NANCY ZEFFMAN & EILEEN WILLET – FOUNDERS OF CUCUMBER CLOTHING
Tell us about yourselves and your individual backgrounds?
Nancy: I am a born and bred Londoner, mother-of-three and the owner of Jarvis, a crazy five-year-old cockapoo. I started my working life in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi. I then took a career break to bring up my children, working in the charitable sector for a while. Cucumber is my first business venture.
Eileen: I am a Japanese Canadian. After finishing my BFA in San Francisco, I worked at Billboard in Tokyo. I then moved to London where I helped start Nicole Fahri menswear. I took a career break to have three children and then started my own bespoke accessory business and am now full time immersed in Cucumber Clothing.
We met at the school gates when our children were small. Two of our sons, having become firm friends at school, went off to different universities and now have returned to London and share a flat together.
What was the inspiration behind your brand?
Cucumber Clothing was born on holiday with a group of women. During our week long chatter, we wondered why were there so few fashion brands out there for busy women who want to look and feel great 24/7 without having to worry about complicated care instructions or uncomfortable materials and styles.
On top of being busy women, many women also suffer from overheating, for so many different reasons from hormonal fluctuations to simply living or holidaying in a hot country (remember last summer?). It wasn’t a huge leap to decide to create a beautiful and intelligent range of thermo-regulating nightwear, loungewear and clothing, and so we created Cucumber Clothing.
What sets the brand apart?
We see ourselves as a fabric-led brand. Our beautifully soft and luxurious cutting edge fabric tech materials are created in such a way to maximise moving moisture away from the skin as rapidly as possible leaving the wearer cool and dry. We wanted to create multifunctional, beautiful clothing which married the best of the cutting edge technical fabrics with gorgeous design.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting up on your own?
Lack of time! There are just the two of us and we wear every hat from fulfilment, design, PR, etc, etc. When someone calls and is surprised to speak with one of the founders of Cucumber, that’s because we are the receptionists as well!
And the biggest ‘pinch me’ moments so far?
Two days after our launch, the Fashion Director at the Daily Telegraph, Lisa Armstrong wrote a big piece about us. It firmly put us on the map, worldwide! More recently we’ve been recommended by Claudia Winkleman in the Sunday Times Style magazine as the best yoga clothes.
Throughout, fantastic positive feedback from customers who truly love our products makes it all feel real. And most importantly, seeing different women wearing our clothes!
How do your individual work styles differ?
For Nancy, if it hasn’t been done yesterday, it’s too late. For Eileen, well, don’t ask, she’s daydreaming in a corner quietly. We’re a good fit simply because our styles complement each other. If we were both too similar nothing would get done, or it would get done acrimoniously. We live in harmony.
What are your top three tips for getting a foot in the door of the fashion industry?
1. Just ask.
2. Work every contact.
3. Believe in yourself and your product.
If you could go back and give your younger selves some advice, what would it be?
Exactly the above. I think as younger people we probably both lacked the self confidence that we have now. It’s important to think that there’s nothing to lose when asking for help, connections etc, at worst, someone can say no. At best, it’s a new friendship.