Meet the woman behind our favourite sustainable skincare brand: MONTAMONTA
With a love for science, plants and a natural inclination towards sustainability, meet Montague Ashley-Craig: the brains behind London’s coolest skincare brand MONTAMONTA. As we prepared to launch a small selection of her innovative range, we caught up with Monty about the beauty industry, the allure of working in London and how her business began.
Can you tell us about your brand and how MONTAMONTA came about?
I originally trained as a chemist and have a masters in cosmetic science from the London College of Fashion – which was a super niche course. From there, I worked for some big names including Aesop for years and Soho House. In 2016 a friend of mine asked me to create a bespoke hand wash for his cocktail bar in East London – White Lyan. This was the first thing I’d ever made myself and it snowballed from there.
How do you decide which beauty products to create and can you talk us through this process?
To be totally honest, I develop products that I’m most interested in and I always enjoy experimenting with something new. A while ago, I wanted to start using beeswax in my products – which is actually hard to come by as it’s really precious. After two months of trying, I managed to source some and created an all-purpose balm. I always wanted to streamline a collection that was multi-purpose, because for years the beauty industry has tried to segment things and it’s mostly unnecessary. Scientifically there’s no reason why you need multiple products for the same purpose – and from a sustainability perspective, this is important.
"I always wanted to streamline a collection that was multi-purpose, because for years the beauty industry has tried to segment things and it’s mostly unnecessary."
How does sustainability influence the way you work and the materials you use?
We all know about single use plastic and how bad it is, but not everybody has the flexibility to do something about it. Nearly all of our product is packaged in glass. I realised if we built our supply chain from the ground up, we could try and make things plastic-free. We now collect empty glass bottles from the people we supply to and bring them back to wash and sterilise, before refilling and sending them back out. A lot of people work with us for this reason and think I’m an eco-warrior but I wouldn’t claim that – to me this is just common sense.
Can you talk us through your favourite products and tell us a bit about how they work?
I really love the sage and coffee body scrub – it’s made from post-consumer waste espresso grounds which we collect and blend back into the product. You’ll only know that once you read all the details on the back. People tend to buy it because they love it and discover that later. It’s an element of surprise.
What are some of your favourite scents and ingredients to use when creating a new product?
All of our products are formulated with essential oils and our fragrances are totally natural. At the heart of our brand is science and plants because although I’m a scientist, I also believe in the power of plants. Our basil, parsley and black pepper hand wash is my favourite – our first product. All of our products have a unisex scent too, which I love.
How do you want people to feel about your products, and when they use them?
I want our products to be accessible. For example, we have quite a limited facial skincare range but it really is a multi-use range meant for all skin types. We don’t want people to feel like they have to do masses of research about which of our products to use – we keep it simple.
You do a variety of collaborations - how do you decide who to work with?
We work with people or brands we see a synergy with. It’s always inspirational to find out how other businesses operate. Cosmetics brands can be quite insular but there’s so many learnings to take away from other industries.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would you have liked to do?
I would still be working in cosmetics somehow. The reason I love it is because it’s the perfect blend of science and practical application – it’s crazy to explain to people how much hard science goes into things like shampoo and conditioner. They just don’t realise.
Your lab is based in East London - what do you like most about working there?
We are based in an old shipping container and there’s all kinds of businesses based around us – from food and drink to hairdressers. There’s always inspiration nearby. London is a sink or swim environment – which I find motivating. You have to work even harder to make things work and if something can work here, it can work anywhere.
Is there anyone else in the beauty industry you find particularly inspiring?
Sharmadean Reid who started WAH Nails has just launched Beautystack, an app designed to assist professionals in marketing their services and to help customers translate their visual inspiration into real life. The interface is similar to Instagram and you can scroll through imagery until you find something you like – for example a manicure – and then book with the exact artist who created it. It’s so cool.
What’s next for MONTAMONTA?
We’re going to start working on a wash spray to minimise how often people wash their clothes and to try and make them last longer. We’re also hoping to start offering refills to all of our consumers, which is exciting.