Designers Returning To The Scene of Their Exploits

A young Kate Moss and low cost housing all in one blog.

A couple of weeks ago we posted the above photo on the HemingwayDesign Facebook page of a housing development, The Bridge Dartford that we led the design and master planning of a decade or so ago.

The comment posted by user Paul Read is so true but ask most architects and designers who have been involved in designing housing developments with mass house builders and they will tell you that it is not the norm to return to a scheme they have designed and be happy with the outcome. Rather it is the norm to be disappointed, as good and proper ideas have been bastardised or at the very least watered down.

We were worried about The Bridge when there were personnel changes and “a new broom sweeping clean” at Taylor Wimpey who are building out The Bridge but on the whole things are good, and we do indeed learn by going back over things.

We absolutely love going back to The Staiths in Gateshead where we both get exhilarated by possibly the highlight of our careers and learn from a development that is very large and has been lived in, in parts for well over decade now.

But there is no other project of which we could be prouder to have started, but we are left feeling pretty embarrassed by the outcome as our first brand. Red or Dead was a wonderful success, becoming a household name that with a social and ethical conscience, was way ahead of its time. We built a network of around 20 self-owned and franchised stores around the world and over a 150 stockists. Across all the retail outlets and the Red or Dead HQ we had over 300 employees – and with the franchise income the brand reached a turnover of £25 million. All this was done without any borrowings, any training and the most wonderfully eclectic, human team you could ever wish to work with.

Red or Dead Miners Coat Kate Moss Vogue

There came a time 18 years after we started that we felt it was time for someone else to take it to the next level. Gerardine and I had had enough and wanted to pass it on to someone with the experience and scale to make the brand fly. We wanted to try our hand at something new. Through good design, great political and environmental messaging and expert marketing the brand had developed a loyal worldwide following – its DNA embedded in the consciousness of the kind of demographic that advertising can not buy. Red or Dead had won a London Design Week Designer of the Year Award for an unprecedented three years in a row and we had started to extend into some cool and successful accessory ranges like our first optical link up with Vision Express. 

But what has happened to the product and the soul of the brand in the past 17 years is disappointing. Granted the rest of the employed creative team left when we left, or soon after, to go off and do great things in design spheres around the world and it does take time to rebuild teams. But Red or Dead had time, after all many still revere its DNA now, a quarter of a century since it was winning awards and had Kate Moss wearing its collections in Vogue and club kids appearing in Red or Dead in The Face, ID and Arena magazines. However when we look at the shoes, the glasses, and what is left of the clothing it really is sub-standard. The spark, the philosophy of strong forward thinking and meaningful design has been stripped away and it’s not as if this has been done to achieve great commercial success. A quick Google of stockists and availability shows that it is hardly available to buy. But for those who want to remember the brand as being upfront and relevant then don’t do a Google image search…it’s miserable!

We are immensely proud of creating Red or Dead, but unlike many other things we have been involved in since its sad not to see it growing and maturing into something even better than we created. Maybe one day it will because the name still has great resonance and rolls off the tongue.

Red or Dead History

To see a potted history and some great pics from our years establishing and building Red or Dead click here