WoW Women in Fashion Tech and Smart Textiles | Eileen Willett and Nancy Zeffman, co-founders of Cucumber Clothing

Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic

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Eileen Willett (ex-Nicole Farhi) and Nancy Zeffman (ex-Saatchi and Saatchi), co-founders of Cucumber Clothing,  met at the school gates when their children were small. They both are married, with a dog and three (grown up) children and live in London.

How did you get into fashion tech?

We fell into it! Once we had the idea for Cucumber Clothing we realised we needed to use the latest cutting edge fabric tech for it to work.

What is the idea behind Cucumber Clothing and how did you come up with it?

Cucumber Clothing was born on holiday with a group of like-minded forty plus year old women. Our week long chatter ranged from A – Z, with the menopause making a regular appearance. Why, we wondered, were there so few solutions out there? Busy women all, some of us were suffering from the self-same debilitating double whammy of fractured sleep and sweats, which impacted hugely on the jam-packed days. It wasn’t a huge leap to decide to create a beautiful and intelligent range of thermo-regulating nightwear and so we created Cucumber Clothing.

What is so special about your the materials you use?

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. For women who get hot, this means no more damp, clammy clothing or nightwear. The fabric is also impregnated with antimicrobials which keep the wearer smelling fresh however hot they get.

When did you start with that business, how did you start a and do you have other members in your team?

Nancy and I launched Cucumber Clothing in September 2017 with a small capsule collection of six mix and match pieces in two colours - we got off to a terrific start with an article by the wonderful Director of Fashion at The Daily Telegraph, Lisa Armstrong, coming out two days after our launch. Needless to say, our website went wild!

How long did it take you to be where you are now?

We can hardly believe it has only been ten months!

What was the biggest obstacle?

Educating customers around the fact that just because a material is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it is best for anyone feeling hot. New technology means that people who sweat whether they are athletes, pregnant mums or menopausal, reach for tech fabrics which are comfortable to wear and perform.

What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?

We love the fact we are two female entrepreneurs. This has been nothing but a plus for us with people of every gender being generous with their time and expertise. Our niche, which very much started out as clothing and nightwear for the older woman, has expanded and it can be difficult to get our message across that our brand is for any woman who gets hot.

What are your biggest achievements to date?

We’re proud that our repeat customer rate (for a new company where most customers are new) is growing very quickly and our customer feedback has been super positive. We’re also chuffed to have been written about not only in The Telegraph, but also The Times, The Sun, The Daily Mail and many other publications as well as being featured on over 30 social media sites and on Jo Good’s show on BBC Radio London.

What are your projects you are currently working on?

We’re busy working on our Autumn/|Winter 2018 collections which will feature moisture wicking cashmere and wool qualities and also testing some new fabrics for Spring/Summer 2019 including some gorgeous moisture wicking silks.

Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?

Absolutely! We believe the future is tech and that tech will become a part of our lives in ways that we can’t even begin to comprehend now. Women need to be an equal part of this.

What will be the key trends in the fashion tech and smart textiles industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?

Already fashion tech means that some clothing has built in technology charting body statistics from heart rate to blood pressure. Without trying to sound too Orwellian it’s not inconceivable that our future clothing might be a gateway to tracking our movements, health as well as helping with any ailments or disabilities. For instance on hot days fabrics might literally help cool you down and vice versa on cold days. This would also have a knock on effect for the environment where extreme weather is causing overuse of energy for air conditioning or heating. Fash tech could help as this.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?

Go for it! If you have a great idea your passion will be the most important thing in not only getting it going but in making it successful.

Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or smart textiles?

Amy Congdon http://www.amycongdon.com/

Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, Director of Intelligent Materials Applied Research & Innovation (IMARI) lab at the Pratt Institute

Kaisa Molga http://www.keytoalef.com/kasianet/index.php/the-human-sensor-2/

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Website: www.cucumberclothing.com

Instagram: @cucumberclothing

Twitter: @CucumberClothUK

Facebook: Cucumber Clothing

LinkedIn: Eileen Willett  Nancy Zeffman

 

 

This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.