Workshop Wisdom - Leigh Monty & Co.
How would you describe your work?
My designs and aesthetic really focus on Utility. Enduring pared-back design with function at its core. Timeless style is the starting and finishing point when I’m designing, which is why I’m always drawn to classic casual silhouettes. I always question will this garment be relevant and desirable in 10, 20 or even 30 years. I’d like to think my work has a distinctive British sensibility with a subtle nod to the past.
I’m drawn to structured textiles wovens and knits always working with natural fibres, cotton, wool and linen for their heirloom properties. Quality is always what I’m striving for in my clothing - that’s what I hope my designs are most recognised for.
How would you describe your workshop?
I call our workshop a studio, as it serves such a multitude of tasks and functions. It’s a design/maker/workshop space where my sewing machines and tools are set up for designing and making. It’s also a fulfilment space where all our garments are packed and dispatched.
It’s a new space which my husband Emmerson designed in the garden of our Countryside home when we moved from London two years ago. It’s a truly inspiring setting with far stretching views of a Stroud valley where we live. We clad the outside in locally sustainably sourced larch which is greying off nicely, the outside looks more like a cabin. It has incredible natural light - inside its painted white to be a clean and simple interior, deliberately to avoid distraction. The floor is unpolished concrete and heated which freed up all the wall space so we could use it for storage. The floor is my favourite thing about the studio it is really unrefined and looks like an old factory floor - it offers texture to soften the white box that the studio is.
What is a usual day in the workshop like for you?
The day starts always with fulfilling customer orders, packing, wrapping and listening to podcasts with a hot coffee to hand. I usually take our dog Albert for a walk after we have been to the post office in our local village to send out the orders. Then it’s back to follow up on admin and emails, which takes up most of the morning - some days orders take up most of the day. The afternoon is usually sourcing materials and liaising with suppliers and the British factory on production. Planning content, photoshoots, designing and pattern cutting and sewing when the time allows.
What is your favourite tool to use?
My Pattern Master (a design tool for pattern cutting). I’ve had it since I started my fashion degree and I’ve used it to create every garment I have made over the past 20 years. I can’t design or create garment patterns without it and it’s the one tool I feel, when it’s in my hands - my creativity can begin. It’s totally essential to my work and it’s my favourite thing to use even if it looks like a big kid’s ruler!
Who has been your biggest influence?
My family and childhood for sure, my dad and grandfathers were all in the RAF. My mum was in finance in the 80’s and her style was strong, power suits everyday (padded shoulder pads of course) and ballgowns at weekends for sergeants mess balls. As a child I was surrounded by uniform, fashion and workwear. My dad would pick me up from school in his RAF overalls, my mum in bright structured tailoring - they stood out! This visual culture informed my love of clothing, style and fashion. My mum has always been entrepreneurial having her own businesses and carving her own path and creativity alongside motherhood and this definitely has inspired my own journey to start Monty & Co.
What themes, inspirations or concepts drift into your work?
I think given my families military background; uniform is a theme which definitely manifests in my work. I’m often inspired by old military garments and love researching archives. The Porter Dungarees and Docker Overalls were inspired by images I found of London Deal Porters and Dockers working on the shores of the Docklands at the Rotherhithe picture research Library.
Nature and the changing seasons always inspire me, especially in terms of colour, particularly since moving to the countryside two years age.
Do you have a motto?
I see these both these mottos as values for my life purpose.
‘Quality not Quantity’ is the one I return to when my creativity starts spiralling into lots of ideas and concepts. This applies to everything I buy too – it’s more of a value I think, that seems to deepen and get stronger all the time. This hugely plays into what the brand is about – being timeless and lasting.
‘Time not Money’ is more of a life motto I follow. This is a guiding principle in my journey as a mother and as a creative. My perspective is on time, how I use it, utilise it and work to afford its freedom.
Do you have any rules or rituals when working?
When designing I’m often alone in the studio, unless it’s the weekend and sometimes my son and husband join me. I always have to be listening to something for company or inspiration. When I’m pattern cutting or sewing, its podcasts. When I’m at the computer or sketching its Radio 6 or something on Spotify.
Sometimes I’ll light a candle when I am doing tasks I don’t enjoy or struggle with - like accounting and spreadsheets to encourage me. There is always a tea and biscuit break mid-morning after the post run too. Accompanied by a wining Whippet asking for treats!
How have you styled your Hiuts?
I pretty much live-in workwear jackets – the Monty & Co. Foundry Jacket I’m wearing in the largest kids’ size, it’s quite fitted and cropped to balance the wide leg of the Aurelia Jean. I also love the Tan against the contrast of the indigo selvedge denim. The polka dot neckerchief is a favourite 1970’s vintage deadstock scarf I brought at Chiswick car boot sale when I lived in London. Footwear is my beloved and well-trodden Blundstone leather boots.