How Shhhowercap is shaking up a multi-million dollar haircare industry
“If I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it.” These words nagged at Jacquelyn De Jesu, and ultimately pushed her into New York’s garment district on a determined mission. The former art director needed answers. She had never realized how many women felt like she did — desperate not to wash their hair everyday, but hopelessly trapped within the confines of grandmother-style shower caps. Their failures stem simply from poor design; they’ve been flopping and folding on our heads for decades. From its architecture to its ability to simply keep hair dry, some serious reinvention has long been necessary. So began De Jesu’s hunt for a waterproof fabric capable of meeting her own standards, and that of so many other women.
Luckily enough, De Jesu stepped up to become the hero we didn’t know we needed. She founded Shhhowercap, a luxury fashion line of “waterproof turbans,” and the rest is history. The multi-million dollar business is booming. With its curated yet authentic aesthetic, millennials are going crazy for the caps. Made by her “female focused design and innovation company,” Deejayzoo (the phonetic spelling of her last name), her feminist narrative also speaks to the current generation of norm-destroying women we so love to be. Chic, chill, and unclean, we talked to De Jesu about what it means to take on this hair taboo, and the difficulties of venturing into uncharted waters.
COOLS: Tell us a little bit about your career trajectory, and what inspired you to start the brand:
Jacquelyn De Jesu: I started my career in advertising. I was fortunate to know from the age of fourteen that I wanted to be an art director. I was laser focused through my undergrad program; it’s what I went to college for. But as an art director, everything is about feedback and aesthetics, really learning how to get what you want from a team of people, and communicating your vision. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Facebook ad, or a commercial, or in this case a shower cap. All of those principles are what I felt like I had the skills to apply to this space. If you asked me if I thought I was gonna be selling millions of shower caps when I started on this journey, I don’t know if I would say that that was true. But I’m really excited that it’s blown up the way that it has. I developed the ability to build a brand. And the ability to understand what makes it work, and what makes it not. And then I just had this lightbulb moment of this thing that needed to exist. I was just like, “If I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it.” So I ran as fast as I could to try to get it done. But all of those skills that I had honed for a decade were finally working for me, instead of for other people.
COOLS: Compared to the traditional shower caps we’ve seen, yours are a lot more advanced. What were some of the challenges that came along with product development?
JDJ: Everything! [laughs] The biggest thing initially was that, if you’re launching a t-shirt line, a jean line, or even a swimsuit line, you have a place to start. With designers that have done swim before, or factories that have made t-shirts. This category was so static. Every single touch point, from finding my first tech designer, to figuring out the tapes that we use on the inside grips. It was always breaking the mold, and then re-figuring it out. Starting from square one at every question I had. When we went to go actually make it, there were so many factories that [said], “We don’t do shower caps.” And I [responded], “I don’t do shower caps either. These are waterproof turbans!”
COOLS: So, was [Deejayzoo] more of a chicken before the egg kind of thing? Or did you have that establishment when you decided to start Shhhowercap?
JDJ: It was always the name of my LLC, my url for my portfolio for advertising, and it was always my personal Instagram handle, because no one ever knows how to pronounce my last name. It really started to come to life was when we started getting traction. I was all in these conversations where people were like, “Oh, and then you’re going to do matching robes! And then slippers. Why don’t you reinvent the the loofah?” And I’m not passionate about the bath space. What led me to Shhhowercap, and Shhhowercap to its success, is that we identified a need. And we solved it through design thinking. That’s what I’m good at. That’s when I realized that all of these principles of design as focus? It was branding, holistically. And this innate understanding, and all of these things that we apply to this successful launch. That’s what was gonna translate to our future innovations. The team that I’m building is made up of problem solvers and tinkerers. They get nerdy on new tech, and insights, and figuring out what piece of things annoy people, and what better solutions there are. Everyone thinks that way. My VP of ops, to my interns. That’s what we’re gonna do, because that’s what we’re all good at, you know?
COOLS: That in mind, what kind of community are trying to create around the Shhhowercap brand?
JDJ: It’s definitely one of sexual freedom. Ownership over your own body. Fuck the male gaze, as a general rule. And removing the stigma around not washing your hair everyday. It’s one of those archaic things that’s not even true in practice these days. I mean, I don’t know, do you wash your hair every day? [HL: No.] Exactly. Does anyone actually wash their hair everyday? But there is this weird stigma, and it tends to come from dudes. Because every girl knows that we’re not washing our hair every day. Just focusing on the conversation that this is a solution for that behavior. And unlike Thinx, no shade, they’re doing an amazing job, but strategically, they have to change behavior. We just need to bring the product solution to the people that need it. That’s why it’s been such an organic build. We’re riding the wave of something that’s already happening. We’re not converting anyone, outside of being like, “Now shower caps are cool. You obviously want one, right?”
