“A good night’s sleep is so important. I always suffer in mood and productivity if I go to bed too late.” Leigh Montague – fashion designer, mum-of-one and founder of Monty & Co. childrenswear – on mornings…
Leigh Montague, 34, Lives in Ealing, west London, with her husband Emmerson and their three-year-old son Grayson. She’s a fashion designer and the founder of Monty & Co – a new timeless, British-made, unisex childrenswear brand.
What time are you up in the morning?
Weekdays I usually wake between 6:30am and 7am, which is a new thing – as my son only recently dropped his afternoon nap. Before that, it was 5:30/6:00 am. It’s similar at the weekends unless Grayson comes into our bed and sleeps a little longer or we parent tag-team and I get to go back for a few more Zzzs!
And what time have you usually gone to bed?
If I’m working in the evenings, I try to stop around 10:30pm so I can have an hour’s screen-free downtime with my husband. Some evenings if I’m researching or in design mode, it can be past midnight. I try to be in bed by 11:30pm most evenings otherwise my husband starts moaning at me to go to bed.
What’s the minimum amount of sleep you need each night?
A good night’s sleep is so important. I always suffer in mood and productivity if I go to bed too late. I think seven hours is the minimum I need but eight is the goal. Every hour I now treasure, after the early years when four or five would be gold.
What wakes you up in the morning?
Either a “Mummy” call from my son’s bedroom or the daily 6am alarm call from my husband’s phone.
How do you feel?
I find it takes me around 10 minutes to get going, the eyes to be wide, to feel fully functioning and ‘awake’. If my son wakes up grumpy, it often takes me longer!
Would you describe yourself as a ‘morning person’?
I wouldn’t say I am a natural morning person but I love mornings – especially slow weekend mornings. My husband and son are definitely the ‘morning’ people and have always been early risers. I find it takes me till late morning to hit my stride.
What do you first do upon waking?
The first thing I do is to open the shutters, let in the light, (I hate darkness in the morning), check the weather and open the windows. Then we head downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. It begins with the essentials: turning on the radio and making the first coffee for me and a cup of Milk for Grayson, whilst emptying the dishwasher and setting the table.
Do you incorporate exercise into your morning routine?
I would love to say I did yoga every morning, as that would be the perfect way start to the day. We used to go to a toddler yoga session once a week but Grayson recently started preschool so now mornings are focused on getting him prepared for an 8:40am start and getting back to the studio as quickly as possible so I can make the most of the limited work time. So only a 10-min walk/scooter dash to preschool, followed by a trip to the post office, which doesn’t amount to much. We make up for it in the afternoons with long walks in the park and the occasional evening run when my mum is putting Grayson to bed.
Tea, coffee, juice, other…?
Coffee in my favourite stoneware glazed mug, treasured from my first trip to India seven years ago, (never underestimate the happiness a pretty mug can bring) with hot milk – no sugar. My Nespresso machine is my best friend, working from home means access to good coffee -quickly – is essential.
Do you eat breakfast, and if yes – what do you eat?
I have breakfast with Grayson every morning. Sometimes my husband or mum will join us, always at the kitchen table. Most days, breakfast consists of porridge made with oats and topped with lots of fruit banana, raspberries, blueberries, nuts and seeds. Or banana and honey on toast, occasionally. Maybe a couple of times a week I may have a cheeky fresh croissant with the second coffee of the day.
How long do you spend getting ready?
I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to getting ready, I’m a bit of a tomboy. I wash my hair every other day so I can be ready in 10/15 minutes after a shower. I always cleanse, tone and moisturise (my mum’s a beautician and alternative therapist so it’s been a religion since I was a teenager) with natural, British-based beauty brands such as Liz Earl and Neal’s Yard. Then it’s just quick five-min makeup if I am home working – so a touch of foundation, mascara. I have hardly any makeup, just the basics, about six products – predominately Benefit cosmetics. I discovered the Erase paste concealer during my maternity leave and it’s a saint on dark circles in the morning. Chanel Gabrielle is the classic red lipstick I return to to lift my mood or my outfit, if it’s a bit masculine.
How do you choose what to wear each day?
