Skin cancer nurse creates stylish sun safety brand
In 2011, Perth-based Registered Nurse Jillian Intini was part of a medical team caring for a female patient who was in hospital for multiple skin cancer surgeries to the top of her head.
While chatting in the postoperative recovery room, the patient divulged that she had spent her entire life outdoors, but despised wearing hats because they gave her hat hair. She revealed that, to avoid squashing her hair, she would only wear a visor.
“Skin graft, upon skin graft, the medical staff were working to rid her of the disease,” Jillian said.
“I’m an active lady and love our outdoor lifestyle but, up until this point, sun protection was always an afterthought in my daily routine. If I wore sunscreen under my makeup, I couldn’t reapply it like I should. If I wore a hat, it was a small visor that wouldn’t give me hat hair. If I was out fishing I would wear my long sleeve fishing shirt, but if I was going out for coffee with friends I had nothing appropriate to cover my arms.
“All existing sun protection options were hot, uncomfortable, impractical or unattractive. I needed an elegant, effective and easy option. Inspired by my patient’s words, and keen to avoid the harrowing results that I was treating, I decided to purchase a sun umbrella and use it whenever possible.”
Online, Jillian could only find lace parasols — ineffective against harmful UV rays — or ostentatious umbrellas that were far more ‘out there’ than her own style.
“I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t something out there that I would use, so I decided to make myself one!
“I bought a couple of old rain umbrellas from the local swap-meet and dismantled and reassembled them, hand-sewed a canopy using curtain blockout fabric from Spotlight and had a handle turned from wood by a lovely gentleman at the Mens’ Shed.
“I straightened the spokes so it looked more elegant and added a frilly wind-vent to help it cope in the summer sea breeze. The result was an elegant and effective sun parasol.”
Jillian received positive feedback and, from her 35 years’ experience in skin cancer, realised that many women would love fashionable sun protection options. Jillian’s daughter was on board with the idea and agreed to take on the marketing aspects of the project.
Sunbella was launched in 2012 based on a philosophy that women should be able to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle safely and with style. Sunbella has made its way into the hands of royalty and celebrities to ensure that they are protecting their skin in the most stylish and safe way possible. The UV umbrellas are lightweight, wind-resistant and rated UPF50+ to protect skin from up to 98% of UV rays. Sunbella won the 2020 Fashion Ausmumpreneur Award and was runner up in the 2020 Product Innovation category.
“Our motivation hasn’t changed but our business has certainly evolved,” Jillian said.
“We’ve created new ranges of sun parasols in response to customer feedback and broadened our stylish sun protection offerings to include Sun Gloves and SunStyle Wraps (versatile summer scarves that can be worn 10 different ways to protect your upper body).”
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