Leigh Monterac – NOCO’s 30 Under 30 (2023)

By: Staff



Q: What’s your occupation? Explain your career, your accomplishments and professional highlights.

A: I am the product design and development manager for Gnara (formerly SheFly). Our mission is to get more people outside in healthy, safe and sustainable ways that inspire joy. We create innovative and inclusive apparel that makes everyone feel safe, comfortable and confident to answer nature’s call and explore as they are. Our work has won innovation awards from Outdoor Retailer two years in a row.

Q: Tell us about yourself, your history and how you came to be where you are now.

A: I am a nonbinary designer with a focus on creating gear and apparel that allows all folks to enjoy being outside. I have a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from the top-ranked industrial design program in the country at the University of Cincinnati. I also have a deep love for mentorship, which has led me to volunteer with Partners Mentoring Youth since 2019 and be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) since 2021. Advocating for queer and trans youth has always been important to me, and these programs have been crucial in that journey.


Age: 28

Occupation: Product design and development manager at Gnara


Q: Tell us something unique about you.

A: I have been faced with recurring frostbite and injuries that have threatened my ability to ski, hike and enjoy life outside, so I have been determined to find ways to adapt. Frostbite almost took away the activities I love most, and the idea of two foot surgeries would probably turn most folks away. I didn’t hesitate, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. My determination has always been my most unique and valuable trait.

Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment, either professionally or personally?

A: Receiving an innovation award for my design work with Gnara was amazing, but I think my greatest accomplishment has been building a solid relationship with the kids I mentor and advocate for in court. That first hug my junior partner ever gave me will always be one of my favorite memories; it was one of those moments where I truly felt like I was making a difference in someone’s life.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?

A: I hope to have three to five more CASA relationships in the next five years. My junior partner will be 22, and I can’t wait to see the adult he becomes. I hope my wife and I continue to be the favorite aunts to our 15-plus nieces and nephews. I plan to continue my advocacy for queer youth and take the Gnara product line to new heights by solving problems and getting everyone outside.

Q: What piece(s) of advice would you give to your younger self?

A: There are so many other different communities and cities to experience. There is an entire world outside of your small, suburban area, and when you start to break out of those places, you will find so many folks who accept and love every single thing about you.

Q: How does being nonbinary influence your designs?

A: I feel like I have a unique opportunity (especially on a team of female-identifying folks) to prioritize inclusivity in the products we make. I can’t say that I sit down, put on my “nonbinary” thinking cap, then start sketching. It is simply a piece of my identity that makes me question things. I like to challenge the standard feminine fit (high rise, hip-hugging) in outdoor gear. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how frustrating and useless numeric women’s pant sizing is. I wouldn’t dare make a pocket on any garment that can’t fit a cell phone. I believe that clothing should always be inclusive of all genders and sizes, and I want to make sure everything I put out in the world is purpose-driven.

Q: How do you design clothing that inspires people to get outdoors?

A: For my senior capstone in college, I designed backpacks and jackets specifically geared toward solving issues that heli-skiers and backcountry guides experience. While that may sound like an incredibly niche sport, I believe that no one (especially those participating in an extreme, dangerous sport) should have to compromise safety for subpar gear. I have always been driven by design that solves problems, which is why I was so excited to join the Gnara team. We are challenging the way things have always been designed: We make pants and shorts with a patented zipper design that gives folks the freedom to pee outside without compromising privacy, wasting time removing layers, exposing skin to inclement weather and flora/fauna or risking safety due to removal of critical equipment, dehydration and off-trail mishaps. No one should feel like they can’t enjoy the outdoors simply because their gear fails them.