I have a very concise wardrobe of classic timeless styles – either vintage or from independent brands. Many pieces I’ve had for years because I only choose natural fabrics that last and wash and wear well. I also wear a limited colour palette – 80% of my wardrobe is navy, and simple patterns feature heavily: stripes, gingham checks, polka dots, so everything mixes and matches without much thought or consideration. I just put something together after a shower.
If I’m working in the studio or with Grayson I will often wear cotton dungarees with a simple jersey or dark denim jeans/chino trousers with a shirt and vintage workwear jacket or a smock. I’m also a fan of a chunky handknit cardigan and a simple men’s cashmere crewneck. I never wear heels I didn’t own a pair until I got married earlier this year, so footwear is always flat shoes – either simple canvas pumps or tan leather shoes or boots.
Do you work at home, or outside of the home?
I’m lucky to have space for a home studio, which works really well and allows me to maximise working time vs parenting time. If I find myself getting cabin fever I often work in some of the local cafes near where I live in Ealing, which have good Wifi – or at our local National Trust, so I get a nature fix. If I’m feeling a need for inspiration, I take myself to work at the Tate in the member’s rooms or the Barbican or Design Museum. Gallery spaces seem to make me more motivated to attack the inbox. If I can avoid the distraction of the museum bookshops, that is!
If you work elsewhere, what time do you leave and how do you get to work? How might the rest of your morning pan out?
My mum comes up from Wiltshire to stay with us on Monday and Tuesday, and be with Grayson after preschool so I can work full-time for two days a week on Monty & Co. It’s amazing. So those mornings are my most productive. I schedule meetings, calls or a factory visit, as my mum can help do the postal run to send out orders whilst Grayson is at preschool. The rest of the week I am usually packing orders and getting back to urgent emails in the few hours I have whilst trying to get a wash on the line.
What do your weekend mornings look like?
Weekend mornings are my favourite part of the week. When I was in my 20s, I lived for Friday and Saturday nights. Now in my 30s, I live for slow, calm family weekend mornings. Saturdays -if we are in London with no plans – usually start with playing in pyjamas then changing the beds and cleaning the house, followed by brunch that always centres round eggs. My husband makes the perfect soft-boiled eggs and sometimes I’ll have a go at a new recipe from Lunch Lady magazine.
For a treat we head to a local haunt or into town for a neighborhood stroll and brunch at a favourite spot like Caravan, Canteen, High Road House or Goldbourne deli. If we stay local, we head off to the farmers’ market, which is only two roads away, to pick seasonal produce for our weekly shop and Sunday roast.
Then it’s onto one of the great local parks in west London like Osterley Park, Richmond, Chiswick, Kew gardens… which are on our doorstep. This allows us to get a nature fix and pretend we live in the country for a few hours. Then I might get back to a few hours work in the afternoon.
Sundays are for family days out, so a morning drive into the city for free parking and access to the museums before the crowds arrive and a stroll along the Thames.
If you could design your dream morning routine, what would it be/include?
It would start with my son waking in a good mood, followed by coffee. There would be time for a long bath with essential oils followed by a gentle yoga session, then breakfast with the newspapers (being able to read a whole newspaper from front to back is the dream… it never happens!).
I would walk Grayson to Preschool with the dog that I have always wanted to own, take the dog for a walk along the Grand Union canal and then head back to the studio to work on Monty & Co – pattern cutting and sewing all morning, with the dog under my workbench at my feet, listening to my favourite music and podcasts.
Any other thoughts on mornings/your morning routine?
I believe the first few hours of the day form and affect the rest of the day. When mornings go smoothly, I’m organised and happy – and the rest of the day seems to follow the same pattern. Alternatively, if I wake tired and we run late – the the day takes the same attitude. I think mornings with babies and children amplify this even more, as they take on your vibe, so good mornings are amazing and bad mornings are a disaster!
It took me a long time, when I first became a mother, to not feel resentful for the disaster mornings. The ones where the naps didn’t happen, the laundry didn’t get done and you didn’t have chance shower till midday. I’m now cherishing the mornings with my son: having breakfast together and chatting about our hopes and plans for the day, and trying not to have too many expectations. Also, allowing enough time for a three-year-old to get dressed!
If you’d like to share your morning routine with us, get in touch: email@example.com.
Main image by Bec O’Connor