Chris has founded a clothing brand which aims to help with the struggles that everyone faces on a daily basis on their own ‘frontline’. His first release, The Battlescar Collection, embraces the fact that almost everyone has scars from their own personal battles...
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 37 and have a 10-year-old son, CJ, who I completely adore. I grew up in Hendon, Sunderland in the 90s. After leaving home at 15, a period of homelessness and sofa-surfing had me heading down the wrong path. I left school with two GCSEs (Drama and English) and had no idea what direction I wanted to take my life in, so I decided to make a big change and joined the army at 16. I spent 18 and a half years in the army, and had some of the best and worst days of my life. I achieved some amazing things, saw the world and gained some life experiences to tell my future grandchildren about.
During my pending discharge, I achieved a first class honours degree in Leadership and Management at University of Sunderland, and began working towards my Level 7 in Executive Coaching, as well as becoming a personal trainer. However, I couldn’t find any fulfilment professionally and spent periods working as a PT, a lecturer, a business coach, a motivational speaker and a few other things – but what I really wanted to do was dance. I wanted to join a touring dance troupe, but I have no dance qualifications, so every audition I applied for wouldn’t even get looked at.
Since leaving the army, I’ve struggled with the transition from soldier to civilian and finding a direction in which I wanted to take my life and career in. Or at least something that would give me a sense of purpose that I felt was missing since leaving the army. When I became a ‘Dreamboy’ for the UK Theatre Tour, I re-discovered a certain sense of identity, partly.
Currently, I’m trying to move my life in the direction of dance, modelling and TV. I have managed to accumulate a few TV appearances to date such as Channel 4’s Celebs Go Dating and Sunday Brunch, as well as MTV’s Geordie Shore and Vicky Pattison’s No Filter. I have a few opportunities potentially lined up for 2021 which I’m very excited about but I haven’t been able to work in the arts industry since Covid-19.
Tell us about your time serving with the Coldstream Guards.
I had a bit of a tricky start to my military career. I was in the army for five years before I transferred into the Coldstream Guards. My sole aim, when joining, was to fight on the frontline for my country so I always wanted to join the infantry. I was initially recruited into the parachute regiment but really struggled with Phase 2 training at such a young age and developed injuries that prevented me from reaching my full potential. After getting a stand up fail on the notorious ‘P Company’ test at 17 years old (I think 14 passed out of around 40), I was forced to find a new regiment. It was devastating. I later landed a great military instructor role and transferred into the Coldstream Guards.
During my time with the Coldstream Guards, I took part in various Queen’s Birthday Parades – but the things that mattered most to me were the deployments to Afghanistan. I was awarded a prestigious commendation award during my final tour of Afghanistan for courageous and inspirational leadership under fire.
The years of service were not without heartache. I have the names of eight brothers-in-arms, that are no longer with us, tattooed on my body. In 2016, I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder and PTSD which resulted in my medical discharge which crushed me – being a soldier was all I’d known my entire adult life.
When did you get into dancing?
From my earliest memories I have always loved dancing. I was hugely inspired by Michael Jackson growing up and often used to steal my sister’s shoes (because I thought they were the same as his) and danced round the house, watching Moonwalker on VHS. When I was eight-year-old, I performed a rendition of ‘Smooth Criminal' in front of my entire school at an assembly and, as I got older and joined the army, it took a back seat. It wasn’t until I left in 2018 that I started attending choreography classes in Sunderland, Newcastle and Hartlepool, before heading south to attend classes in Manchester and London.
How did you get to become a ‘Dreamboy' and why did you choose to do it?
I was made aware of Dreamboys and informed about the structure of Residential Saturday Shows, where Dreamboy Entertainers would make up their own 10–15 minute routine and perform. I applied to join the Newcastle Dreamboys with a view to getting onto the tour at the earliest opportunity. The Director of Dreamboys, Alice Woods, was impressed with my routine for the residential show and invited me to attend an open audition in London. I was successfully selected and became a professional dancer in 2019.
Where does Frontline Ind. come into things?
I’m extremely proud to have fought on the frontline, and to be in the exclusive frontline club, so when I came out of the military, I named my business’s Frontline Fitness and Frontline Coaching. When I decided to create a clothing line, I wanted to stick with that the idea.
Tell us about the inspiration for Frontline Ind.
Frontline Ind originated from the idea of supporting those who have been affected by fighting on the frontline and quickly evolved to signify the struggles that everyone faces on a daily basis. Recognising this as their frontline and that everyone has battle scars from their own individual battles, whether that be personal demons to destroy or goals to conquer.
I have a huge passion for influence and inspiration. I want to make clothing that supports our vision and I want to make clothing that appeals to all different avenues: fitness, fashion, streetwear, sport and, as I have a passion for motorbiking, I intend to launch a branch within Frontline Ind to support that with my lifelong best-friend, Jamie McQue.
How have you managed to develop your business in such a challenging time?
I have a good team involved in the project. Particularly my business partner, Max Applegarth, who is great with the logistics and accounting aspects of the company. I tend to focus more on marketing and advertising which are where my strengths lie within the business. I’m lucky enough to have a small public profile that I’ve been trying to use to reach as many people as possible. I have relationships with a few influencers so it’s my intention to send clothing to them once the company is in a good enough financial state to increase brand awareness.
How have you found launching a business in the North?
Great. I’m an avid supporter of local businesses who have returned the support by agreeing to display our clothing in their shops and cafés such as Grinder Coffee Company and Flamingo Café. I have also worked with North East-based graphic designer, Milly Carter, to adapt my logo. However, the majority of my support has came from soldiers and veterans from around the country due to my past connections in the military as well as fans from Dreamboys.
What’s your favourite thing about the North East?
The beach: I visit Hendon beach once a day if I’m in Sunderland. It’s my safe space; it gives me inspiration and I love training there.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
I am hugely passionate about music. I love to dance, play the piano, I have three dogs (two huskies and a jackawawa) that I love walking and fitness training with amazing views is my therapy.
What are your hopes for the future?
Personally, I’d like to increase my on-screen portfolio and do as much work in dancing, modelling, acting and TV as possible. I will continue to grow and develop my entrepreneurial ethos so that I can be successful and provide the best possible life for my son.
In terms of Frontline Ind, I’ll continue to support those facing their individual frontline battles every day and take Frontline Ind international to grow into a well-known brand.