The businessman behind Always Wear Red - the North East's affluent menswear brand with a twist
To some, clothing is simply a necessity and accessories are an added bonus. For the rest? Every single day is a chance to express your thoughts and feelings through fashion, it’s something to admire.
For Michael Owen, it’s sort of a magical obsession. It’s a way of life, and something to take very seriously. And in terms of colour in what we wear? Well, look no further than the one we apparently always see first. Red.
The colour red encapsulates hundreds of emotions, events and symbols. To Michael, the intriguing colour means “power, sexuality and memorability”. It’s also the selling point of his brand, which began in an evening out at the pub on Valentine’s Day 2015.
It could be argued that a fleeting moment in the form of a passerby outside with a red umbrella ultimately changed the course of Michael’s career forever.
And as exactly one year passed, in the late winter of 2016, Michael launched his first foray into high-end menswear and accessories, Always Wear Red. If it wasn’t for that single red umbrella, Always Wear Red might not be the brand it is today.
But how can a businessman sell a brand based entirely on one colour? According to the brand’s founder, red is symbolic of our British heritage - something which Always Wear Red boasts with its selection of high-end accessories.
Think Routemaster buses, telephone boxes, pillar boxes… All iconic, statement pieces, standing the test of time. As consumers, we can easily recall these items, and this is something that Michael hopes to evoke in his customers with Alway Wear Red.
With a degree in furniture design alongside an extensive background in design and communication, Michael has founded five successful businesses over a period of 20 years, all whilst bagging 70 awards in between.
He recalls: “I’ve always loved being creative. I’ve been in design all my life, it’s very personal. It now drives everything we do at Always Wear Red.”
The affluent brand mainly caters to the man forever longing for that quintessentially British, classic piece of tailoring. You know the one; its feel grabs your attention immediately, you know you’re purchasing sheer quality which can never date.
With an undying fascination for clothes stretching back to his childhood, Michael has always had an eye for design.
Punking up classic, tailored suits with striped socks or a merino wool scarf is what Always Wear Red does best. It’s pure British design with an edge, and something Michael has been inspired by from icons such as Paul Weller and John Lennon, to an obscure Jack Nicholson, Richard Ashcroft and Marvin Gaye.
“These people are not just cool for their age - they’re cool full stop. There’s something about them.”
Launching in 2016 with accessories such as flat caps, baker boy hats, ties, to beanies, scarves, socks and wallets, Always Wear Red is based in Newcastle, with suppliers dotted across the country: “Setting up in the North East is, from a logistical perspective, the best place to be, honestly.
“My cashmere and merino wool pieces are made by some of the world’s best knitters and they’re in Scotland… The best flat cap makers are in Yorkshire, and the best silk weavers are in London. I’m in the middle of them all!”
It’s definitely an unspoken truth that the North East isn’t seen as the greatest place to set up a high-end fashion brand right now, but because Always Wear Red is solely online, it means Michael has been able to hone in customers from all over the world - from China, the US, to India and Australia.
And of course, social media plays a huge role in reaching out to these consumers from all walks of life. Even web portals like Beyond-Bespoke, which stocks premium British brands, is on board with Always Wear Red, and Michael has plans to collaborate with more portals next year.
Michael also weighs his brand’s success on this: “In almost three years, only one item has ever been returned to Always Wear Red, which is really unusual for a web-based business. The products are so well presented, the packaging and whole experience is theatre!”
Anything he wishes he had known before taking the first leap into Always Wear Red? “A few things… First, everything takes longer and costs more! Second, true brands take a huge amount of time to build - years and years.
“Finally, if you want to build something that matters to people, you have to do something that matters. I know that sounds obvious, but [there has to be] a purpose, and you have to be proud. Your name is on it.”
Looking to the fresh beginnings of a new year, Michael has the prospect of writing a book on the horizon with a “creative friend” of his, talking primarily about confidence - all in line with Always Wear Red, of course.
And in terms of the brand itself, look out for a collaboration between Always Wear Red and a premium drinks company, said to be involving a capsule collection.
“Ideas for new pieces never end. All designing starts as an idea, a sketch and a flash of red in our Newcastle studio. Then in the hands of iconic makers using the best materials, [is] when the magic happens.”