My best teacher

7th September 2001 at 01:00
There wasn't any one teacher who had a massive influence on my life; there was a series of people. When I was seven I left Morecambe and went to live in Blackburn, and my mum married my stepdad. He taught me to be ambitious. I was always pretty good at school and did well in exams, but he never ever gave me praise. I understand why now, but at the time I used to bloody hate it. I got seven As, two Bs and a C at O-level and he said: 'Yeah, but you could have got 10 As.' So I always strive to do the best I can and I never make do. He also taught me to finish jobs and never leave anything up in the air. That combination of having a timescale and doing the best you possibly can has stayed with me.

In terms of fashion and style, my knowledge and training came from my family, especially my mum. Living in Morecambe in the 1960s and 1970s you couldn't buy any fashion clothes and she was obsessed with having the latest thing. So she would always make it - get hold of magazines, take trips to London, look at things in the shops and recreate it back home on her sewing machine.

When I was little my mum used to dress me up. One minute I'd be a replica of a Beatle, the next I was a rude boy with a pork-pie hat, then Elvis or Tarzan. By the time I was 13 I was going to Wigan Casino every Saturday night, and by the time I was 15 and 16 I was a punk. So, as a child, there was fashion all around me.

I went to Queen Elizabeth grammar school for boys in Blackburn. I enjoyed school but all I can remember about the teachers are the funny nicknames they had.

I went to University College London to study geography purely because I fancied living in London. I thought it would be an easy option and I was on a full grant, which seemed quite a lot. The only person who had any influence on me there was Ted Hollis. He had this fantastic style. It was anti fashion, but it was so cool. He wore Clarks shoes, battered leather jackets, cords - fairly tight with a little bit of flare at the bottom - thick socks, a check shirt or a rollneck, unkempt hair and a beard. I think when you train to be a geography teacher you must be told what to wear, it must be like a uniform. It's all brown and creams; maybe that's sensible for when you're out on field trips so you blend in.

Geography teacher chic has always been my look. Some people might think I look a bit retarded, but people in fashion know where I am coming from. Eventually I thought, "Ted Hollis has to be honoured", so we did a collection in 1997 called Geography Teacher; the prints for women were Ordnance Survey maps of Blackburn and the music was "Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin.

Another fantastic influence was the first person who made shoes for us at Red or Dead - a Mr Everard. One day we went up to his factory, Gerardine was pregnant with our first child, and he sat us down and said: "I see you're having your first child soon. I just want to give you some advice. I have worked in this factory all my life, five or six days a week, my kids are off to university now and I feel like I have never had kids. I really regret it. I'd have changed everything to work less and see more of my kids. It's the best thing you can do in life, having kids."

That stuck with me. Kids grow up so quick and you can always go back to work, but you can't go back and recreate their childhood. That's the best advice I've had.

Fashion designer Wayne Hemingway was talking to Harvey McGavin

THE STORY SO FAR

1961 Born in Morecambe, Lancashire

1968 Moves to Blackburn

1981 Meets wife-to-be and business partner, Gerardine, in a disco

1982 Opens stall at Camden market selling second-hand clothes and shoes

1983 First Red or Dead shop opens in Blackburn; other outlets follow

1989 First catwalk collection

1997 Geography Teacher collection; Red or Dead wins third consecutive

British Fashion Council street style designer of the year award

2001 Style commentator on Channel 4's Big Breakfast; new company, Hemingway

Design, is planning modern housing development

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