“Not on the silk sheets!” screams one father to another while changing a diaper in the 1987 comedy Three Men and a Baby. That the best pop culture reference for this bedding goes back so far is telling: in the minds of many, silk sheets are a dated, laughable indulgence not fit for real life.
But to hear Toronto entrepreneur Samantha Maker describe Cilque, her new line of silk sheets, is to enter a universe in which the luxury linens are actually practical. “Silk is a really durable fabric. It’s long-lasting. It can be machine washed. It’s drier-friendly,” she says. “It’s hypoallergenic—unlike cotton, which is an absorbing fabric. It’s also room-temperature adjustable: cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
Maker, who imports her silk from southeastern China, launched the company after learning that many celebrities sleep on the fabric because of its “nourishing” properties: silk is “less abrasive on skin and hair” than other materials, says Maker, who points to high-end salons that sell silk pillowcases because they’re a “beauty secret.”
All that practicality and pampering doesn’t come cheap. A set of Cilque bed sheets costs $449. Maker says she wanted to offer a product that wasn’t “overly luxurious” so that it would be accessible to more customers. “In the marketplace you can find silk sheets for $1,000 or for $100. The price can be based on quality.” Maker, who won’t disclose sales figures, emphasizes that silk linens are a smart financial move in the long-run. Rather than stuffing money under the mattress, it goes around the mattress: “You go to sleep every night in a really good investment.”
Still, silk sheets might not be an easy sell. To keep her costs low and prices competitive, Maker decided to retail her product online rather than in a store. “So I needed a good website domain,” she says. That’s how she wound up with the company name. When she realized that www.silk.com was already in use, she and a friend came up with their own take on the spelling: www.cilque.com went live in May.
Given Maker’s refashioning of silk as a practical product, that makes perfect sense.