Two years ago, at the behest of both her mom and her hairdresser, Jackie De Jesu started shopping around for a showercap. Knowing that many women, like her, don’t wash their hair every time they shower, she assumed there would be at least a few options that were both stylish and quality. But after months of searching, she came up dry.
It wasn’t that they weren’t customized. She found showercaps that were bedazzled, patterned in floral roset and khaki chevron, ones covered in illustrations of high heels–but these were just taking the current design and adding flourish. The noisy, smelly, plastic disposable showercaps that have made appearances in dozens of sitcoms had never really evolved, despite the fact that the women who are using them have.
“The girls who are using shower caps are the girls who care about how they look, who want to keep their hair healthy, who like fashion” says De Jesu. “I saw a huge hole in the market and this tension between what people want and need.”
To meet that need, De Jesu recently launched SHHHOWERCAP, which she calls “complete re-invention of the shower cap that we all know…….and hate.”
Based on suggestions from friends and focus groups, De Jesu’s redesigned showercap is reusable, washable, and uses a high-performance, waterproof material. A revised elastic band and expanded pocket in the back guarantee a more secure fit that doesn’t slide around or create a crease the forehead. And with a turban silhouette that comes in five vibrant, stylish patterns, it’s a major upgrade from the plastic disposable showercaps that still proliferate the market.
An advertising art director, De Jesu knows what to look out for in terms of design. “You look around our house and everything is chosen based on design. When I look for a new product I usually want it to be fashionable and well-designed–well-designed floss, a well-designed lint roller,” De Jesu says with a laugh. “I searched [for a showercap] and those search terms that usually pull up a selection of well-designed products pretty much returned the opposite of that. It was like the dregs of the design world.”
She sees a parallel to Spanx, the spandex undergarment company that made its founder, Sarah Blakely, the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Like Spanx, which essentially reinvented the girdle for today’s women, De Jesu hopes to bring the showercap into the 21st century. “[Blakely] took an existing thing that was uncomfortable and horrible and outdated–she modernized it, built a brand around it and made it social acceptable,” says De Jesu. “I’m trying to do the same thing.”
“It started in the ’80s, grew in the ’90s, and then became huge in the ’00s—there was a push in the hair care industry to not wash your hair as frequently,” Kazu Namise, founder of beauty brand Phylia de M, explained in a recent Refinery29 article. “During that time, when you think about the products in the market, you see a lot of things that were heavily detergent-based. That wreaked major havoc on a lot of people’s hair and scalps.”
De Jesu figured that if finding a fashionable, functional showercap was a problem for her, then it must also be a problem for other women who don’t wash their hair everyday. She started to ask around, first informally with friends, and then by organizing focus groups once she had a product. “Being an advertising creative, I’ve always been super skeptical of focus groups, but in product design it’s extremely valuable,” says De Jesu. “Every conversation that I’ve had for the past year has been about showercaps in some form or another.”
She asked the women she encountered the same basic questions: Do you use a showercap? Do you hate it? How does it make you feel? About half of the women she talked do use showercaps on a regular basis, though many of them were embarrassed about it. (De Jesu says that one woman she talked to hid her showercap from her roommate, even though she used it four times a week. Another almost flipped over in the shower trying to take it off before her boyfriend saw.) Another 10%-20%, she estimates, said they use showercaps sometimes, maybe have one in their bathroom cabinet, but don’t use it regularly.
Then there’s the category that I fall into: the women who have never owned a showercap, but still don’t wash their hair every time they shower. This group employs a considerable amount of effort trying to lather and rinse their bodies without getting their hair wet, resulting in a lot of awkward movement that De Jesu calls “the shower dance.”
“The girl that just wrote shower caps off because they weren’t that great, because nothing spoke to them and they didn’t work well—I’m tapping into that market,” says De Jesu.
“The original brief I gave myself was to make a cute showercap so that girls don’t have to sacrifice style. But when I started to ask women about their experiences, they unloaded a ton of functionality issues,” says De Jesu. So she started to build these issues into the design: “They hate the way that elastic leaves a band on their head? We’ll widen the elastic. It doesn’t even really stay on, so let’s make the back pocket a little bit bigger. The Miss Muffet shape was a big issue.”
De Jesu looked to performance gear for a waterproof fabric that’s machine-washable and breathable in humid (read: very steamy) environments. She took a cue from lingerie design for a seamless construction with no stitch holes. The SHHHOWERCAP also has a rubber grip on the inner band so that it will stay secure in the shower without flattening hair.
Aesthetically, the design is a colorful, youthful departure from the classic showercap. De Jesu knew from the beginning that she wanted to it to look chic and timeless, which she achieved with a turban silhouette. She paired up with textile designer Teva Livne to create five different patterns that range from an abstract black and white pattern (“Goes with everything. Especially nude. Wink,” reads the description) to to a vibrant watercolor print.
“I wanted to make sure that the design I chose had longevity and was something that could be iterated off of and reskinned for years to come,” she says. De Jesu recently launched the line of showercaps on her website, and is focused on marketing her company and potentially finding investors (the company has been completely self-funded so far). In the future, she plans to work with other designers to create other patterns.