Photo: Arun Nevader/Getty Images for Art Hearts Fashion
Forget Angels. During New York Fashion Week, in what was a truly empowering event, 30 fearless women with varying stages of breast cancer, from previvor to stage I to stage IV metastic, walked the runway in AnaOno lingerie. Founded by Dana Donofree, who was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma at the age of 27, the collection of bras, underwear, and loungewear was designed specifically for women who have had breast reconstruction, breast surgery, mastectomy, or are living with other conditions that cause pain or discomfort yet still want to feel beautiful.
“After my own bout with breast cancer, I knew my body would change, but I didn’t expect some of the easiest tasks of my day to be affected—like getting dressed in the morning and that starts with the underwear drawer. I took my decade of fashion design and industry experience and applied it to finding not only a comfortable solution for those undergoing breast surgery, but one that would also be beautiful and encourage body positivity,” says Donofree. “I had beautiful lingerie before breast cancer, so why shouldn’t I afterwards? Why have post-mastectomy intimates been so poorly designed for decades? Why should breast cancer make you any less of a woman? Our breasts don’t make us women. How we feel and express ourselves does. That is why at AnaOno, we are inclusive to all body types—one breast, two breasts or none at all. If you want something beautiful to touch your body, you are entitled to it.”
In partnership with New York-based non-profit #Cancerland, a platform created to address breast cancer’s often ignored realities such as intimacy, the philanthropic-minded runway was presented by the Art Hearts Foundation at the Angel Orensanz Center in New York City.
“The goal of #Cancerland is to provoke thought and encourage change in the world of breast cancer awareness. By sharing cold hard facts, we discuss the 30 percent risk rate of a metastatic recurrence and we talk about the 41,000 people in the US who will die this year from metastatic breast cancer. Our secondary mission is to then fund research with the potential of actually saving lives.” says Beth Fairchild, Board Co-Chair of #Cancerland. (All proceeds from the show's ticket sales will directly benefit breast cancer patients through #Cancerland.)
She continues, “Those of us living with MBC find it hard to fit in with early stage patients, because let’s face it, we are their worst nightmare. And then there are women like Dana. Our fearless friends. Never alone. Our partnership with AnaOno allows women with all stages of breast cancer to stand and advocate together, in solidarity. Our voices are greater together. Together we will make change. And I think those who have experienced an early stage diagnosis are realizing a win for the metastatic community is a win for everyone who has or will be diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.”
An army of 30 women—from athletes to musicians, educators to activists—took the stage to “boldly redefine what it means to be a breast cancer patient.” Encompassing the different stages of the disease, some models confidently displayed their surgical scars and tattoos replacing nipples while others wore enhancement lingerie or bras designed for women who choose to stay flat post-mastectomy.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, we don’t have to look far for our models for AnaOno or for the runway. We believe in showing our intimates on those who are affected by the disease on some level, so we do our best to make sure everyone has someone to relate to,” Donofree says. “I know what it feels like to shop for a mastectomy bra on a model with beautiful cleavage, when I no longer have that myself. I don’t want another person diagnosed with cancer to have to feel that pain.”
“I was proud to participate because I felt like I was walking for 1000s of other women. It was very empowering for me and it represented all I’ve been through and what others have been through, put on global stage,” says Anna Crollman, an AnaOno x #Cancerland model who was diagnosed at age 27 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. “This showcase shows you that you can be beautiful after cancer, and your body is strong and inspiring to others.”
“It’s such an amazing thing to have these individuals walking the runway at NYFW, and not in just any lingerie, but made specifically for their unique bodies. What an empowering thing to walk that runway and own what you have! Cancer takes and takes from us, but the important thing is that we’re all here and we’re all alive and we own our new normal,” adds Fairchild.
Breast cancer and the resulting treatment is brutal on the body. This show serves as a powerful reminder of the strength of those fighting the battle. “This affects young women, mothers, sisters, and friends,” says Donofree. “The side effects and aftermath of cancer need to be discussed and addressed for those of us who have been there and done that. We will not hide in the shadows that breast cancer casts, we will be seen.”
The second annual show was particularly significant as #Cancerland’s founder Champagne Joy lost to her own battle against metastatic breast cancer in the spring of last year. “She led the charge for our movement to remove the pink shroud obscuring the realities of living with and dying from breast cancer,” says Fairchild. “This is the year of the woman. We are stronger together. WE are the dangerous ones and we will no longer die silently.”
Check out some inspiring images from the show below.
Photos: Arun Nevader/Getty Images for Art Hearts Fashion