Meet The Missus
I met Emmalou aged 19 in June 1996. She was wearing a velvet jacket with Vic Reeves badges. She had (has) a soft Lancashire accent, different coloured eyes and freckles. I thought she was the fittest woman I’d ever seen. I still do. I’m very soppy about my missus. As I should be.
I was working in an Irish Pub in Manchester for extra cash to supplement my meagre dance club manager wages (but heh, free clothes). I served her sausage sandwiches and when she asked for Brown Sauce, I was sarcastic. This is me flirting. I’m not good at flirting. She thought I was a dick. She always was a good judge of character.
A week later it was my birthday. I was lording it on a guest list at another club. I got drunk enough to ask why she was glaring at me. Words were exchanged. The right ones, evidently.
We spent the next few hours enveloped in classic funk & soul, attempting to suffocate each other with our faces. Eventually I left, fell asleep on the night bus and woke up in deepest Cheshire at 4am.
Walking home I stopped at various newsagents as they opened, heading deeper through the suburbs, slugging soft drinks & buzzing with excitement. The previous night, the night to come. I got home at 8am, fell asleep and was woken by a bang. The Manchester Bomb at the Arndale Centre.
I spent all day begging Manchester councillors to keep our club open, as two fingers to the IRA. That Manchester's People wouldn’t be beaten. We were the only club to open that night. Everybody came. It was a night of joyous Fuck You to the terrorists. A unique and bizarre atmosphere. The police tape closing off central Manchester, separating Nothing from Something, was visible from the queue. Weird. WEIRD.
Sunday lunchtime, I woke. I had a date. With, errrrr Emily, Mary lou, Emma Something. At what time, umm…8pm! Yea, that.
So I turned up at the vodka bar on the edge of the tape at 8pm. I was an hour late. EmmalouMaryThingyEmilyLou was very far from happy. She doesn’t do late. Even now. I can’t believe I got away with that one. Knowing what I know now. I told tall tales of guns, gangsters & DJ mayhem. She didn’t believe a word. Cynicism in a woman is sexy.
Then, the very gang leader who’d threatened to kill me that Friday walked in. I went an unpleasant colour it was impossible to fake. He said hi, slapped me on the back, kissed her hand, and then she believed my stories.
We’ve never looked back.
London in 1997. First house in 1999. Marriage in 2007. Dog, 2010. Parents to a business in 2012. To a son in 2013 and a daughter in 2015. Somerset in 2016.
Gone bust in 2017. My breakdown. Suicidal thoughts. Debt. The knife edge. The end of it all? It was a terrible time. Our worst, of the many ups and downs we all suffer.
We fought to claw our way back. She fought hardest. I was destroyed. I wiped the tables and kids, houseworking to support her. She worked 4 jobs at once, 7am to 11pm. We edged away from the brink. We kept the house. I stayed alive and recovered. It was horrible for Emmalou, but damn it she is determined.
It was she who told me I should start FRAHM. She could see me lost without a business to create and build. It’s what I do. That’s no easy decision. To lose so hard, to go for the very thing that nearly destroyed it all, again. But better. It had to be far better.
Without Emmalou I wouldn’t be happy, FRAHM wouldn’t exist and maybe, worse.
Emmalou insisted I put a nice photo in too. Sigh.
She is now FRAHM’s first employee. Or, rather, properly recognised as my co-founder, in the business, not enabling it from outside.
The decision was based on our usual mixture of logic, emotion and events.
E built a career as one of the best advert, short film & music video producers in the business. That means she has to corral all kinds of disparate people and elements, get it all done on time and on budget, under immense pressure. Making films is like starting a multitude of small businesses, with the problems happening even faster. It’s a great grounding for this world.
I needed someone to take over the organisation of the business. I’ve been drowning in production and administration this last year, unable to do what I’m best at: Design, creativity, ideas: ‘the fluffy stuff’ as I call it.
How was I going to find someone who understood what I was trying to achieve, for peanuts?…
Lockdown hit Emmalou hard. As the sole breadwinner, the pressure was all on her. Her job was now compressed into 3 days, like mine, as we juggled kids, her work and our small business. We both became exhausted, fast.
The world looked different, like it has to so many of us. New priorities, life changing before us. We were gobsmacked by how well FRAHM was doing despite the 3 day week thing. My god, what would happen if I had help??
Emmalou chose to leave her job and rest. Then we realised she could help FRAHM, enjoy her life & work more, and we could help the company grow. What if…She worked with me? Was that good? Better than good?
There’s only one way to find out. In life, there are opportunities. Opportunities to be happier, healthier. They are laden with risk. We both believe in educated risks. That if you never try, you’ll never know.
The key is to do this with neither of us pushing ourselves too hard, succumbing to pressure. Happy, rested people are efficient thinkers and workers. Her helping me helps her helps me helps her. We are symbiotic. I feel less pressure, I’m less tired, so I can help at home more, the kids are happier, I’m more creative, it’s all cyclical.
Explaining FRAHM wasn’t required. Emmalou has been inside my head for 24 years. She knows everything about me, especially FRAHM. From what I love, what drives me to how the website works. She’d always taken an interest.
The challenge is to grow FRAHM to pay us enough, pronto, then longterm, without either of us breaking. It’s a tightrope. Startups always are.
The killing each other thing? Emmalou and I are explosive together, because there are no barriers between us. We will go from 0 to 11 in seconds, scream at each other and 2 minutes later be chatting and laughing. It scares the bejesus out of people who know us well. We give the excuse that we’re honest and passionate with each other. Either way, as long as our neighbours a Glove Factory Studios can accept the odd small explosion every other day, then we’re fine. Ahem.
Emmalou is doing customer service with me interjecting on fit advice. She packs the parcels, pays the bills, relays info to the fabric mills and kicks my arse. She’s the Behind The Scenes. She’s also extremely useful to FRAHM, because she is used to enabling creative processes. That is rare. She can segue with my aims, not butt against them.
I’m the creative monkey. The jacket designer, marketing git, mental health talker and blog writer. The voice, look & feel of it all.
This is our chance to build a better life through life-changing circumstances. It’s no easy thing, but it’s so much better because it’s such FUN. Especially when we are able to control our own destiny as well as we ever can. This is OURS.
It seems to be working. We are already way busier than expected. Maybe, just maybe, this is a turning point. It’s too early to say, but it feels right.
Whatever happens, we can always say we gave it our best shot, together, screaming expletives at each other and 30 seconds later hugging (we don’t do it THAT much, promise).
We are being ourselves, in our own creation. That is a treat. We are so grateful for that. It’s hard, but my god it’ll be a great story.
Thanks for being part of it. Please welcome Emmalou. I have help at last. The best!
I wanted to capture the lurid neon cityscapes that I obsess about.
We are honoured to work with a true legend on our new scarf range.
Enjoy a tour of the beautiful and inspiring Johnstons of Elgin, Scotland.
How do we make a rock solid classic far better, without changing what makes it so great?
Nick talks through his design process for the Classic Harrington.