Grace and I were lucky enough to be contacted a couple of years ago by Eileen Willett and her business partner, Nancy Zeffman, as they thought they might have a product that our readers would love. Eileen and Nancy are the co-founders of Cucumber Clothing – a brand of revolutionary nightwear and now leisurewear that keeps you as cool as a cucumber with its wicking fabric.
Grace and I love that, having brought up their children, Eileen and Nancy have not put their feet up but have started their own business. The Cucumber Clothing fabric has certainly shaken up women’s nightwear and their designs have made sure that each piece is stylish as well as functional.
Tell us about yourself Eileen: I’m a Japanese/Canadian/Londoner, mother of three, wife, Springador owner, and Cucumber Clothing Co-founder.
How have you have changed since you turned 50. What age do you feel right now? I think for years I have felt 37, and that hasn’t changed. The only difference, being on the far side of 50 has made, is the attitude of others towards me when they learn my calendar age.
Where have you lived in your life so far and where would you like to live now? I was born and raised in Vancouver but I lived in the South of France as a child, then Paris, and San Francisco. Then I lived in Tokyo as a student and young working person. I have now lived in London for many years but I would love to live in New York at some point. Africa is also one of my great passions where so far visits have been far too brief but incredibly vivid.
What do you like to do in your free time? I like to make things. Being creative has always been the one thing that I truly love.
I believe you have an unusual pastime? Can you tell us about it? My husband started ‘wild swimming’ with some likeminded friends years ago. After that, it was a case of ‘if you can’t beat them…’. Now we both love the the freedom it gives us to be active wherever we are and whatever the weather. It can be 25℃ in the Med or 3℃ and snowing in the Pacific and we’ll both plunge straight in. The endorphins are amazing and apparently it helps promote ‘good’ brown fat, so it’s win-win! We’ve swum in some of the most gorgeous deserted places; one of my all times favourites has to be the ‘ Dancing Ledge’ in Dorset in warm February sun. Bliss.
What is a key piece in your wardrobe? The favourite piece in my wardrobe is a simple black cashmere sleeveless roll-neck. I have worn it year in, year out either by itself or on top of shirts or dresses. Simple, warm and flattering (at least, I like to think it is!)
Have you embraced technology? I think technology is great, as long as we control it. Waze has revolutionised my life driving around. I am NOT a good map reader. Teamup helps avoid any company diary fails. I do love Instagram, to keep up with friends and trends.
Do you have a favourite beauty product? I’m a bit of a beauty junkie and have a sort of obsessional interest in lipstick, Chantecaille China Rose Lip Chic is my all time favourite together with their glosses. In fact all of their makeup is really lovely to look at and use.
Do you have one beauty tip you could share with us? I’ve always been a stickler for taking care of my skin and I have one of those inexpensive exfoliating mitts that I use to scrub from top to toe everyday – it’s a simple way of keeping my skin feeling really smooth. I then finish with whatever body oil or cream is around. I do like Neutrogena Visibly Renew Body Lotion and, for a luxury top up, Caudalie Huile Divine.
Do you cook? If so what is your signature dish or most often used cookery book? I’ve always loved baking, but with three hungry boys, over the years cooking became more ‘work’ than ‘play’. Now I’m cooking more often than not for just the two of us and love the Hemsley sisters’ cookbooks – simple, healthy and delicious. If I really want a treat, I’ll make a cherry pie. Yum!
What is your favourite food and/or drink? That’s easy – Japanese food, especially rice dishes, followed closely by any type of pasta – so lots of carbs!
Do you have a favourite author or book? Is it my Canadian roots? Perhaps, since I love Margaret Atwood, especially her newer dystopian future ones like the Maddaddam trilogy. Rather more obscurely if you are not Canadian, I’ve always loved the brilliant Robertson Davies too.
What TV do you love to watch? Give me a Scandi thriller any day.
What music do you like to listen to? According to my family I have miserable taste, generic, pop-based etc. I can’t help the fact I like everything from Olivia Newton-John to Ariana Grande and Khalid – I just do!
What can’t you do without? My family and friends. On days when everything seems wrong with the world, a run in the park with a friend, a thoughtful chat with my husband or a jokey whatsapp from one of my children makes things right again.
Who are you most grateful to? My parents – they gave me all the love, support and confidence I needed. They are each outstanding in their own individual ways. I will be happy if I’m half as good and strong as they are.
Here are Eileen’s top 5 tips for #womenover50
- Invest in your friends – my friends laugh and cry with me, hold my hand, make me cups of tea and generally keep me afloat. Without them, I’d be a much diminished individual.
- Stay physically active – I relied purely on youth to keep me fit until my forties and it was only then that I realised that youth wasn’t going to help any longer! Being able to work up a sweat, stretch out, and generally let go physically is such a release. It helps to clear my head and put me in a good mood.
- Stay mentally active – one of the best by products of co-founding Cucumber Clothing with Nancy has been the constant set of new challenges and learning curves. Sometimes we feel like we have to race to get on top of things, but we always feels a sense of achievement when we do, which leads me to:
- Stay interested – I always want to be curious about new things and I always want to be open to trying them. The one thing I have noticed about ‘older’ (I put this inverted commas because it can mean anyone from 45 – 95) people is that sometimes they shut their minds to anything that isn’t familiar and begin to lecture and never listen. I don’t want to be that person.
- 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?