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The CIO Today
Trusted By
Eileen Willett

 Eileen Willett

  • Brief us about your outset story of your career.

Born in Vancouver to Japanese parents, I trained in fashion in Paris and San Francisco, graduating with a BFA in Illustration.  I moved to Tokyo working at Billboard Magazine. On moving to London, I joined Nicole Farhi’s head office and was promoted to be part of the team launching the then fledgling Nicole Farhi Menswear brand, which became one of the UK’s premier menswear brands. After a career break to have three children, I launched my own successful women’s luxury accessories brand, Wada Bags. 

In 2017, together with my friend and Co-founder Nancy Zeffman, launched Cucumber Clothing making ‘luxurious clothing for everyday’, using ultra-soft technical fabrics. Barely two years later, our brand has been featured in every major UK newspaper, as well as in Style, You, Woman and Home, on television, radio and in numerous blogs, podcasts and online publications and has won numerous awards. 

Shortlisted for the 2020 Asian Woman of Achievement Awards, I am a regular speaker on female entrepreneurship and sustainable fashion. I co-host i: Entrepreneur’s weekly Wednesday Live series of interviews with entrepreneurs from a diverse backgrounds which I enjoy on both a professional and personal level, since it chimes deeply with my own experiences in having a Japanese/Canadian/British background.

  • What are the aims and ideals that guide you as an individual and a professional?

Stay kind – that means both to yourself and others.  Simple acts of kindness are underrated, and they make both you and the recipient feel good. What could be better? 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. Kindness always finds it way back to you in some way shape or form, and it’s something we all need more of

 

  • Enlighten us about your greatest strength. How are you different from others in your field?

Maintaining a good work-life balance has been a huge for me.  Creating space in my life and in my head has been an essential in running a startup.  Startups are insatiable omnivores that devour any and every bit of time in your life – not an entirely healthy way to live your life. I’m quite a social person, so make sure I see friends and family as often as possible. Whether that’s getting together for an early morning swim, sweating through a yoga class together or sharing wine and food, these connections keep me grounded. Exercise has also been a necessity for me to keep a calm mind and have a good night’s sleep. 

  • Please tell us about your organisation. What are your primary roles and responsibilities? Can you please walk us through the major accomplishments throughout your journey?

Nancy Zeffman is my Co-founder and friend – the company would not be here without our dual and differing strengths that help make our brand so strong.  With her background in marketing, she has been instrumental in garnering an enormous amount of fabulous press from the outset, and her organisational skills have been essential.  My own background in fashion and the creative arts has been put to work in creating our overall brand look, from the collections to our website as well as blogs and feature pieces we are often asked to write. We have appeared in almost every UK newspaper and many glossy magazines from The Times and The Daily Mail, to Style magazine, Vogue and Stella. We have been featured on the radio, television and in numerous vlogs, podcasts and blogs both in the UK and internationally. As well as selling through our own website, we appear on numerous global platforms as well as in bricks and mortar retail.

  • How did you respond to the challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic? What measures did you incorporate to surpass the challenges?

Which company can say honestly that they were prepared for a global pandemic?  I would venture, absolutely none.  The past two years have brought us more intense, demanding, and tough hurdles than we could have imagined. The flip side is that we have been stretched, stimulated and forced to be both exacting and flexible all at the same time. As a small company we have been able to pivot quickly, implementing and ensuring health and safety protocols, instigate mask-making using off-cuts, creatively using downtime to do a thoroughly investigate our brand and rework our website as well as do a deep dive into sustainability and circularity for Cucumber. 

  • Who in your life inspires you the most?

My parents taught me so much simply in the way they lived their lives.  My dad taught me diligence, hard work, passion and ambition are all key; my mother taught that honesty, love and kindness conquer all. My children have also taught me so much about love, laughter and hope -together they will always be my best role models.

  • What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring and budding Business people?

Just do it.  If you think you have a great idea, if you have done your research and really looked at the numbers, go for it!