There are a lot of similarities between Strictly Come Dancing and motherhood...
You have to learn to follow someone else’s lead, remain on your toes and accept that you will very rarely be scored a ‘ten!’ no matter how hard you’ve worked. So it’s little surprise that Louise Redknapp – mother to Charley, 12, and Beau, eight, and a woman who spends much of her time racing from football fixture to dance floor – is so good at it. “It’s just something you can’t take for granted, it’s been a real experience,” Louise (who shot to fame in the 90s girl group Eternal) says of the show. “It takes up a lot of time and effort, but when it pays off and you go out and do a dance and people love it, it’s just worth every minute that you’ve put in.” For her business partner and close friend of 13 years, Emma Thatcher, Louise’s wonderful waltzes are the perfect finale to a very successful year. Their lifestyle blog, A Style Album, with its accessible approach to all things fashionable, has reached 54,000 followers. “It’s a real passion for both of us,” explains Emma. “We launched it two-and-a-half years now, and it’s just essentially what we talk about. With me being a stylist and with Lou’s work, we’re always discussing fashion and outfits.” Inspired by their friendship, swapping pictures and advice on what they wear – they decided to let everyone join the conversation. “With Em, I would take advice on anything and trust her 100 per cent – that’s where the blog originates,” explains Louise, who is also co-founder of beauty brand Wild About Beauty. “It’s about having that girlfriend who you can trust, and that’s what we want to be to other people.” Emma – who has three children, Libby, 15, Alfie, 14 and Teddy, 11 – has worked in the fashion industry for the last seven years as a buyer and also a commercial and editorial stylist. The pair understand that when you become a mother you can lose your way when it comes to getting dressed, and are keen to make fashion less intimidating. We joined the friends for a quick chat about shopping, friendship – and the occasional cha-cha-cha. Photography: Ian Harrison Words: Claire Brayford Go to www.astylealbum.com
Founders of A Style Album Louise Redknapp and Emma Thatcher
Louise, what's the best thing about being on Strictly Come Dancing?
It’s having the opportunity to go out there and learn these incredible dances – the Argentine Tango, the Paso Doble and the American Smooth – that I’d never in a million years have the opportunity to do.
Do you have a lot of input in the costumes you wear?
You don’t massively, no, but the team at Strictly are very aware of what works – especially what works for the show, and they’ve made costumes for people who have been dancing on Strictly for years. Very early on I decided I just needed to put myself in their hands and go with what worked for them. They’re very good if you’ve got parts of your body that you’re not very confident about. I tend to just go with the flow, because otherwise you spend all of your time looking at the design, looking at the colours and fits and they have a-million-and-one-things to do. So I leave it to them and embrace the whole Strictly experience, which so far I’ve learnt is the best thing to do.
Emma, have you noticed any changes in Louise since she joined the show?
I think it’s been great for her confidence. To see her doing something she’s so passionate about. Dancing was such a big part of her life when she was younger. So for her to be able to go out there and do it again, it’s been incredible. I’m really proud of her. She’s doing amazing. I love it, I get so excited – I sit there clapping on my own!
How did you two first meet and what was it about each other that clicked?
Louise: We met at a social event – our husbands knew each other. And then, I know for me, we just instantly had lots in common and got on. I think our friendship just grew naturally. Emma: Definitely, yeah and we realised we had kids a similar age… Louise: The more you get to know somebody, the more you realise how much you have in common and we have the same sense of humour – it’s all of those things that are important when you’ve got a mate. Over the last 13 years, it’s grown organically and then we decided to work together, so it’s gone from strength-to-strength really.
What was the last thing you really laughed at?
Louise: We laugh all the time! We must have been laughing about something this morning? Emma: You being bossy?! [Laughs] Louise: [Laughs] Yeah me being bossy and having control issues, we always laugh at that! Today we were giggling about the ‘It Takes Two’ (Strictly Come Dancing spin-off) videos. We tend to laugh a lot at things that other people don’t find that funny!
Where did you both grow up? Can you tell us about your own mother and what she has taught you?
