The style guru takes charity shop fashion to a new level

Apr 17, 2024 | News

Designer Wayne Hemingway discusses David Bowie, “pension chic” and his latest venture in reselling preloved clothing amid a secondhand clothes explosion

Preloved fashion has exploded in recent years, largely due to the cost of living and a growing eco-consciousness. Secondhand sales are now expected to reach 10% of global sales. eBay has also just eliminated fees for sellers of preloved clothing.

In our Second Nature Series, we explore this growing trend. We also meet the pioneers of preloved who are helping it become mainstream. Preloved is a million miles away from its austere, moth-eaten reputation of the past. They see it as stylish, expressive, and fun. Wayne Hemingway is the first designer to be featured, with a plan that will take charity fashion to a new level.

Wayne Hemingway

“I was running in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco and these trousers were displayed on a dummy. “They fit me perfectly, so I put them into a bag and ran with them under my arms,” says Wayne Hemingway.

Running is a surprising theme in the designer’s secondhand stories. He wears his grey 1940s sanforised Cotton trousers with a pair commando-soled Grenson Brogues. These are not only similar to the style he used to dance in at Wigan Casino but also because they’re comfortable to run in (literally, he is a marathon runner).

Hemingway in the type of outfit he called ‘pension-chic’. Image: Will Sanders

Hemingway began shopping for secondhand items in the 1970s, when style was more important than sustainability. He recalls that “the coolest kids” were buying secondhand. “When David Bowie visited King George’s Hall, Blackburn, and you wanted to look like him, you did it yourself. That usually meant adapting secondhand clothing – usually surplus army clothes – and messing about on sewing machines, asking your mother to show you how to make this and that,” says he.

His secondhand style is defined by his ability to see the potential in the unexpected. During his time as a style expert on The Big Breakfast, he used to call these short-sleeved, necked 60s shirts paired with a 60-year-old Harrods Cardigan ‘pension-chic’ because older men wore them on bowling greens.

Hemingway says it’s a lot of frolic, but not frivolous. “[Style] can be a positive way to express yourself, to feel good, and to start a conversation. “All the things that make a human being.”

The power of style, expression, and the comprehensive yet informal fashion education that secondhand clothing offered, motivated him and his wife Gerardine to sell vintage at Camden Market and launch the iconic British label Red or Dead.

You wanted to look David Bowie? You did it yourself. You did it yourself.

It’s the power and expression of style that he believes is helping to bring people into the door of Charitable Super.Mkt a newer venture, launched with Traid CEO Maria Chenoweth. It brings together multiple charity retailers in department-store fashion in London’s Brent Cross and Bond Street, as well as in Reading, Salford, and Edinburgh. This will increase the appeal of secondhand shops and put money into the pockets of charities.

He says that second-hand clothing has a rich history, but that it also comes with the added bonus of being sustainable. “It is a consumption statement.”

Main image: Will Sanders

The facts

  • 1.6

    Charity Super.Mkt raised more than PS1.6m through the sale of 180,000 items. This has diverted 53 tonnes of clothing away from landfill.

  • 228

    Fashion charity Traid has partnered up with Hemingway to create Charity Super.Mkt and has, so far, re-used 228m garments, saving 622.059 tonnes CO2 and 105.3 millions m3 water.

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