Happy 2nd Birthday Cucumber Clothing!
At Clarity, we have enjoyed getting to know the lovely founders of Cucumber Clothing. Our founder, Becks, met the co-founders Eileen and Nancy over a coffee in North London over a year ago. We have been big supporters of what they do and how they have been growing and evolving ever since! For their 2nd anniversary, we thought it would be great to find out a little about the clothing, the founders and what the next year holds for them.
When did you two meet?
It was at the school gate almost twenty years ago. Since then, our friendship as grown and flourished alongside the advent of multiple children, dogs, and with the chaos of life in general intervening.
Why did you decide to create Cucumber Clothing and where did the idea come from to design these intelligent garments?
The idea for Cucumber Clothing was born on a hot holiday. We were 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 then and there to create a sustainable brand that took the latest cutting edge fabric tech and married it to gorgeous design while helping solve a problem. Two days after our launch Lisa Armstrong, the Fashion Director at the Daily Telegraph, wrote a big piece on us. That placed us on a fantastic trajectory and it hasn’t slowed down since then!
What’s 37.5®? and why is it important?
We are really excited about 37.5 technology, used in the newest of the fabrics in our range. This technology is a byproduct of volcanic activity and requires no water or man-made energy for synthesis. It is combined with 50% modal which is certified to be 100% compostable and biodegradable. Most importantly, 37.5 technology is engineered to help maintain the optimal core body temperature of 37.5C by moving moisture out of clothing at the vapour stage, before liquid sweat begins to form. What’s more, 37.5 technology is permanently embedded in the yarn so it will never wash out, making these garments timeless pieces to keep for a lifetime. We have incorporated this technology into a super-soft, silky jersey that looks and feels absolutely amazing on.
How often do you change your styles?
We are not a traditional fashion brand, and refuse to conform to the ‘four collections a year or bust’ model. We produce collections as and when we think they are needed, for example a whole sleepwear collection, or just a few key pieces in fun colours nearer to Christmas. We pride ourselves on producing small runs, with a view to limiting fabric waste and avoiding ending up with dead stock fabric.
How do you decide what will be in your next collection?
We think long and hard about our customer and what she both needs and wants in her life. We like to think our pieces are ‘keepers’, long lasting, multifunctional quality garments that you reach for again and again. We are also seasonless. The thermoregulating qualities of our cutting edge fabrics mean that the strappy top you wear on a sunny day is just as perfect as your base layer when a winter wind is blowing. So one of our mantras is ‘less clothes, more usage’.
As a result we design each of our collections to fill a gap. We started with sleepwear, then built multifunctionality into each subsequent collection based on the practical feedback we received from our customers. Our brilliant customers were belting our night dresses and wearing them out with boots, tucking Cucumber sleep t shirts into their smart trousers and wearing them into the office, slipping their ruffle night dresses over their bikinis (all the better to wick away moisture after a swim) and looking glam on the beach. Talk about inspiration – our customers have led the way for us.
What are your personal favourite garments from the current collection?
(Eileen) I adore my moss coloured ballet top. It’s my go-to piece for just about everything I do. I shrug it over my sweaty workout clothes on the way home from Bikram yoga, mix it up with the moss trackies or leggings for long haul flights, go matchy matchy with my olive straight leg jeans, heels and hoop earrings for a night out or simply curl up on the sofa in it with big socks a blanket and Stranger Things!
(Nancy) For me it has to be the navy jumpsuit. (I have it in red too, for days when I’m feeling like standing out more). I have worn this piece again and again. I’ve worn it on many a flight – it is so comfortable and just refuses to crumple and crease so I arrive looking as good as the way I left. Cabin temperatures fluctuate so much that wearing Cucumber helps keep me cool (or warm) depending on what the air conditioning is doing on the flight.
If my flight arrives in the daytime, I’m ready to dump my bags and start my holiday straight away..! I also just love jumpsuits for everyday life – I usually wear mine with Veja trainers for pounding London’s streets and then some heels if I’m off out in the evening. Like Eileen, I’m a box set girl, so cosying up on the sofa with a glass of wine in my jumpsuit and some thick bed socks is bliss.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
So many! Running a start-up is one endless challenge and it’s certainly keeping our brains on point. Probably the biggest and possibly most obvious lesson we have learned is that kindness is a super power. Over and over again we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of other women and men who have been eager to give us a hand up for no other reason than being kind. We like to pass it on as much as possible and we hope that string of kindnesses keeps carrying on.
What are you going to do for your second birthday?
We’ll be going mad on social media with loads of throwback pics, fun competitions and a peek into the future of what Cucumber will be doing over the upcoming year. Look out for #cucumberclothing and #coolasacucumber – it should be brilliant and a bit bonkers!
What about Cucumber and sustainability?
Sustainability and corporate responsibility have been part of Cucumber’s DNA from the very beginning. We were determined to create a company that we could be proud of, and as a small start-up we have the flexibility and agility to make changes when we think something is right (or wrong.)
Our products are manufactured 100% in England which is important to us. We ask our suppliers to sign a fair work statement and know most of them intimately. Our factory is fifteen minutes away, we visit regularly and know the owner, the employees and the company dog. We recently removed the only piece of plastic from our chain. Our protective covering for garments being taken from our factory to warehouse and keeping them clean are now made from 100% potato starch bags and are reused until ultimately, we compost them.
We like to think of our collections as ‘slow fashion’. The minimal care means less energy used in the lifetime of the garment. The ‘hang dry’ aspect means that the worry of millions of plastic particles entering the environment during tumble dry sessions is eradicated. Our newest fabric is made from 50% volcanic ash, a natural by product requiring no energy or water in its creation and the other 50% from sustainably sourced beechwood forests. We know we are not perfect, but we’re not going to stop trying!
What are your signature style pieces?
What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Just do it. Hmm, is that an advertising slogan too? It may be, but it was a great piece of advice since we come to realize that overthinking really is a thing and is capable of paralyzing a business. Sometimes it’s best to just go for it and see what happens next.
Any new designs you can tell us about?
All hush hush for the moment, but we promise it will be very beautiful and wearable.
Where next for Cucumber Clothing?
We have so many plans, too many to list here without it becoming a full length novel, but one of our key aims is to expand our luxury travel wear business. Since last year we have been selling in the Four Seasons Hampshire and Beaverbrook, we will be in the Four Seasons Park Lane next month and had a fantastic pop-up at The Grove. Our collections work perfectly with travellers who want stylish, multifunctional clothing that requires almost no care and is anti-crease. We’ve also started being asked to do a lot more talks, podcasts and guest blogs as mid-life female entrepreneurs. This is a brand new space and people are interested to hear about our journey. We love being able to meet and hopefully provide inspiration for other women out there to get out there themselves with their own start-ups.
The ladies at Cucumber Clothing have created a special 15% off discount code so that you can try some of their beautiful pieces, just use CLARITY15 at the checkout. It’s valid until the 7th Oct 19.