Always Wear Red founder and managing director Michael Owen believes a splash of red can enliven any outfit
Always Wear Red Toast beanie
Colour means everything for five-month-old luxury street style fashion brand, Always Wear Red. After two decades of building businesses, founder and managing director Michael Owen talks about his inspiration to create an iconic fashion brand that is “seen first and remembered longest”.
My personal style is collective and contradictory, similar to the brand: our men’s and women’s accessories are all consistent in the colour red but different in the way you can choose to wear them. Most people wear black because it’s classic, but adding colour can take it from a classic outfit to a statement one.
The first thing I do in the morning is write down everything in my head. I mentally download everything while I’m asleep and then type it up when I wake. It’s the easiest way to deal with all my thoughts and ideas. I am more creative and active in the morning, so that’s when I do most of my writing and business. I also enjoy walking my two dogs: Frank, a bichon frise, and Colin, a collie.
Always Wear Red 100% silk Red Camo tie
A typical Monday starts with a cycle of reinvention: how can we improve the brand today? Other things include answering calls, following up emails and liaising with suppliers. We have all our 100% pure silk woven in London, packaging from North Yorkshire and designs in Teesside. I also manage our social media – we put about 80% of our marketing into a strong online presence. Four of us are behind the birth of the company: I’m founder and MD; Zoe Rocha is consultant creative director, design and creative lead; actor Ralf Little is consultant art director, concepts and story; and Leslee Curle is designer, seamstress and stylist. There are a further nine individuals involved in running the company, including models, our head of digital, photographers and production.
Michael Owen founder of Always Wear Red
My biggest achievement is engaging with amazing people. We have a collaboration planned with artist Stephen Wiltshire, MBE, who studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College and has a gallery in London. Ralf Little is just one of our five ambassadors who help our brand to think, explore and grow. They see our collections first and they can help us to develop new collections, too. Ambassadors help us to explore the relationship between what we wear and how confident we feel. This is because, just like us, they are fascinated by the tension between how powerful and illusory confidence is. Our brand stands for achievement – having people on board who are ‘doers’, not just ‘talkers’, is important to us. Our ambassadors are all successful people in their own way, and that’s exactly what the brand celebrates.
The most challenging part of my job is finding the momentum. The fashion world moves so quickly; we’ve started to introduce micro ranges of about a dozen items instead of full seasonal collections so that we can change and swap them around to keep up with the constantly changing trends.
The thing I most enjoy about my job – although it sounds cheesy – is hearing what our customers think of our products. People tell us how much they are addicted to the items. I’ve heard stories about how customers have worn items again and again, from weddings to a casual drink in the pub. We use some of the best materials in the world, in products such as our 100% silk ties, 100% lambswool beanies and 100% cashmere scarves all sourced responsibly from here in the UK. Our brand is contemporary and relevant, but still classic and simple and I think that’s why clients fall in love with our items.
One thing I didn’t expect to do when we launched was to simplify; it’s difficult not to over-communicate and overcomplicate things.
For those starting your own business, don’t think you will get it right first time, don’t beat yourself up about it if you get it wrong – and make sure that you have the financial stability and the time to repair. I’ve learnt that it’s impossible to get everything right first time round. For example, our silk ties weren’t doing as well as we’d hoped, but we realised they’re just too beautiful for our luxury street style image. People won’t wear high-quality silk ties every day – they’ll save them for a special occasion. We plan to completely scrap them and introduce more wearable ties in a silk and linen mix in the next six months.
Always Wear Red is about inspiring you to be the best possible version of yourself so you can see your full potential and achieve your goals and ambitions. Confidence, inspiration and drive are key to making the most of every day, while making you look and feel amazing. It’s also about creating confidence, as red has psychological effects in regards to visual attractiveness and exerting a sense of power. Confidence is very powerful: it can bring you down to your knees or make you feel like you’re on top of the world.
My inspiration was the phrase “seen first, remembered longest”. The colour red is indisputable. It’s something the human eye picks up first and remembers the most. A study by Rochester University showed women find men more attractive when they wear red. If you showed someone a photograph of a person wearing every colour and asked them to list what the person was wearing they would say the red items first. It’s such a confident, powerful colour and that’s why we only sell red.
Business at the moment is steady. As a new brand, trends influence our business the most.
Our top sellers are our cashmere beanies, which range from £80 to £160 retail. However, the biggest seller is our silk tie in the camouflage print, £140. Another popular item for everyday wear is our lightweight cashmere scarf, £120. We plan to introduce more of those this month.
Plans for the future include looking to collaborate with an exceptional designer to start introducing leather to our range; from bags to small leather goods, and considering quirky designs for socks. Another thing we may do is pull away from our accessories and introduce limited edition, exclusively designed, long- and short-sleeved tops in 2017.
My other career would still be consulting and advising with clients to help build and strengthen their own brands.
2016-present Founder and MD, Always Wear Red
2009-2013 Founder and MD, Violet Bick Brand Consultancy
2006-present Founder and MD, Angelfysh Digital Marketing
2000-2014 Founder and MD, Onebestway Creative Agency
1999-2000 Learning adviser for the multimedia sector, University of Sunderland
1997-1999 Project founder, The Building up Business Project, North Tyneside Economic Development Department
1993-1997 Senior business counsellor, enterprise Agency, Project North East
1990-1993 Founder and MD, Design Status, maker of awards and promotional gifts
Interview by Megan Goodwin