Louise: I grew up in Lewisham, in central London and then later we moved out to Surrey. My mum really taught me to always get out there and do what you want to do, and what you believe in. Never hold back. She’s always encouraged me to want more – in a good way! Emma: I think the same. My mum gives my sisters and I a lot of confidence to believe in whatever we want to do. She says, ‘You can do it’.
What has being a mother taught you?
Louise: That unconditional love is key. You realise you’ll be supportive of your children no matter what happens in life. It’s just an unconditional feeling – that you’d die for them. It’s a feeling that you can’t even really put into words.
What kind of clothes do you love dressing your children in?
Louise: Well my boys live in gym kits! Emma: Yeah my boys live in football kits and Nike tracksuits. I’ve got a teenage daughter [Libby] who’s 15 and she absolutely loves Topshop and all of the American Brands. I really struggled when she started choosing her own outfits, and buying her own clothes – she gets it a little bit, but we’ve always had a bit of a battle of the skirt lengths and the low cut tops! Louise: I think that’s standard Em!
When was A Style Album launched? What do you think sets it apart?
Louise: It’s genuine. We’re not in it to write about things for the money, or paid for posts. If we genuinely don’t love it and wouldn’t wear it, then we wouldn’t recommend anybody else to – I think that comes across in the blog.
Tell us about your working day...
Louise: Well unless you understand the concept of Strictly I’m going sound like a right nutter – I dance for seven hours a day with Kevin (Louise’s dance partner). [Laughs] Emma: Every morning we check in with each other and have a long chat. We don’t plan ahead massively; we’re quite instant. I think that’s the nice thing about being a blog you don’t have to have a long lead-time. We have weekly plans, but if Lou calls up and goes, “I’ve just seen this amazing piece, or someone wearing this”, then that’s how our posts will come about. Sometimes we meet up and bounce ideas off each other too. A week can be a bit of a mixture of going into London and checking out new places and shops – that’s important to actually walk around and look at things in person – or equally having days on the internet looking at different websites and checking things out that way.
Which elements of the site do you ever disagree on?
Emma: I don’t think we do really – we’re both pretty easy going with it. I think it goes back to the question before – sometimes Lou will say to do a piece on a wide-legged trouser for example, and I may a bit cautious – but when we actually start looking into it, I’m like “I’m loving wide-legged trousers, I need to buy some now!” So we’ll always come round to each other’s way of thinking. Louise: There’s a mutual respect there. You never poo-poo the other one’s ideas, because you know if they’re coming up with that idea, there’s something in it. And if something doesn’t work, we’d both say: “Maybe that was a bad idea, it’s not really happening”. There’s no ego on the blog – we just want the best for it. It’s not about who comes up with the idea or who does the most – it’s purely whatever’s best for everyone to read.
How do you juggle work commitments with being a mother?
Louise: It’s not always easy, is it? When you’re rushing back on the A3 on the school pick-up feeling slightly guilty. Emma: The nice thing is we’re both in the same position. We’ve both got children of similar ages, with after-school activities etc and they are obviously our main priority. We have days where we don’t always get back, and other people have to help out but it’s nice that we can juggle it around.
Do you have any tips about getting organised in the morning?
Louise: Well in theory, you should do it the night before but that never happens in my house! Emma: If I’ve got something quite important the next day where I want to look nice I’ll always have a little scroll on Pinterest the night before, which helps to put a little outfit idea into my head.
What is your approach to getting dressed?
Emma: I have to be comfortable, and it depends on what I’m doing that day. I try and have a key piece in my mind – whether it be a jacket I want to wear or a pair of shoes – then I’ll work the rest of the outfit around it. Louise: For me, it depends on what mood I’m in – I’m really mood-lead in how I dress. If I’m feeling a bit shattered, I tend to really go for comfort. I think between Em and I, we kind of have a go-to safe uniform. On those mornings you don’t want to think, it’s good to go for what works – a standard blazer, leather jacket, cute T-shirt, good pair of jeans or cropped trousers and a nice white trainer.
