With husband Wayne, Gerardine Hemingway launched a design business which has become a massive success. She spoke about her life to DIANE COOKE
VINTAGE queen Gerardine Hemingway has a confession to make. In her mind she’s a brilliant Northern Soul dancer. In reality she’s, erm, not, and at 52, the other half of the great design duo isn’t about to start practising back flips or high kicks to get down with the kids.
“I love the whole resurgence of Northern Soul,” says the mother-of-four. “And I so enjoy watching the young people do those moves. If I’m being honest, I’ve never been that great, but in my mind I’m a brilliant dancer.”
Gerardine, who was born and raised in Padiham with four siblings, started clubbing at 15 with her elder sisters.
“I went to St Augustine’s, in Billington, but school wasn’t my forte. I didn’t mind going but I wasn’t keen on education. I loved drama, art and needlework, oh, and maths because I had a crush on the teacher.
“But I wanted to work so I could afford material to make clothes to go out in. At 16 I went with a couple of friends to Torremolinos and it was brilliant. I didn’t drink at that age, but we just went for the clubs and the disco and New Romantics music.”
Indeed, it was in Angels in Burnley that she met the love of her life — not the maths teacher but her husband Wayne Hemingway, a Blackburn lad with a lot of chutzpah.
“It wasn’t love at first sight. He was unusual-looking, but also a bit of a laugh. I was with my sister and he was with two friends. They laid a bet that the first lad who got a girl’s telephone number won a pint. That was me. We were friends in the beginning, but there was always this amazing compatibility. We’ve been married 32 years this summer.”
The couple have four children Jack, 28, a graphic designer, Tilly, 27, who studied urban design and town planning, Corey, 24, the art graduate, and 17-year-old Beck, who is studying for A-levels and plays cricket for Sussex. The three eldest work for the family business, but Gerardine thinks Beck may follow his cricketing dream.
Gerardine and Wayne, who have amassed a considerable fortune in their interlinked designer careers, have worked hard to keep their children grounded.
“We like to lead by example. They know they can’t shirk anything and we’ve drummed it into them that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
Gerardine takes her maternal lead from her own parents, Mary Patricia and Thomas Kenneth, who worked in Padiham’s weaving sheds.
“My dad was a tackler who used to mend the looms, but he had many jobs in our lives.
"Neither of my parents were ever out of work. That’s where I get my work ethic. We were the first family in our street to get a car and we used to share it with our extended family. We all used to pile into the car to go on holiday for Burnley fortnight. We’d be packed in like sardines and we’d stuff all the food for the holiday under the seat. I have some brilliant memories. I was brought up by very loving parents who died within 12 months of each other.”
The family is currently working on brand Hemingway’s crop of vintage events. Vintage By The Sea — a bygone extravaganza of fashion, food, music and art from yesteryear, is scheduled for September 6 and 7 in Morecambe. Last year it attracted 7,000 visitors and this year’s event looks set to be even bigger.
Gerardine and the clan are also working on re-generation housing developments and accommodation for universities.
“Wayne works on the marketing and PR and I work on the detail of the design. It is up to me to make sure everything looks right.”
With such delicious memories of childhood, it’s easy to see why Gerardine is so entranced with all things vintage.
“It’s all new to the kids of today, which is why it’s so popular. In this society fashion, music and trends go viral within seconds. There’s nothing new so vintage clothing allows people to look a bit different. Clothes from the 30s and 40s are quite unique because they have been hand or tailor-made.”
So with a permanently bulging work diary, does Gerardine dream of taking it easy and pottering around her magnificent garden at the family’s Sussex home?
“Every time I have a busy weekend I say ‘well, I’m not doing that again,’ but I thrive on being busy, so I’m not sure I could ever retire.”
Vintage by the Sea takes place on September 6 and 7. For tickets:www.vintage festival.co.uk/events/ vintage-by-the-sea