COOLS: How has social media played a role in your branding?
JDJ: It has been instrumental, because I started the Shhhowercap Instagram before I had a brand. I started the actual feed and storytelling while I was in development. It had a logo, and it had a name, but I was in development for like a year and a half. Just posting behind the scenes stuff. We didn’t have any sort of significant following by the time that we launched. But once we did start gaining some traction, you can scroll back and see our story from start to finish. And my story. Pictures of when I read Girlboss and decided to quit my job. Behind the scenes from our first prints. Stuff like that. A lot of brands right now, they launch with such a curated aesthetic. And because of how we rolled out, intentionally or unintentionally, people do feel a connection to what we’ve done. We are self funded. We are scrappy. This is just happening, because there’s a bunch of people who really believe in what we’re doing. And we get a lot of girls who want to be involved. They want to be a part of it, and not because it’s bright and shiny. But because it feels authentic, and it is. I mean, I credit Instagram to being our second website. We get so much attention, and a lot of girls discover us there. So even if they don’t have a Shhhowercap, they’re like, “Oh, I know that brand.”
COOLS: You own “fuck the male gaze and female empowerment” as some of the pillars of your brand identity, but you also push sustainability. How does that play a part in the product?
JDJ: For us, the biggest tie is water conservation. If you’re not washing your hair everyday, then you’re not shampooing. And if you’re not shampooing, you shave minutes off your shower. And then if you’re shaving minutes off your shower, then you’re saving gallons of water. Which translates to hundreds of gallons of water. And a lot of people don’t recognize that piece. But that’s the most immediate sustainability tie. The other is just investing in luxury goods that last you longer. That’s something that you see in a lot of touch points throughout fashion. But for shower caps, there was never a better option, and never one that you would invest [in] to last longer, because it was such a cheapy cheapy thing. So that’s really where they play. With longevity, and decreased waste, and water preservation as focus. The other one which we talk about on site is electricity conservation. So if you’re washing less, you’re styling less. And if you’re styling less, you’re not using a hair dryer. Which, next to a refrigerator, is one of the most electricity consuming household appliances. There’s just a lot of pieces that float in naturally. We don’t hammer it home. It lives on the product page, because to someone who’s paying attention, we want them to know. But we’re not running with eco-green messaging, aside from Earth Day.
COOLS: Like Reformation, where you click into the product page and see how much you’re saving. Where it’s not an active conservation per se, but it’s still there.
JDJ: I think Reformation does an incredible job of [that]; you don’t sacrifice the product in order to have that message. Their clothes are beautiful. Our shower caps are beautiful. It’s just when you talk about it in a certain way, then the girl that cares is more willing to purchase. More willing to buy from you versus someone else.
COOLS: Is there anything exciting coming up for you guys that you can share with us?
JDJ: Yeah, we’re working on season two. We’ve had this line since launch, and dropped seasonal colorways based on fall, or holiday exclusives. We rolled out “The Noir” as a little capsule that stayed, but this is going to be the first time revealing an entire collection of new prints. It’s really exciting, because we’re just continuing to push this fashion conversation. Although it’s kind of taking off, the biggest piece for me is that I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface. The conversion of a girl that just puts her hair in a topknot? That’s still happening every day. And I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s so relevant. Shower caps suck so bad. But no one was washing their hair. But no one was using shower caps. And because they were so horrible, people would just rather get their hair wet. It’s the same as needing a car, and hating the cars, and then walking. It’s not efficient. Putting your hair in a topknot, and then just the bending over backwards in the shower dance, praying that it doesn’t get wet? It’s such a silly behavior. And honestly, borderline dangerous. We’ve had people tell us that they slipped in the shower. Crazy stories of just trying to rip it off before their husband saw — but again, fuck the male gaze. It doesn’t make sense. And the design was so bad that that option was better. So the fact that we could redesign, rethink, and reposition this as something that women really want to wear, even if they’ve never used one before? That’s it. And it’s not about the size of the shower cap market. It’s about the 9 out of 10 women who are skipping shampoos. The sky’s the limit. And as far as what’s next for DEEJAYZOO, it’s just identifying and solving more problems, thoughtfully through design.For us, this is where we are. This is the team’s current focus, and where the biggest opportunity is. Until I’m Sara Blakely, I’m not sure that I want to stop. Narrow and deep is where it’s at. Having one strong message and building that is what excites me. And the fact that we could just make a shower cap cool is just funny. But it’s awesome.