Designer and serial business founder Mychael Owen is, at long last, doing what he was born to do. Mychael has created a brand with ‘Best in the World’ credentials, a brand determined to change not only how we buy and wear clothes – but how we live our lives.
A moment of reflection, and the memory of an old hand knitted cardigan he had as a boy compelled Mychael to create the now globally recognised clothing brand he always wanted.
One Saturday morning in 2014, his forties half-extinguished, Mychael sat coffee in-hand to ponder life’s purpose.
No kids. The founder of four multi-awarded design agencies. Financially fine. Two dogs. Nice house. Great partner. And Mychael’s two-word answer to his, ‘What’s life’s purpose’ question?
This Upside-Down Life.
On that morning, Mychael realised his entire life was upside-down. And the more people Mychael mentioned his realisation to, the more ‘upside-down people’ he found. Such a tiny amount of Mychael’s time was spent with those who mattered most. Doing what mattered most. Work was top priority. Family, friends and fathoming life’s purpose were bottom priority. So Mychael turned his life the right way up.
"As I sat there that morning, worrying about workload, my mind for some reason wandered to this huge hand knitted cardigan I had as a boy. I remembered how it hugged me. How it always made me pause. It slowed me down. I craved that calm, contented and carefree childhood feeling again. That switched-off, downtime feeling.
I immediately decided to take more downtime. And I wanted to inspire other people to take more downtime, too. So I thought to myself - what if, because of knitwear I created, more people at the end of their lives said, ‘I’m glad I did’ rather than ‘I wish I had’?
Now that would be something."
The Best Hand Knits in the World.
Mychael closed his agencies within months, instead creating what he felt he was born to do:
"I’d been searching. For years. And I still couldn’t fathom who made the best luxury hand knits in the world. So eventually, I thought - fuck it - it may as well be me."
Mychael now heads up Always Wear Red, the ‘Best Hand Knits in The World’ clothing brand, with a growing global customer base - and an authentic brand purpose close to his heart.
Downtime is Life.
Always Wear Red, with its brand mantra, "Downtime is Life" – encourages you to turn your life right side up.
"I thought it was just me that felt guilty taking downtime. But lots of people do. I just never gave myself permission to pause. I saw downtime as something to shoehorn into life. And it’s not. Downtime is life.
Always Wear Red is your permission to pause. Hand knits that hug you. Self-care you wear."
Do One Thing Well.
The story of Always Wear Red hand knitted jumpers and scarves is amazingly detailed. With 20 years’ experience as an international award-winning furniture and brand designer, Mychael added to his design-and-make credentials by spending 4 years working with the UK’s best clothing makers, using the world’s best materials. He explored many clothing categories before finally focussing on doing one thing really well, the thing that started the journey – hand knits.
Always Wear Red hand knits are classic, seasonless British designs that last. Simple, iconic designs that stand out. No-wash to save time, money and the planet. One, world-class, antimicrobial ingredient – up to 3kg of 100% Italian Merino in every jumper. Genderless so made for sharing. Tiny batches and pre-order so zero waste. Just 300 are hand knitted in the UK each year. Labels are woven from commissioned artwork by Finnish artist Erica Akerlund. And each piece is hand numbered and signed by Mychael in the order it is made. The range is priced between £345 and £1,695 (1% goes to ‘1% for the Planet’) and Always Wear Red promise to buy back, refurbish and resell any piece, no matter how old it is because, as Mychael says,
"The best leather. The best denim. The best hand knits. They wear in – not out. We should wear, share and repair clothes. And yes, what we look like says something about us. But how we decide what clothes to buy and how we treat our clothes says much more."
The Almost Impossible Business Model.
Always Wear Red has a team of the best British hand knitters. But keeping them is a challenge. Those experienced enough to understand the complex and unique technical approaches also need to be strong enough to hand knit pieces weighing up to 3kg each.
But Mychael is up to the challenges of this almost impossible business model. No two garments can ever be made the same, it’s hard to scale - and slow. But the things that put others off, somehow draw Mychael in. Because he remains driven by the change he wants the brand to make.
"I aim to do this one thing better than anyone on the planet. And at the same time encourage people to change the way they buy clothing and how they live their lives. I really do want people to take more downtime.
Downtime is the greatest gift. For yourself. Or someone else. When our 1,000 month visit here comes to an end, it won’t be more work we wish we’d committed to. It’ll be downtime."
Life is more balanced for Mychael these days. Change, he says, that came just in time. And even though demands around Always Wear Red are huge, Mychael remains committed to his own downtime.
In fact, Mychael has no choice. His baby daughter Izzy Willow wouldn’t have it any other way.