Louise: I think we influence each other in a way. Emma: I think you probably push it a bit more, don’t you, rather than me? Louise: I probably take more chances, and go out on a bit of a limb. I’ll buy some sort of funky shoe, or wear something that’s maybe a little more ‘out there’. I would go to Emma for what she really thinks, and if she says, “no babe” then I’d maybe take them off! [Laughs]
What is your biggest fashion weakness?
Louise: Mine is shoes – 100 per cent. I love shoes, always. Emma: The high street. I’m quite bad at going into Topshop and spending too much money, when sometimes I should hold out and get more of a special piece.
Where do you love to shop?
Emma: Online – Net-A-Porter and Matches – that’s our first go-to. On the high street – Topshop, we’re really liking Mango at the moment actually, and Zara. You can always find something in Zara.
What do you hope to get for Christmas?
Louise: I always want clothes, bags or shoes really – things that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. A nice clutch bag or something that you wouldn’t warrant spending the money on, but is a bit of an extra. Emma: I saw on Instagram some Chanel sliders in all different colours, they’d be nice! Well not every colour! I took a screenshot to send to my husband of those. [Laughs]
Do you focus on or follow trends?
Emma: We touch on them on A Style Album but we stick to what suits us. We’re at that age now where we’ve tried most trends over the years [Louise is 42, Emma, 34] so we know what suits us. Louise: We have a real sense of our own style. We bring in elements of trends when it’s right for our lifestyle.
What do you both swear by beauty wise?
Louise: I’ve just started using a cream called Skin Food and I love it. Emma: I’ve just got this Caudalie Elixir spray, and I’m really liking that. It’s a refreshing spray that wakes you up in the morning. Make-up wise I love Wild About Beauty [Louise’s own beauty brand] – the Lou bronzer I genuinely wear every day as well as Chanel Vitalumiere foundation.
Do you both exercise? What do you like to do?
Emma: Yeah we do a little bit of boxing together. Louise: And a bit of pilates – we switch between the two. Emma: We’re pretty good, we go a couple of times a week.
And do you eat well?
Louise: I eat well. I’m super-healthy, and she eats terribly and is the skinny one! What went wrong there? [laughs] Emma: Yeah I’m really bad. I need to sort it out. Lou does make me feel bad because she eats super-healthy. I think I realise how bad my diet is when I’m with Lou. Louise: She looks great, she wears smaller size jeans then me, so I don’t know who got it right?
How has A Style Album evolved and what does the future hold?
Louise: I think we’ve found a formula that works for us on a personal level, and that the audience seems to enjoy. The case now is just to keep on growing so that more people get to see it and to keep the content current. The next step would be to maybe come up with a clothing collection that works alongside A Style Album, that captures the uniform that we wear. Emma: Yeah, we’d love to do our own clothing line.
What about Instagram - what do you love about social media?
Emma: As a user, I get so much inspiration from it. I’ll wake up in the morning and scroll through and it can put an idea in my head about what to wear, just by seeing someone who has got stripes on or something like that. For A Style Album, it’s also great for getting the word out. It’s nice to get feedback through it as well. I love it when people comment and tag their friends and say: “Oh we should try this guys!” That means so much to me. You see that people are listening and enjoying and that makes it such a pleasure.
And finally, what are your career highlights?
Louise: They’re so varied over the decades. Obviously being part of Eternal was incredible and then on to Strictly. I’d say my career has spanned about 25 years, and there have been so many highlights. And the blog has just been such a different arm to what I do. It’s been the most personal thing I’ve done, I suppose, and on my own time and doing it with a great friend, I’m really proud of that. So sometimes it’s about elements of my career that I feel really proud of rather than highlights. Emma: I had children really young, so I started work a bit later but I’m proud of how I’ve done it. I didn’t begin my career the conventional way, I was a bit older it wasn’t always easy or glamorous at times but I’m proud that I stuck it out, and I’m massively proud of the blog. I absolutely love what we’ve done with that.