Michael has Designs on New Business Venture

A unique luxury British fashion accessories brand where every item is the colour red has unveiled its debut collection thanks to help from TEDCO Business Support and a £25,000 loan from Virgin StartUp.

‘Always Wear Red’ is the brainchild of Newcastle entrepreneur Michael Owen who, in collaboration with co-owners Zoë Rocha – successful TV and film producer and eldest daughter of renowned fashion designer John Rocha – and award winning actor Ralf Little, set about creating a single-colour indulgent collection which includes scarves, ties, pocket squares and the brand’s current signature piece, the tall-beanie hat.

Whilst ‘Always Wear Red’ is Michael’s first venture into fashion design, he is a well established name in the region’s creative sector with a career background that has seen him head up brand design and marketing consultancies including angelfysh, onebestway and Violet Bick. A chance meeting in London with Ralf Little – star of the popular comedy series The Royle Family – led to Michael seizing the opportunity to pitch his vision for a luxury fashion brand, and enthused by the concept, the actor came on board to help make the dream a reality.

Michael said: “There is a very clear concept underpinning the ‘Always Wear Red’ brand – it is all about confidence. The colour red is extremely powerful as the human eye will see red before any other colour. Psychologically red has many positive associations including courage, warmth and attractiveness and being the colour of many iconic British symbols such as pillar boxes, telephone boxes and Routemaster buses it epitomises what we wanted to achieve in creating a confident, stand-out luxury fashion brand.”

According to Michael, there is a firm emphasis upon only using the highest quality 100% pure materials including silk of the densest weave possible and cashmere knitted or woven from fibres no less than 35mm long meaning that around 90% of the world’s cashmere is rejected before it is included in the Always Wear Red collection.

Michael Owen added: “We have also committed to only using British craftsmanship – for example our scarves are knitted in Scotland and our silks are woven in the South East UK – so every single item in the ‘Always Wear Red’ collection is created in this country. Each piece is then hand-checked and finished here in the North East.”

To launch his new enterprise, Michael turned to TEDCO Business Support and via its Start and Grow programme was introduced to personal business advisor Bill Hartshorne. With his support, Michael was able to secure a £25,000 government backed start-up loan from Virgin StartUp which enabled him to invest in stock, create an online store and provide the working capital that was needed to get the venture off the ground.

Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organisation and part of the Virgin Group, providing government backed start-up loans to new enterprises to help kick-start new ventures with the start up capital they need to make business dreams come to life. Virgin StartUp is exclusively delivered in the North East by TEDCO Business Support.

Michael Owen added: “When starting a new business there is a lot which needs to be taken into consideration and having known Bill for many years, I was confident that he would be able to offer me sound advice, clear guidance and be a trusted advisor. Having someone on hand that you can turn to for a second opinion or who can challenge you before making a final decision is hugely beneficial.”

Bill Hartshorne of TEDCO Business Support said: “Michael is a very charismatic and driven individual and ‘Always Wear Red’ demonstrates the very breadth and depth of new business ventures that we are able to support. The brand has been developed with a clear growth strategy for the future and has real potential to offer much-needed employment opportunities, not only within the business itself but through their commitment to work with British based suppliers and manufacturers.”

The Start and Grow programme is delivered by TEDCO Business Support in the North East and is supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are lower levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.

For more information on TEDCO Business Support and how Start and Grow or Virgin StartUp can help kick-start a new enterprise, please contact us today.