Nancy Zeffman: Defining Creativity with Innovative Fabric Solutions

Nancy Zeffman | Co- Founder | Cucumber Clothing

Necessity is what brings update to old technologies and systems. Whenever a certain system, method or product no longer serves its purpose; changes are required. These changes are often recognized by business minds who understand the requirement of change, seek for it and transform it into an opportunity. One such business mind is Nancy Zeffman, Co- Founder at Cucumber Clothing. Nancy understood the problems with women’s nightwear and clothing and took a step forward to modify it.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a leader.

It has been both crazy and amazing – an incredibly up lifting and challenging journey. The idea for Cucumber Clothing was born on a hot holiday. We (my co-founder Eileen Willett and myself) were with a group of female friends and there was a lot of talk around sleeplessness, heat and hormones. When we returned, we did some research and were astonished to find that the only garments on offer either looked ‘medical’ or were deemed seriously dowdy. We decided there and then to create a brand that took the latest cutting edge fabric tech and married it to gorgeous design that helped solve a problem.

It took about two years from having the idea to reaching market. The two years were spent researching the market, materials, making up samples (and testing them), fine tuning our designs, photography and setting up our website, plus so much more, in time for our first capsule collection that launched in September 2017.

How is your company impacting your customers?

In so many ways! We have a very high repeat customer rate, so we know that our products work and we love the fact that we get so much positive feedback. Some women are telling us that they just can’t go to bed in anything other than our nightwear if they want to get any sleep. It travels the world with them.

When we first launched, we were just about sleep for the 40+ market. It is from customer feed back and requests, that we then widened our range to include breast feeding friendly tops and dresses (new and breast feeding mums suffer from raging hormones, just like the menopause) and multifunctional holiday wear and leisurewear. Every woman will get uncomfortably hot at some point in her life for a multitude of reasons.

What are the anchors of your management philosophy?

Be kind! One of the best things about starting a business has been all the amazing people we have met along the way. We’ve found from day one of our Cucumber journey that almost everyone, male or female, have been encouraging and full of ideas to help us. We’ve tried to do the same for others. Kindess is the best.

How do you cultivate a diverse workplace at your company?

There are only two of us in this business – the two founding members. We do everything ourselves, save for some freelance work around design and obviously we employ outside manufacturers, pattern cutters and so on. We are both women. I am London born and Eileen is a Japanese Canadian who moved to London over 30 years ago. That’s a pretty high diverse percentage, but who knows how expansion will change this…

What do you feel the role of leadership is in developing careers? 

I think it’s important for people to have role models, which is why diversity in all its forms is so important. Leaders should be both inspirational and offer guidance and mentoring.

How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market

We are a fabric led, solutions based brand. Our customers find and buy us for a reason. Our clothes look and feel great and they perform. Although our brand was first inspired by the menopause, these are not menopausal clothes. They are stylish clothes for any woman, no matter her age, because it isn’t only menopause that causes women to have temperature problems: pregnancy and breast feeding, medications, being curvier, travel – they can all turn the thermostat up, as can cancer treatments or thyroid issues for example.

We see part of our job as educating consumers about the benefits of technical fabrics. So many women, particularly older women, have been brought up to believe that natural fibres are the best for everything.

We are heavily focused on sustainability. We know that creating anything has an environmental cost and we want ours to be as light as possible, and we can do this because of the flexibility a small company gives us. We source everything bar our fabric from inside the UK, meaning we know all our suppliers.

We have just launched a new range using an even more revolutionary fabric that incorporates an innovative material made from naturally derived volcanic mineral called 37.5 technology. We are always researching new fabrics and looking at interesting ways of using them. We want to be at the forefront of fashion fabric technology.

We are trying to do so much more than just sell clothes. We are trying to build a Cucumber community through our blogs and vlogs where we interact with (mainly) women of all different ages and backgrounds that we feel have something interesting to say to our newsletter subscribers. As part of this community, it is also very important to us to support causes we believe in. We have donated 50p off every purchase of our cashmere mix range to The Eve Appeal and donated all our samples to an event held by Prevent Breast Cancer and have more collaborations planned with them in the near future.

We want to be the go-to brand for ‘hot’ women – key wardrobe pieces that are worn and loved for many years.

What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?

We’ve been expanding into luxury spas and you can find us at the Four Seasons in Hamsphire and Park Lane and at Beaverbrook Hotel and Spa. There are other possible venues coming soon too.

We hope that the near future will bring Cucumber more brand awareness. Although we have made sales all round the world, the majority of our sales have been in the UK. The US in particular is proving a strong second market for us and we would like to grow our market here.

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