Tributes have poured in for Northern Lights Agency owner Nigel Eley and Farah menswear business development manager John-Paul Cassidy, known as JP, who both died in a traffic collision on the M62 earlier this month.
Eley, 41, died on 3 April at the scene of the accident. Cassidy, who was a passenger in the same car, died from his injuries on 12 April, aged 37. They were on their way to meet clients.
Eley began his fashion career in retail when he joined Flannels as a menswear buyer in 1998. He worked there for four years until 2002, when he took up a menswear fashion buyer role at JD Sports.
In 2004, Eley left to set up his sales and distribution agency Northern Lights on Jersey Street in Ancoats, Manchester, alongside business partner Len Hamilton.
The pair went on to secure brand accounts including Sperry, Original Penguin, Farah Vintage, Humor, Sanders and Armorlux, while working with retailers such as Asos, End, Oi Polloi, Footasylum and JD Sports.
Hamilton, who first met Eley while working together as buyers at Flannels 20 years ago, said: “The whole industry is shocked and upset about the loss of someone so well-liked.
“Nigel was loved by everyone that met him, whether you knew him for 10 minutes or 10 years. He’s a massive loss to the fashion business, and a bigger loss as my business partner and friend, who I miss terribly.”
An avid Man City supporter, Eley coached an under-nines football team at AFC Urmston Meadowside football club.
“He was always smiling and always had a good joke. He was a great dad who absolutely adored his children,” recalled Hamilton.
Northern Lights was where Cassidy began his career as a sales agent, in 2012, after travelling in Australia and working as a personal trainer. He originally joined the agency on a part-time contract, but quickly proved his talent and stayed on in a full-time role as account manager for Farah Vintage for the North of England.
At the end of the spring 14 selling season he was promoted to head of sales for Original Penguin, Northern Lights’ largest brand during the period. In this role, he drove a year-on-year rise of more than 40% in the brand’s forward orders in the North.
After two years at Northern Lights, Cassidy joined Lyle & Scott in 2014 as account manager for the UK North and Ireland, where he looked after regional accounts such as Fenwicks and Sports Direct as well as brands in Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.
Not one to rest on his laurels, in 2016 Cassidy switched to a wholesale account manager role at Sebago, which has since been sold by owner Wolverine Worldwide.
There, he grew its account base and looked after Amazon, its single largest online account in Europe, along with key UK accounts Asos, Kurt Geiger, Clinkards and Rogerson Shoes.
In December 2017, Cassidy took up a business development manager position at Farah.
Mark McCann, brand director at Farah, which had appointed Northern Lights to represent Farah’s menswear business in the north, said: “Both were absolutely incredible guys, a pleasure to work and relax with.
“We will miss them every day and we will endeavour to keep their legacy alive at Farah. We will laugh and cry for them and remember the very best of these men. An incredible loss for not only us, but for the industry.
“Nigel, JP, we remember you, we remember you always smiling, we remember your kindness, we miss you, we raise a glass to you and we will never forget you.”
Mark Cassidy, Cassidy’s eldest brother, said: ”John-Paul always loved fashion, and had a real passion for the industry.
“Whenever he spoke about work, he absolutely loved the heritage brands he worked for and was very passionate in particular about British fashion, and the use of correct fabrics and materials. He had designs on one day starting his own fashion brand that was made in Britain.”
A craft beer and wine fan, Cassidy previously worked at a popular beer bar in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter.
“He was generous to a fault, and charismatic. He was always very kind – as an uncle, he never forgot any birthdays or Christmases,” said Cassidy.
Geoff Andrews, who worked with JP at Sebago, said: “I had the pleasure of working with JP as his sales manager for two years up until October 2017.
“JP was a true gentleman, a good friend, a strong work colleague and someone with great potential that unfortunately can no longer be realised. It was with such great sadness we learnt of the tragic accident that JP was involved in, so from me and I’m sure all his ex-colleagues at Wolverine Worldwide, our deepest heartfelt condolences go out to his fiancée Lucy and his family during this difficult time.
”A good heart has stopped beating and a good soul has gone to heaven. May you rest in peace JP, we will never forget you.”
Luis Gunn, business unit director at Lyle & Scott, described Cassidy as a “nice, honest guy”, adding: “He was fiercely loyal and protective of his customers – because of that, his relationships were always positive. In the whole time I’ve known and worked with JP, I never heard a negative or bad word said about him.
“Customers were always quick to tell me what a great person we had working for us and how he would go out of his way to speak to them or resolve a problem they had. It was a measure of JP’s passion and enthusiasm for what he was doing.”
Eley is survived by his wife as well as two sons, aged nine and four. Cassidy is survived by his mother, father, two older brothers and his fiancée, who he planned to marry next August.