You might wear your heart on your sleeve – but how about wearing your favourite fruit or vegetable on your chest? Robert Heaton and David Van Reyk are the co-founders of QCumber, a vivid range of jumpers that has made brightly-coloured fruit-and-veg print patterns wearable (though sadly not edible).
QCumber was inspired by a food fight with Rob’s hat-wearing business partner, wherein a strawberry thrown in the crossfire made a perfect print on a white t-shirt – and with that, the design concept for QCumber was borne. Currently, Rob’s jumper collection spans 15 different fruit-and-veg print pattern and colour combinations, from ‘Bananas on Purple’ and ‘Broccoli on Paprika Red’, to the original ‘Strawberries on White’ and best-seller, ‘Pineapples on Royal Blue’. To date, QCumber has caught the eye of more than 2,000 QCumber enthusiasts, as well as the glossy style weekly, Grazia.
But having got to this point with his delectable clothing range, Rob wants to take things further. We featured Rob and QCumber in our EnterpriseLab to help him find out what his potential client-base had to say about his particular line in fruit and vegetables. What did people think about the QCumber brand, and the designs themselves?
How well does Rob’s website capture the spirit of QCumber? And which fruit or vegetable should he next turn into a print pattern?
Let’s see what labs participants had to say about this young start-up…
Brand name: What do you think of the brand name QCumber?
In QCumber, Rob has a memorable brand name that manages to capture the ‘feel’ of his products – their youthfulness, their boldness, and their modern edge – while at the same time amusing his clientele, as our participants’ answers indicate:
Target audience: Who might QCumber be for?
Our respondents overwhelmingly saw QCumber as a brand aimed at young people, from those in their mid-teens to young adults in their early thirties, male and female, with scope for becoming the staple of college and university students.
Some in the sample felt however that the suitability of QCumber products was more to do with the personality and approach to fashion of the wearer.
Several participants felt Rob’s design range targeted those with an ‘alternative’ or niche style, irrespective of age; dynamic and proactive young people; and cosmopolitan ‘hipsters’.
Conversely, some people we spoke to even managed to tie-in a political dimension, seeing QCumber’s fruit-and-veg-tastic designs as perfect for those who care about ‘green issues’. And one participant saw a completely different function for the fruit-and-vegetable promoting QCumber, for Rob to consider: “The brand, I think, targets the promotion of fruits consumption for healthy living as well as being a gainful venture”, they said.
Look and feel: To what extent do you like the QCumber jumper range?
Notably more women than men said they liked the QCumber collection (47% and 36% respectively), but its biggest enthusiasts were 18-24 year olds (58% said they liked the look of QCumber), followed by the 48-59 year olds we surveyed (the brand appealed to 48% of them).
Having got our crowd to flick through Rob’s current catalogue of jumper combinations, we found that:
- Their favourite was the ‘Pineapples on Maroon’, with 17% of the vote
- The QCumber original, ‘Strawberries on white’, was almost as popular at 16% of the vote
- ‘Strawberries on Yellow’ and ‘Bananas on Purple’ were each picked by 9% of those surveyed
- ‘Cucumbers on Light Pink’ and ‘Cucumbers on Navy’ received 8% of the vote apiece
The 18-24 year-olds surveyed in EnterpriseLab equally favoured the ‘Cucumbers on Light Pink’ jumper print, and ‘Strawberries on White’, which just under a quarter (24%) chose as their favourites. 23% of those surveyed in the 60 years+ age bracket liked the look of ‘Pineapples on Maroon’ best.
Rob can feel confident about aiming his range at young people and students – the 18-24 year olds we spoke to gave QCumber its highest ‘like’ ratings – a 7.8/10 for design appeal, and 8.2/10 for originality – ,which from the age group with arguably the biggest scope for exploring quirky contemporary fashion, is quite the compliment.
When and where would you wear your QCumber?
Many participants said they would wear a QCumber for many different occasions, whether for lounging around the house, shopping in town, socialising with friends, going for a casual drink in the pub, wearing to a lecture, or studying in the library. One participant, a photographer, said they “would definitely wear it on a day-to-day basis: it’s quite a cool, funky, laid-back look”.
To be accompanied with: jeans mainly, or (being a flexible product) – leggings, trousers, tights, jogging bottoms, skirts… whatever your heart desires, argued the participants. “They look so cosy, I’d want something comfy with them so I can relax and enjoy myself” one person remarked, while another said that whatever they wore with it, they wouldn't want "to cover the fruit design”.
Other suggestions for featured fruit and vegetable prints…
Apples, tomatoes, oranges, carrots, cherries, grapes, kiwis, lemons, pears and aubergines, were participants' most frequent suggestions for converting into a QCumber pattern. Onions (“a sliced red onion, then having a pattern of contrasting concentric rings” for example), artichokes, pomegranates and plums, all had 6 or 7 votes each.
Less common pattern ideas, however, were olives, kumquats, dragon fruit, sprouts (for a QCumber Christmas special), paprika, edamame beans, and watercress.
Crucially, we asked participants to tell us the maximum amount they’d expect a QCumber jumper to retail at. Curiously, their answers averaged out at £25 – the exact amount they already sell for.
