Breast cancer survivors and lingerie designers break taboos – Delco Times

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By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO

NEW YORK (AP) — When Dana Donofree underwent a bilateral mastectomy and implant reconstruction following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2010, the 27-year-old fashion designer found only medical, uncomfortable bras that catered to women with the disease.

This frustration led Donofree to launch an underwear company called AnaOno in 2014, which is aimed primarily at women who have had breast cancer and have undergone several types of surgery. The Philadelphia company now offers a variety of wireless bras for women undergoing breast reconstruction, mastectomy or lumpectomy because Donofree says each operation produces different results. The collection also includes postoperative casual wear.

While the design was initially sold on its website and medical supply store, the AnaOno was found in major online stores including Soma, Third Love, and more recently Nordstrom and soon Target.com. His designs are also sold overseas in countries such as Spain, Israel and Canada. The product combines four-way stretch, hidden stitching, and a soft fabric like imported modal, which doesn’t rub against the scar. Other brands like Athleta are now offering mastectomy bras, but Donofree says overall the options are still limited.

Donofree, who has sat on various breast cancer nonprofit boards, has also broken taboos about women and breast cancer. She has helped galvanize the breast cancer community, using breast cancer survivors of all shapes and ethnicities in her campaigns. Her runway show, which was stalled during the pandemic, has raised more than $500,000 for metastatic breast cancer research.

Donofree is one of a number of breast cancer survivors who are creating their own products from beauty items to trendy headwear to help others, says Melissa Berry, founder of Cancer Fashionista, an online resource that offers beauty, fashion and lifestyle tips for women who are struggling. treated for breast cancer. etc. AnaOno expects to have 30,000 subscribers and nearly $3 million in revenue this year, almost double last year. Donofree says his goal is to reach 100,000 women and plans to expand to swimwear next season.

The AP recently interviewed Donofree about how he fills the gap in underwear for breast cancer survivors and how he advocates for the breast cancer community. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q. What types of bras were offered to breast cancer survivors before you started AnaOno?

A. Matronly, utilitarian … classic granny bra. So when there’s a potty and a wheelchair, there’s also your mastectomy bra and being a young woman who has just completely removed all of her breast tissue, including my nipples, it’s such a jarring experience that it feels like the world is telling me I’m no longer allowed to. to act or look like a woman, that something inside of me is now broken. But this is not normal.

Q. What is the design process like?

A. AnaOno includes breasts. So if it’s two boobs, one boobs, no boobs or new boobs, we have you covered. And the way we can do it is by modifying the design and practicality of what is meant by a bra. So I removed the underwire. I removed some sort of traditional cup design to the bra. So all we have is lots of stretches, lots of different directions. We use extraordinary and beautiful modal material, which is not typical for a bra design.

Q. What was the initial reaction from the shop?

A. Whenever I’m out and about, I’ll look up all the specialty lingerie stores in the city, and I’ll look up all the plastic surgeons who specialize in breast cancer reconstruction. And the reason is because I have to put my feet on the ground. I had to go to the ground, knock on doors, give my sales pitch. And in doing so, not only getting to know specialty shops and boutiques and plastic surgeons and medical practices, I realized how disconnected the conversation is about the types of surgeries we do and what they do to our bodies and then what the solutions are on the other side.

Q. What was your breakthrough moment?

A. We had the opportunity to appear on the global stage at New York Fashion Week (in 2017). You can see what a body without breasts looks like, or you can see what a body without nipples looks like, because this is a harsh reality that people don’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. And using art and fashion and conversation and advocacy together really helps encourage a different kind of conversation. We can show the world what cancer really looks like. And that was the pivotal moment where we started to change the conversation.

Q. What progress has the underwear industry made in serving breast cancer survivors?

A. I think there has been a big change in our movement, especially in the last decade. We stepped out as one of the first lingerie brands to use real people and bras and underwear. This is perhaps the most difficult thing to display in the model. I think what we’re still missing is absolute inclusion now. The reality is… 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This is a large number of people who have no breasts or may have only one breast or have rebuilt their breasts.

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