THE founder of an online business believes that people should Always Wear Red. Sarah Millington finds out why

The Northern Echo:

YOU can tell from the website that Always Wear Red is no ordinary retailer. Click onto the section titled “Story” and you find a poetic description of how founder Michael Owen was sitting in the pub one rainy day when he spotted a woman carrying a red umbrella, creating a focal point and making people smile. For Michael, the colour symbolises everything his clothing brand stands for.

“The colour red is very significant,” says the 49-year-old, who lives in Newcastle. “It’s the colour the human eye sees first. It’s a power colour. It’s all to do with the creation of confidence – nothing more than that.”

When Michael set up Always Wear Red, on Valentine’s Day 2016, it marked something of a departure. Originally from Manchester, he studied furniture design at Northumbria University and for 20 years, ran creative agencies and built creative teams. He turned his back on all this this in a move he describes as “bonkers”.

“I wasn’t being creative myself,” Michael explains. “The Always Wear Red opportunity is me going back to my roots, if you like, so I’m designing everything. Basically, I’m a creative guy who’s always been into painting and making things.”

He admits to having been unfamiliar with the world of fashion – and apprehensive about entering it. Fortunately, he had a friend whose advice he could rely on. “I’ve had a lot of advice from a lady called Zoe Rocha,” he says. “She’s the eldest daughter of John Rocha, who’s the key clothing designer at Debenhams. I met Zoe in a pub in London. She was sitting with (the actor and writer) Ralf Little, who’s now a shareholder of the company. I own 92 per cent and Ralf owns eight per cent.”

On the website, Michael writes that he himself is insecure – and that Always Wear Red was borne of his own desire to be more confident. He points out that red is often worn by women seeking to assert themselves against men, such as Hilary Clinton in the presidential campaign, and that those who wear the colour on dating websites are more likely to be perceived as attractive.

It was insecurity, says Michael, that prompted him to go high-end, sourcing the best makers and materials to ensure his garments were premium quality. “We work with the world’s best makers who also work with Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Paul Smith,” he says. “We also use the best materials in the world. Everything is British – everything is handmade or hand-finished, or both, in the United Kingdom. The belts, for example, are 290 quid, which is a bonkers amount, but they’re hand-stitched in London and the buckle is hand-forged in London as well. We only make them in batches of nine and each one is slightly different, so you get a totally different experience. We’ve sold in China, Australia, Singapore and the US.”

Having already name-dropped Zoe Rocha and Ralf Little, Michael cites an illustrious supplier and its celebrity clients. “Our embroiderer is Hand & Lock, which embroidered the red dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and also jackets for Mick Jagger and Kate Moss,” he says. “They’re amazing – they’re the best.”

With the business still in its infancy, stock is limited but includes hats, scarfs and belts in the Pure, Candy and Bloodline ranges. Soon to be introduced is a collection called In Bloom, which will feature hand-embroidered cherry blossoms. “Embroidery is a big part of our future,” explains Michael.

Not everything is red, but all pieces have it at least as a signature. Another key feature is the term “whoeverwear”. “It’s not a crusade but I don’t like the baggage that goes with being a woman or a man, so none of our collections will be defined by gender,” says Michael. “Our next model presents as neither male nor female. A big part of our future is removing gender stereotypes.”

This brings Michael back neatly to what he stresses is the point – feeling confident in what you wear and, by association, your own skin. “What you wear is an extension of yourself and it’s so personal,” he says. “I just want everything to be beautiful. If you don’t feel more confident wearing our stuff, we’ve failed.”