A large chunk of the people we spoke to who would give a QCumber as a gift said they would give it to the young people and quirky individuals in their lives.
One participant was enthusiastic, saying: “I’d probably give one to my niece (28) as she likes wearing "art on a shirt" and she is an illustrator; my friend Liam (26) who rides very fast to work in The City on a bike; my colleague Graham (60) cos he wears things like this to football matches and when out walking dogs; my ex-colleague Oliver (27) as he has just become a dad, and I think he would want to wear this to interact with his new daughter”
What do you make of the QCumber website?
As a primarily internet-based business, Rob feels that a fully-operational, vibrant website is integral to whether QCumber remains a success. Rob wanted to hear what our participants had to say as to what he could do to improve Qcumber.co.uk, or incorporate in it:
“I would suggest he talk about his inspiration for his style of clothing on the site. I really want to know how he came up with the idea for this style”
“More info on the about page – before I enter my debit card details I want to know a bit more about a company, to be sure it is legit”
“Standardise the photos on the website – they look like family snapshots where some of the heads are chopped off but others are in shot. Try to vary the poses rather than them all looking straight on. Have shots with 2/3 modelled same pattern different colours and sizes. Most of female models look the same size, likewise the men. Have shots featuring different social occasions – walking dog, with children in park, in pub, out shopping, etc.”
“More slick photos. Pictures of manufacturing, and lots of photos of the designs”
“Give a lot more prominence to HOME/ STORE/ SNAPS tabs (and the Facebook and Twitter logos) in the top banner, and the same approach (with ABOUT which is part of the social identity) for the bottom panel. Work, Contact and Terms are not what the website is trying to sell, so should be moved somewhere out of the main scanning areas"
“Adding a facility to track your order would be good. It’s agony not being able to see when your next QCumber fix will arrive”
“I would add a magnifying glass to the pictures of the jumpers, for a closer look”
“Make people smile by using a cartoon cucumber take you round the site. It could also be a model for the tops”
“Right now it’s good because it’s uncomplicated. But as the brand takes off it could feature more on the buyers getting the T-shirts photographed in unusual and unexpected places, perhaps by way of a competition for the best one”
What direction should QCumber go in next?
“The wellington boot would get you into the whole festival fashion market”
“You could do a seasonal range showing what’s available certain times of the year”
“Jackets – but keep the design on the pocket, lapel or possibly on the sleeves. Could have a trailing pattern rather than regimented lines”
“Have a quality range ... make limited editions people want to collect”
"Jeans with a banana on the crotch for boys, and peaches on the bum for girls”
“Car parts – i.e. dipstick, battery, steering wheel…”
“Shopping bags – good ones that are re-useable. Even better if they can be folded into a small pouch to fit a pocket or handbag. I have some that are cotton based, but plain, and I use them regularly”
“I think leggings and jeggings QCumber style would be really popular! It’s an exciting print, and I haven't seen any leggings or jeggings with prints like QCumber’s”
Lastly, we wanted to know what the EnterpriseLab crowd would do in Rob’s position, to promote QCumber from here (perhaps as some useful pointers for QCumber’s slowly growing grassroots marketing team). They suggested:
‘Going viral’/ “a culture, not just a jumper”
- “Get more photos of people wearing them in different places, and post those on web”
- “I would get stylists to dress their musicians in them. I would make sure the gigs are well publicised and utilise blogs and social media to get this up and running"
- "I’d hit the London free papers for fashion shots and approach concessions in Top Shop to work on a collaboration”
Being canny with marketing:
- “Get into association with Innocent Smoothies. Get a link to the NHS ‘5 a day’ campaign”
- “Approach companies with fruit or veg in their names, such as 'Orange', as they may like to use them in a promotion perhaps with their web address or telephone number in one of the pieces of fruit. Approach Banana Republic, or do some jumpers with potatoes, and approach McCain. Do something with pears and (say) put them in pairs. Make some of the images a bit funny so they are a talking point. They could become quite a 'cult' brand”
- “I'd send freebies to loads of celebrities. If TV presenters wore them at work then they'd get free telly exposure, even if it wasn't actual advertising, and with luck people would notice the jumpers and look into them”
- “Create an iPod app, with the tagline, ‘Get your five-a-day in another way’, and when you download it, it's the jumper”
Pulling a stunt!
- “Organise a flashmob in a city with all people wearing the jumpers”
- “Hold a charity fashion show – give some of the profits of the fashion show to a charity. Get hold of a high profile celebrity and see if they would wear one (make sure they buy it!)”
Maximising on the benefits of the internet and social media:
- “Tweet tweet tweet!”
- “Concentrate on selling via the web, and get as many mentions on Facebook and Twitter as possible. Design your web site so that it gets picked up by Google – I have just done a search on "jumpers" and "vegetables" and it did not get a mention on the first page”
Going to the masses:
- “Pop-up shops on campus, at festivals, everywhere. Places where people need warm comfy clothes!”
- “Send flyers to student unions at every university across the country, offering a percentage discount on first orders, and directing them to the website”