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Archive for the ‘2009’ Category

Some of you are going to hate what I am about to say and even if I say so myself I think I am being pretty brave to put it into print. But it is time to GET REAL.

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Every month we Sublime regular contributors get an email from the lovely editor that contains a theme or statement that is intended to stimulate us to produce our column. This time it went: the theme of the November issue is People of Hope.  People of Hope is to talk about ‘change makers’, the raising of a new generation that wants to see great transformation in the world. As usual, something in an email from Sublime stimulated thought and private debate. Yes we all hope for a better future. We all hope that our country comes out of its economic downturn. We all hope that the next government will make “our lot” better than the previous government. We hope for an end to greed, an end to poverty and for a more tolerant and inclusive society. We all hope that Global Warming doesn’t negatively impact on our lives. All this well meaning “hope” is undoubtedly a sign that society is thinking the right thoughts, but is that enough? Is all this “hope” a sign that an inert generation that accepted the status quo, that ignored its right to vote and withdrew from political discourse, that escaped into a vapid world of reality TV, is finally about to do something that will allow it to have a say in its future? I for one, bloody well hope so.

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Looking back to the turn of the 80s when Gerardine and I started out… We’d never considered being designers, it wasn’t on the radar of two teenagers from Lancashire. I was playing in a band and we used to hang out in Camden. When Gerardine and I ran out of money to pay the rent on our house in Wembley, one saturday morning we emptied our wardrobes out of some of the second hand clothes that we both wore and some of the clothes that Gerardine had made for herself, put them into a couple of 50p checked chinese laundry bags and got the tube to Camden. For £6 rent we took over £100 and returned on the Sunday and for the next decade of Saturdays and Sundays. Camden taught us about peoples taste, retail and being entrepreneurs.

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At HemingwayDesign we have just been working on a graphic device for The London Community Recycling Network. It’s 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 column as a list of things that took place in the 60’s and 70’s Hemingway household that fit under the umbrella of re-creating, re-inventing, re-using, and repairing. Carrier bags became bin liners, the last bits of bars of soap were stored in a jar and then melted to create new multicoloured exotic bars, newspaper was ripped up to provide winter protection for strawberry plants, peelings were composted, most food waste made delicious “roast soup”, socks were darned, jumpers had their elbows patched. We had great fun turning last year’s Christmas cards into this year’s tree decorations and 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, dozens of jam jars kept a dazzling array of screws, nails and bolts, the cardboard inners of loo rolls were seed propagators on the window sill, We all thought nothing of it. We weren’t hippies, that word that has become overused today, “sustainability”, wasn’t in the vocabulary, the concept of “protecting the environment” wasn’t discussed but it was still at the forefront of our DNA. The concept of passing down the good things to future generations is embedded in all species. We are survivors and for a million years or so, to survive we have learnt how to harness and protect the environment . Yet a significant sector of the population seems to have allowed over consumption to have pushed these instincts into a corner where they can’t find them. Despite the fact that buying heavily marketed labels, slavishly following looks created by magazine stylists that are being paid by the brands that advertise in their magazines, and spending on products that are obscenely overpriced is seen as uncool by the true purveyors of cool, to the majority making your own clothes, adapting items that don’t cut it style wise anymore, or buying vintage just isn’t on the radar. Sewing machine sales have doubled in the last couple of years but when you look at the figures it’s a doubling from a pretty pathetic base. (more…)

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I’ve mouthed off plenty of times about the importance of gardens to our well-being.The Chelsea Flower Show may come across sometimes as a bit pompous but I’m a big fan in that it’s the one outdoorsy event that gets wall to wall media coverage for a whole week.

This year Gerardine designed an exhibit at Chelsea 09 in conjunction with Gateshead Council… heres an extract from the press release….

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I have been part of teams bidding to win design competitions to deliver large scale housing developments and have won more than we have lost. Considering that most teams are happy to win 1 out of every 5 or 6 some would say I should be happy with the system but I abhor the system in so many ways.

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Its almost 8 years since I wrote the infamous Independent article, the “Wimpeyfication and Barrattification of Britain” tirade against Britain’s mass national housebuilders. I accused them of building the pastiche identikit rabbit hutches that were blighting the nation.

The housing  industry  has ridden  along on a 15 year giant bubble  fuelled by greed and stupidity by the mortgage lenders and a complicit public who couldn’t do the maths  (buying a “new build “house or flat has never outperformed cash investments over the long term). The bubble has thankfully burst now and whilst there is unfortunate  short term hurt I don’t think that developers will be rushing to build pokey “Buy to Let “ or “Buy to Leave Empty” investment properties mainly because the public are unlikely to be so foolish again. The good news then is that the public and local authorities who have seen their towns and cities blighted by flatted developments that now lie empty are likely to get something better: that’s when liquidity returns to the market. (more…)

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