I’m Wendy Michell, 65 from South Australia, and founder of this charity shopping company.
I heard about the devastating complications a woman suffers from obstetric fistula and the resulting bodily trauma from birthing a baby, and how their communities shun the hundreds of thousands of afflicted. The visions of the very appalling way to exist that it must be for these beautiful women haunted me and I was drawn to contemplate how I could help more.
It is estimated that one million women worldwide live with untreated fistula, a devastating injury primarily caused by prolonged obstructed labor when women do not have access to timely emergency obstetric care. Obstetric fistula mostly affects economically vulnerable women and garners little attention on the global health stage. Exact figures on fistula incidence and prevalence are not known.
I was inspired by people like Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin who was dedicated to healing with their fine technical work in the field, surgically curing with huge success, allowing the women to reclaim their lives.
I researched about the good work of the Fistula Foundation in USA, a four star charity organisation (https://www.charitynavigator.org). The Fistula Foundation builds and supports hospitals, trains doctors and their staff, and educates women in over 30 countries.
Bali Team, making a dream come true
I have been most fortunate to have travelled to Bali many times, making a connection almost 40 years ago with a wonderful boy who is now a family man. I talked with him about my silk pillowcase vision eleven years ago and he introduced me to his Aunt Desak and her friend Komang, who are a highly skilled tailors. This led me to wonder how amazing it would be to engage the services of a small family workshop to create the silk pillowcases for Silky Kisses, and in turn provide work and an opportunity for them.
We talked about the charity mission of this company, and we eventually had conversations about how they would like to give back to the less fortunate in their own communities by making something very culturally unique for their communities.
When I first met these beautiful people who would become the team who enabled my vision to be a reality they were making their dainty kebayas, a lace blouse worn traditionally by the Agama Hindu Dharma Balinese women of the island, for themselves and those in their family. Their National Dress regulations requires all to observe their cultural nationalism. Not unlike the women suffering fistula they are not able to attend to their customs and be part of their cultural ceremonies without a kebaya, therefore this garment seemed a perfect way to enable the Bali team to have stable work and to enable the giving back to the beautiful women in the outer communities who do not benefit from tourism but do uphold and continue the island traditions.
The idea of making a kebaya for those on their island who were unable to afford these lovely pieces inspired us to begin the project when they are between silk work. They are very keen to deliver these lacy parcels to the women in remote villages who rarely receive anything new. To date the small Team in Bali have made and given away 1,810 Silky Kisses kebaya.
Happy woman healed
I felt that if I'm lying on silk I could give a bit of my own good fortune to those who have less and contributing to making a difference.
I became a donor to this cause myself but wondered what else could I do? How could I make a real difference to these thousands of suffering women? How could I inspire others to make it a bigger gift of life?
Could an online shop create a movement towards positive giving - a win/win approach?
My concern for the suffering of other women is in direct contrast to wanting to feel silk under my head. The hypocrisy here is evident and intended.
How can this hypocrisy become a conversation about a subject that is
largely taboo, but which could create a positive movement towards
compassion, and a contribution toward this good cause which actually does
make a difference? A pillowcase is a simple product - often it is the simple things in life that can make the most impact.
I felt I had found the dream mission for inspiring others with this company. Not only because of the many enticing health benefits of sleeping on silk, but because we can more easily sleep at night knowing we are helping to support a woman in need to be cured of her affliction.
The challenges the business/market is facing
A silk pillowcase is not new, women have been sleeping on silk for hundreds of years, but it was traditionally a very expensive luxury product in a fragile fabric. Satin, silk’s plastic cousin, was the inexpensive and hard wearing alternative... but this fabric does nothing for the skin and actually creates static, no one likes that. Most of us love the shiny slinkiness, and charmeuse silk has all that.
After eleven years experience in this business there are now many opportunities to purchase a silk pillowcase online. We have explored eye masks and hair scrunchies but after much research I decided to be excellent at one product, one which can be repeated and one which allows the business to stay true to helping the Fistula Foundation with every single sale.
Silky Kisses silk pillowcases’ point of difference is that we are not just an online shop selling beautiful pillowcases. It is a shop selling a specific item that attempts to improve the wellbeing of individuals.
Our customers choose from the rainbow of colours of our exquisite silk pillowcases, assisted by the colour therapy suggestions that our website provides which helps to make these choices easier.
