Behind the Brand with Pepper & Mayne’s Founder Leigh May Evans

By Jayne Robinson

Lest you think we’d have a quiet summer here at Frame while all of you are away on holiday (not jealous at all…), we thought we’d hit you with a new name in the Frame Shop we’re, literally, bending over backwards for: Pepper & Mayne.

Lest you think we’d have a quiet summer here at Frame while all of you are away on holiday (not jealous at all…), we thought we’d hit you with a new name in the Frame Shop we’re, literally, bending over backwards for: Pepper & Mayne. It’s a brand built on learnings from professional ballet dancers, so, as you might expect, is firmly focused on creating athleisure clothing with strength and elegance in mind.

As Leigh May Evans, the founder and a trained dancer herself, “exercise is elegance”. And in this collection, it’s true. “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,” says Leigh. “The pieces are aesthetically flattering but work hard in the background so that you can look effortless whilst you work out.”

Read on for more on Pepper & Mayne’s pro-fesh foundations, what goes into the fabric decisions (pop into the shop to have a feel – it’s magic) and how Leigh sticks to her morning routine despite being a busy entrepreneur… Pro tip: live near your office. Take it away Leigh!

“The Pepper & Mayne label was inspired by my training as a dancer, combined with my lifelong love of fashion. Initially the idea was to create a high-functioning product that could answer the needs of hardy ballerinas who spend all day sweating and training in hot ballet studios. We wanted to create something that did not interfere with the elegant lines and form of ballet, that encouraged good posture (in ballet we call it ‘pulling up’), was aesthetically beautiful, yet gentle on the skin.

“It is hard to remember now, but only five years ago the gym was somewhere you’d go and hide out in your oldest baggy T-shirt or Nike running shorts, and the huge transformation in active fashion really captured people’s imaginations. It wasn’t long before we were having conversations with luxury retailers, who were the first to really understand the brand message and the hunger for this kind of product.

“We also collaborated very early on with the Royal Ballet and spent time with their dancers to really understand how we could create something that worked for them. It was incredibly insightful and exciting and it was at this time that the ‘athleisure’ movement really started to take off. We inevitably became part of that when customers outside of the dance community started seeking out something more unique and fashionable for their yoga and gym classes, and we saw the opportunity to extend our range into studios offering those types of classes.

“It was essential that our product performed in the highest intensity training, as the rigours of the rehearsal studio are incredibly unforgiving but we also knew that many dancers are on a budget so are very considered in their purchasing as they need multitasking clothing that they can train in but that does not look out of place when they pop out for lunch, give interviews, jet off on long haul lights to perform etc – that’s where the ‘Exercise in Elegance’ ethos was born.

“All of our body wear is created using seamless technology to create a compression fit. The beauty of creating garments this way is that you can use virtually any combination of yarns, blended so they are bespoke to that garment.

“We use polyamide / elastane mixes for the high performance pieces as it is the most versatile mix ie. has great stretch, is naturally moisture wicking, and is colourfast so it mitigates fading and retains shape better. More recently we have also developed a more luxurious Cupro blend, and we also introduced cotton and bamboo a few seasons ago which is super soft on the body and, of course, natural.

“All of our body wear has an antibacterial treatment which eliminates odour, and this is where the lifestyle element comes in as you can go for brunch after class without worrying about having to change immediately. It’s all about delivering a super comfortable product that is as versatile as possible and slots into the lives of the busy women that wear the Pepper & Mayne label.”


When does your working day start? I wake up at 7am and am in the office by 8am every day. In an ideal world I’d start the day with yoga on the beach and a morning surf!

Breakfast or no breakfast? I am lucky in that I live a 15 minute walk from the office so can grab a coffee or juice en route.

What’s first on the to do list? 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.

Favourite workout? 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 doing something high intensity can really get the adrenaline pumping and the endorphins flowing!

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