Read here about our colourful history, from a cult celebrity following in the 80s, controversial
catwalk shows in the 90s and our first ever exhibition celebrating 30 years. So sit back with a cuppa
In 1982 Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, two enterprising Northerners starved for affordable
youthful fashion, set up a stall in Camden market. Their individual love for self-styling – Gerardine
making her own clothes and Wayne assembling unique vintage looks – brought them together. Their Camden
stall was an overnight success and it wasn’t long before one stall turned into sixteen shops.
In the early 80s, many women favoured tight dresses with high heels. Anticipating the
direction fashion would take through the decade, the Hemingways re-invented that silhouette by replacing
high heels with chunky, flat-soled Dr Martens. They were the first to sell the classic work boot as a
fashion shoe, famously attracting Jean Paul Gaultier and Demi Moore.
In 1986 Wayne and Gerardine launched their own range of footwear. Chunky soles, rounded
toes and quirky detailing became the signature look for Red or Dead’s hugely coveted footwear ranges.
This was also the year that Red or Dead launched their very first shop in Rupert Street in Soho, closely
followed by Neal Street in Covent Garden.
Red or Dead’s iconic watch shoe of 1987 was a sell-out style after being worn by the teen
Kylie Minogue was photographed on the cover of her 1988 single Got to Be Certain wearing
Red or Dead shoes.
Red or Dead’s iconic Space Baby design was inspired by a stylish and futuristically
dressed young lady spotted on the streets of Paris. The iconic collection achieved sky-high sales. It
featured on clothing throughout the collection, as well as the infamous transparent Space Baby Dr Marten
boots. Space Baby was the brand's first catwalk collection and received international attention.
Red or Dead’s Shopping collection reacted to the consumer excess characterising the early
90s. The collection included Red or Dead’s iconic misbranded t-shirts, poking fun at corporate culture
and branding. Applying the Red or Dead sense of humour, logos were controversially re-invented causing
a real stir in the industry.
Red or Dead’s infamous gurning print was based on a gurner named Treacle, who was found
through the Uglies modelling agency and photographed for the print. More colloquially ‘gurning’ referred
to drug taking within the acid house scene of the 90s, with Red or Dead living up to their controversial
Mining the street for inspiration, Red or Dead printed Stanley Green’s placard and other
selected texts from his message on dresses and t-shirts. Stanley Green was an eccentric English
political activist well known along London’s Oxford Street for carrying his ‘Eat Less Protein’ placard.
A replica of the placard itself accompanied some of the models wearing utilitarian suits. Every Red or
Dead collection showed its ability to turn seamlessly from one source of inspiration to another of
completely different origin.
Coming from a proposal by the British Fashion Council (BFC) for designers to showcase
fashion made by prisoners, Red or Dead responded by creating their own collection inspired by prison
life. They proposed a paid production agreement with prisoners in a high security unit to manufacture
their own Red or Dead collection. In the same year, the Red or Dead design team transformed the infamous
Tretchikoff print (that rose to popularity in the 70s and was considered tacky in the 90s) into a
desirable print donning beautiful elegant dresses.
The Butterfly collection captured a mid-90s romanticism. A simple butterfly adapted from a
children’s scrapbook was printed in many different colours on fabrics from satin to silk, with
embellishment. Swedish actress and Bond girl Britt Ekland was photographed wearing one of the dresses in
Red or Dead’s showmanship took full effect in the New York Skyline range where Naomi
Campbell’s mum, Valerie Morris (Campbell), modelled one of the looks. Poking fun at the cult of the
supermodel, this appearance followed a history of Red or Dead catwalk extravaganzas including dwarves on
the catwalk, pitbull terriers, TV presenter Amanda de Cadenet and Ruth Madoc from Hi-de-Hi. Red or Dead
also won the British Fashion Council’s inaugural Street Style Award.
Red or Dead presented one of its most controversial catwalk shows. The New York Dolls show
saw models acting as disturbed housewives, while styled with knives, knitting needles, scissors and
blood. The press attacked the collection, famously labelling it “the sick face of British fashion.”
The Guru print was inspired by a piece of classic paisley, a traditionally Persian motif
of curved, repeated teardrop shapes. The complex pattern was overlaid with cut outs of religious gurus
ranging from Muslims to Sikhs to Indian deities. With the intention of celebrating harmony, the Guru
print actually provoked outrage. A Sikh protester visited the Nottingham store and Red or Dead received
bags of protest letters.
For the third year running, Red or Dead won the British Fashion Council’s Street Style Award.
Wayne and Gerardine Hemmingway departed from the business and sold the brand to Pentland
Brands plc, a company with a strong track record in building brands. Pentland began to build on Red or
Dead’s spirited heritage to create collections accessible to the masses.
Red or Dead’s footwear remained the backbone of the business. The 2001/2 EVA wedge
redefined the flip flop as fashionable footwear; and the 2002 Rainbow court shoe was so popular it
spawned many variations and matching accessories.
In 2003, Specsavers launched its first collection of Red or Dead eyewear, What a
Spectacle, offering a range of fashionable specs with Red or Dead’s infamous prints on the temple. Red
or Dead’s ‘Tattoo’ print is Specsaver’s best selling frame…ever!
Red or Dead started developing footwear in 2004, sold exclusively through schuh, offering
something for everyone with boots, stillys and our much loved ‘jade’ flats.
In 2009, Red or Dead started producing clothing sold exclusively through BANK fashion.
Circus was the first Red or Dead BANK collection, featuring bold prints, slogans and playful
In 2010, Red or Dead launched a swimwear collection, consisting of nostalgic prints and
vintage shapes. As always, Red or Dead found inspiration on its doorstep. The 2011 Tapestry print was
the most successful, developed from a tapestry that Red or Dead’s Creative Director’s Aunty Kath had
created in the 70s.
With the steady rise of urban cyclists, the bike became a style statement. Raleigh bikes
were given the Red or Dead touch, covered in an array of beautifully original prints. The Ruscia Rose
design sold out completely, with later designs appearing in The Guardian and Vogue.
Red or Dead have developed an ongoing partnership with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), investing time, energy
and creative spirit. In 2011, the Red or Dead breast cancer t-shirt made over £60K for CRUK.
Red or Dead turns thirty! To celebrate, the brand produces its very first exhibition,
showcasing thirty years of the Red or Dead archive. The exhibition was open to the public and press to
learn about the colourful world of Red or Dead. ITV promoted the exhibition on the Six O’Clock News,
seen by a quarter of a million viewers and the exhibition was heavily featured in the national press.
Red or Dead Collaborates with leading UK hosiery brand, Pamela Mann, in creating their
new range of tights! Featuring fun slogans and quirky prints, there's something for every Rodder.
Red or Dead launches Mad in England, a totally innovative range of specs exclusive to
Specsavers. One frame, with three detachable magnetic brows to transform your look.
Red or Dead return to the catwalk after 10 years, with a kick ass range of footwear, in collaboration with up-and-coming London Fashion Week designer, Ashley Williams. With a seven piece range for SS15 entitled #MakingMovies, followed by the show stopping AW15 range #improveyourimage, exclusive to schuh.
The images in this section are used for the purpose of illustrating the history of the
Red or Dead brand only. The heritage images should not be reproduced without consent of the subjects and the