Pepper & Mayne’s seminal collection three years ago at launched at Women’s only Spa, Gym and Club Grace Belgravia, quickly amassing a loyal following whilst simultaneously notching up credentials for steering the ‘Athleisure’ movement. The latter is part of a design philosophy to deliver versatile and luxurious lounge and weekend wear, Pepper & Mayne do this using cashmere, cotton and silk (natural fibres which are kinder to the skin and the environment).
Whether the brand’s reputation for lush loungewear – think baby-soft, luxurious fabrics to take you from barre to brunch in elegance and style – or its status as elegant performance wear numero uno, Pepper & Mayne design exercise, dance, work-out or chill out gear in its finest form. Product excellence aside, the collections are all fair trade and fully traceable, another reason the brand makes the ethical cut. Stocked at leading independent retailers such as Wolf & Badger, Pepper & Mayne retails online between £40-£400.
I interviewed Founding Director, Leigh May Evans, to find out more.
– Introduce yourself and tell us a little about Pepper & Mayne
Pepper & Mayne is an active lifestyle brand born and raised in London. Our creative Director, Leigh is an ex ballet dancer turned designer and yogi and when you can’t find her at the barre she’ll be practicing yoga on the beach in Ibiza or researching new ways of creating sustainable products at our manufacturing hubs in Portugal or Nepal. The Pepper & Mayne collections were born out of creating innovative product for ballerinas and combine the strength and elegance synonymous with ballet practice. Our products are both functional and sustainable; always kind to both the skin and the environment and responsible manufacturing is at the heart of everything we do. Our Body Wear collection offers hardy ballerinas performance clothing that is designed for movement and high-intensity activity whilst remaining beautiful and elegant.
– Tell us about the vision for your brand?
Pepper & Mayne began as a capsule wardrobe designed for ballet dancers 5 years ago. We knew that there was a lack of design and product innovation in this area and we wanted to fill that space by offering specialised clothing that reflected the challenging day to day lives of dancers. This coincided with the growing interest in activewear as an apparel category both from buyers and consumers, and as a result, we saw a huge demand for our clothing almost immediately. We found that not only dancers but yogis, pilates instructors and friends interested in healthy and active living were excited to be able to wear clothing that not only performed but looked fresh, fashionable and on point. Motivated by this we developed the range to include both performance wear and aprés sport that has sustainability at its heart. We wanted the label to be feel good in every respect, so we sought to work only with suppliers and manufacturers that believed in responsible sourcing without compromising the integrity of the product. Recently we introduced our cashmere collection of loungewear which has been hugely successful and is all made by our eco-label manufacturers in Nepal. It is feel good fashion – literally, socially and environmentally!
– How do you approach sustainability within your brand?
From the outset, we made the conscious decision to only work with manufacturers who shared our commitment to responsible sourcing. We spent a long time researching and developing products with manufacturers in Europe and that is where we have remained. Leigh spends around 4 months of the year in Portugal with the factories so we know first hand what is happening on the ground and have direct relationships with our production teams. Just before the earthquake in 2015 we began working with our eco-label factory in Nepal. It was a huge challenge to sustain the production during the aftermath, but we managed to do so and as a result have contributed the regeneration of the manufacturing industry in local communities.
– How do you ensure transparency within the chain?
The only way to ensure this is by spending time with the teams and developing that level of knowledge and trust. Both Leigh and Jess, our head of production and innovation spend several months of the year visiting the factories and developing new ways to achieve high performance products that adhere to our social and environmental requirements. We try to push innovation are deeply involved in every step of the process. Because the manufacturing is so close to home, we can go back and forth as often as is needed, our manufacturers are an extension of the Pepper & Mayne family. Our manufacturers have supported us as we’ve grown from a young start up brand to an international label with a loyal following all over the world.
– The word sustainable feels a little tired at times, how would you rather talk about fashion made consciously?
Sustainability is at the heart of what we do but it has not really been something we’ve heavily promoted. It’s very important to us as a brand and we do want our customers to understand the integrity behind the label but ultimately we hope they will fall in love with the product first; be impressed by how robust our Body Wear is and how luxurious our Aprés Sport is, and for that to be supported by the conscious effort that we have made to create a clean, traceable supply chain. I think often the sustainability element is a tag on for the industry, particularly the bigger high street brands. We didn’t want to offer a separate line of sustainable clothing as a novelty, it’s bigger than that and underpins everything that we do.
Designed for Movement. Clever, compact spun yarns & seamless technology make our criss cross body the Resort essential. Wear for ballet Barre & yoga or layer under a simple sheer top for show stopping effect. #resortwear #wintersun #activewear #layering #essentials #designerfashion #yogi #fitfam #dancerslife #exerciseinelegance #perfectgift #treatyourself #instagood
– How and why is making in Britain important to you?
We only make a very small amount of clothing in the UK but from 2017, due to Brexit, that looks set to change. We foresee this growing to around 20% of our production by 2018, mainly within our Aprés Sport category. The UK manufacturing industry took a big hit with the move to Far East sourcing in the 90’s and is yet to fully recover. Slowly we are seeing the skills and investment return to this area but it has a long way to go until we can be a fully British made label. I would love to think we can achieve this over time but for now we are relying on the skills of our manufacturers in Europe to produce the high level of performance clothing that we have become known for. The UK has a great heritage in producing great woollen garments which is great for outdoor clothing. As we grow to incorporate this type of product there is nowhere else we would look to produce than on home soil.
– What does quality mean to the Pepper & Mayne brand?
Quality for us has 3 underpinnings. Firstly, fabrics – baby soft fabrics that are kind to the skin and the environment. Also, performance – elegant product that is designed for movement and finally people, namely relationships with people we trust to deliver beautiful clothing with a conscience.
– How would you describe your brand in five words?
Beautiful Clothing Designed for Movement.
Find out more about Pepper & Mayne here.