5 minutes with Pepper & Mayne

We caught up with Leigh May Evans, the Founder of Pepper & Mayne to learn more about the brand and her inspirations for the collection…


How did you get into fashion?

I originally trained as a dancer but fashion and design was my true passion. I started out as a buyer and product developer, working for both high street and designer brands including Matthew Williamson, River Island and Claudia Schiffer Cashmere. Eventually I decided to combine my two passions; ballet and fashion and Pepper & Mayne was born!


What’s it like being in the fitness fashion industry?

It’s great. There is a huge growth in the industry at the moment and the ‘Athleisure’ trend really speaks to how women are living their lives now. As a result there is a real excitement and thirst for the product and a wealth of smaller, niche labels emerging. What’s lovely is that there is healthy competition but everybody is really supportive of each other and interested in each others’ stories. It feels like a real movement and community has grown from a common interest and hopefully that passion really comes through in the products.


How would you describe your brand?

Pepper & Mayne is about celebrating Strength and Elegance and combining them in everything we do. Our mantra is ‘Exercise in Elegance’ because we believe that activewear can be beautiful and strong at the same time. We are heavily inspired by the ballet aesthetic and every item can be worn for ballet barre but also high impact activity and even hot yoga. The pieces are aesthetically flattering but work hard in the background so that you can look effortless whilst you work out.


What inspired your designs?

We take inspiration from ballet and how dancers dress for rehearsals. It’s all about layering and soft fabrics but underneath the seamless contouring pieces work hard to accentuate a long-lean silhouette and encourage good posture. Strength and Elegance must be present in every design - integrity is key but the look also has to be very luxe and finished.


Why should we buy your products instead of any other sportswear brands?

What makes Pepper & Mayne unique is the softer aesthetic and focus on fabrics that perform. It’s not about androgyny or hard edged design but staying sleek and elegant with an inner strength. We’re known for our seamless compression wear which is designed to flatter all shapes and sizes and this is where we have seen the most repeat custom. Our colour palettes are timeless and every item slots into an everyday wardrobe. We ask ourselves, “can this item be worn from ballet barre to brunch” ie. does it blend into a lifestyle with natural versatility? We’ve created a lifestyle offer that is sympathetic to the lives of busy, active women of all ages.


How do you start your day?

I wake up at 7am and am in the office by 8am every day. I am lucky in that I live a 15 minute walk from the office so can grab a coffee or juice en route. I am at my most efficient first thing so I tend to get the bulk of my work done in the morning and then the afternoons or evenings are for meetings and working out. If I am designing a new collection I tend to take some time out of the office to allow myself to be at my creative best. In an ideal world I’d start the day with yoga on the beach and a morning surf!


Would you say you’re healthy, if yes, why is this important to you?

Absolutely. We are more informed about the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle than ever; both mentally and physically it is an essential. I have always been really active and ballet and running have been part of my life since childhood. I try to eat and drink ‘clean’ as much as possible but for me keeping active is key to feeling good and being productive.


When are you at your happiest?

When I’m at the beach with friends or family. I grew up by the sea and whenever I go back there I feel immediately calm and like I can take on the world. I love walking along the coast in Wales or Dorset and really re-charging. It’s important to work hard but to also take the time out and appreciate what you’re working for. Good food, good wine and a perfect sunset is perfection.


What exercise do you do and how often?

It’s quite varied but the consistent ones are ballet barre and running. After a really stressful day I love running along the river or around Hampstead Heath near where I live. Ballet is always going to be a true love for me as I find it challenging and calming at the same time. Pilates supports this but I also love to do the occasional boxing class - spending half an hour at somewhere like Ko-Box can really get the adrenaline pumping and the endorphins flowing!


Any clothing tips for those getting into exercise?

At Pepper & Mayne we are always working closely with our technologists to improve the efficiency in our clothing. The essential pieces for anybody building an ‘Athleisure’ wardrobe would be a seamless compression legging and matching bra top or vest. These are versatile work-out pieces that also act as great layering pieces with built in support. For a touch of luxury, layer up with a 100% cashmere hoody from our collaboration with The Royal Ballet and if you are a little more daring, the compression unitard is a real show stopper and surprisingly flattering on all figures; sucking in the waist and lengthening the limbs - try it!


Where do you see your brand in the future?

For now we are focussed on making the product the very best it can be and speaking to our strong UK customer base. We want to build a loyal following on home turf before taking the brand into new territories but we have already received a lot of interest from the States, Australia and Asia which is hugely exciting. We’ll always offer Body Wear, Aprés Sport and Cashmere collections but the key to longevity in the fashion industry is a willingness to adapt and change as people’s lives and expectations do. As long as we keep engaging with and listening to our customer hopefully we can cater to them long into the future.


What’s next for you professionally?

I count myself extremely lucky in that I wake up every day and am excited and happy to go to work. Pepper & Mayne is still a young brand and there is a lot more to do so I will be at the helm for the forseeable future. I am really proud of the team and what we have created but in fashion the job is never done and you have to keep evolving. I am really excited about the future of the label and the exciting things we have planned for next year. Watch this space!