I was almost hopeless and had run out of money trying to start up the Tom Cridland brand two years ago, aged 23, when I sent an offer of a complimentary pair of our trousers to Nigel Olsson, who has been Elton's drummer since 1969 and was one of my favourite musicians, via his rep.
Much to my surprise, I had an email from Nigel himself the next day, saying he loved the look of my designs. Since then, he has ordered every pair of Tom Cridland trousers and commissioned custom jackets and sweatshirts, as well as becoming a friend.
Nigel is a legendary musician and has been Elton John's drummer since 1969. He is responsible for those classic beats on tunes like "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", as well as singing the soaring high part of the chorus on "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". If you go and see an Elton John concert these days, you'll be astounded by his drumming during the EJ Band's 10 minute jam on "Levon". He has also had a successful solo career, scoring big hits with "Dancin' Shoes" and "A Little Bit of Soap". He has the best drum sound I have ever heard and experiencing it at an Elton John gig lead to me taking up the drums myself.
That email reply from Nigel gave me the faith I needed to keep trying to establish Tom Cridland in the fashion industry and we have since campaigned for sustainable fashion with The 30 Year Collection, been included in the Sustainia100, been a finalist in Fortune Magazine's Cool Companies Competition and gone on to make clothing for Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Piven, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers, Michael Portillo, Stephan Merchant, Frankie Valli, Daniel Craig, Neil Young, Danny McBride, Miley Cyrus, Clint Eastwood and Kendrick Lamar.
Nigel, however, remains our favourite ever customer and a true friend. I will never forget how close to giving up I was before I received that first email from him. Him and his wife, Schanda, have been so supportive to my girlfriend and business partner, Debs, and I.
If you ever find yourself at an Elton John concert and notice how amazing the drums sound and how happy the man playing them looks, you can also rest assured that he is also a bona fide gentleman too.
Since then, Debs and I have been friends with this great man for another 5 years and, through many wonderful dinners and concerts, we have experienced nothing but kindness and warmth from this fine drummer. Here are some photos of amazing memories shared together.
Joining Nigel onstage at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas during Elton John & His Band's rendition of "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting":
Dinner with Nigel and his lovely wife, Schanda, after Elton John's launch of the Wonderful Crazy Night album at Olympia, Paris:
Nigel wearing a custom Tom Cridland clothing suit onstage at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas:
Dinner in Los Angeles with Nigel:
Debs and Nigel backstage in Lucca, Italy before an Elton John concert:
I also had the privilege of recently interviewing Nigel on my Greatest Music of All Time podcast. We discussed so many fascinating things, such as his remarkable natural talent - he learnt to play completely by ear, with no reading, no lessons and not much gigging experience before breaking with Elton: