three out of their four children pursuing careers in art, the Hemingways’ passion for design is clearly infectious, and something that Wayne hopes will infuse the March event, so that visitors too may be inspired to pursue their own artistic endeavours. “Seeing someone producing something interesting can really encourage other people to have a go, whether it’s taking up a hobby or going one step further and selling their creations.”
Collaboration is something very much at the heart of everything the Hemingways’ do, and filters into every aspect of how SAMPLE is coming together. “The woman who’ll be selling freshly cooked mackerel sandwiches will be using bread provided by the baker on the stall next door,” says Gerardine. “And the burger stall will be using chutneys sold by the seller across the way. It’s all joined up, everyone’s working together, and that creates a positive atmosphere for visitors.”
At SAMPLE there’ll be up-and-coming designers selling homewares too. The couple’s self-built home has adorned the pages of glossy design magazines, so it’s somewhat surprising that they’re big advocates for ignoring the advice of fashion editors when it comes to choosing a statement piece for your home. “It’s important to choose what you like and don’t think about what a magazine has told you is ‘in’. Follow your own instincts. And remember that if you buy something you grow tired of, there’s always eBay!” says Wayne.
“When I go shopping, the last thing I want is the hard sell or someone telling me what’s fashionable,” agrees Gerardine. “You won’t get that at SAMPLE, so just be guided by your own ideas and choices.”
Those choices might be inspired by the Founders of Darkroom, who’ll be shrugging off their Holborn store’s distinctive black walls to throw early spring light on their graphic interior designs. Expect bold, geometric prints and statement pieces including charcoal scented candles and giant dice flower planters.
Other confirmed traders include Matt and Steve of The Handpicked Shellfish Company, who, fresh off their day boats on the Weymouth coast, will be cooking up their catch of the day. On hand with the perfect accompaniment to their renowned paella, The Winemakers Club will be tempting visitors with tastings from their cellar.
Discover more about SAMPLE.