SK Rainbow of choices
Silky Kisses point of difference
Silky Kisses pillowcases are made with double sided 22 momme, that’s the measurement of the weight and density of silk fabric. It is the ideal weight for a pillowcase because any less and the material will wear faster, and any heavier it will be stiff and uncomfortable to sleep on.
There are many benefits sleeping on silk. Being a natural breathable fabric which is hypo- allergenic it is suitable for all age groups, all skin types, and all hair types, including bald men. The fabric can endure the punishment of heavy breathing and being washed many times.
I still sleep on some of the original prototypes and like me they get better with age.
The challenge for our product is that our pillowcases are made so well that they do not wear out. Thankfully our loyal customers come back to buy for family and friends as well as a change of decor colours for their bedrooms.
A silk pillowcase is gender neutral. One of my earliest customers was a 80 year old gentleman who loved the coral colour of SK’s Summer Sorbet the best, it brought him joy and I believe it lasted the remainder of his very long life.
The power of colour is the essence of life
What does your colour choice say about you?
Combining the understanding of what colour can do for you with the glorious silk that enhances your skin and hair beauty every night, and the good feeling that giving gives to the giver, a Silky Kisses silk pillowcase is a product that’s a total happiness maker XX
Not everyone loves colour like me - it enhances my decor and improves my energy.
White is the most purchased choice of bedding colour, and although I think it’s not my first choice I do understand why most feel like a stunningly crisp and serene white bed to rest their weariness.
Colour choices are so personal that those customers looking to find a SK gift discover it can be difficult to make that choice for others. Silky Kisses website provides a voucher for their recipients to make their own decisions.
Silk is soft and sleeping on it restores our souls. Colour is a resonance and restores us also, or invigorates, or calms depending on the colour.
The study of colour for beneficial medicinal healing for us all has been in existence as a science since ancient times. The power of colour is the essence of life. Colour is refracted light, it’s all around us and influences our lives all the time. Chromotherapy is the study of the effects of colour to more easily understand the legitimate benefits of colour for ourselves and others, and with the addition of this science on the Silky Kisses website we have created another level of consideration to help our customers make more informed colour choices.
The benefits of silk
The truth is that once you’ve slept on a charmeuse silk pillowcase it is impossible to go back to sleeping on anything else. That’s because it’s great for our skin; miraculous for managing hair; those who are sensitive and allergic are relieved; and everyone loves them. I discovered these aspects, and a whole lot more, when creating Silky Kisses eleven years ago this month. I had bad hair mornings, and my old cotton pillowcases dried out my ageing skin. What we choose to snuggle into for a good rest and happy dreams is an essential consideration as we lay our heads and faces into our pillows for many hours every night.
Sleeping on silk
We know that sleeping on a silk pillowcase would be seen as an indulgence, particularly when there are millions of people struggling to just survive. The incongruous nature of the difference between the materially orientated and the desperately poor is at odds. If we really open our hearts we are appalled by what we hear and see in the visuals on media photographs, but we try to forget so we can live in our daily reality without the guilt. This is true for most of us who are reading this magazine.
Knowing that there are Angels in the field really doing fine dedicated work to change lives helps us sleep at night.
My hope is to inspire others
I made a pledge to try to help women who may never have slept on a pillow by ironically offering a silk pillowcase experience to those who do.
I wanted to inspire others to enjoy their sleeping time more with this beautiful but straightforward idea to solve their own personal issues, whilst at the same time increase awareness of the plight of those women who are only just surviving, with a view to making a difference to their suffering collectively.
This company is my investment into this Mission. My pledge was to start a difficult conversation about the women who endure a ‘fistula’, and it’s not only a third world country occurrence. It’s a hidden problem of the World bringing misery and isolation and it’s now curable in the 30 countries where the Fistula Foundation does their good work.
Since the beginning of this company all the profits from the sales of SK’s silk pillowcases have been given to the Fistula Foundation, 4/4 Star charity, to support their healing work. It is really the main purpose of the existence of the Silky Kisses silk pillowcase company.
Together we really can all take small steps for big change
SK is a charity ‘giving’ platform, the giving of pleasure to our customers, for the giving to heal the suffering of women with fistula, and the company also responds to the local making and giving of the kebaya to women of the country where the pillowcases are made, making a difference for thousands of women. Silky Kisses are slowly and steadily making that difference - ‘one silk pillowcase at a time, one woman at a time’.
Wendy Michell XX