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Fashion executive and breast cancer survivor uses her NYFW show to raise awareness

One brand creator used her runway to raise awareness for breast cancer and encourage women to support their bodies during this year’s New York Fashion Week.

As a breast cancer survivor herself, Dana Donofree, who was diagnosed at 27, previously struggled to find the perfect fit when it came to intimates after her mastectomy. The mold and structure of “regular” bras were not only incompetent but seemingly “awful” and “ugly,” according to the designer. That was until she developed the perfect configuration for her own brand, AnaOno.

Speaking to Elle, Donofree recounts how her former frustration with limited lingerie options led to the launch of her company. “After removing both my breasts to treat my disease and reconstructing them, I found that ‘regular’ intimates no longer fit. What was available to me instead were these awful, ugly, matronly bras,” she explained. “I knew that we could do better! Women undergoing cancer treatment are already dealing with so much. They don’t also need to deal with hating their clothes. So I started figuring out a solution.”

A designer and innovative problem solver, Donofree examined the necessary fit for the recovery stages associated with breast cancer survivors who’ve endured implants, mastectomies, and unilateral removals. No matter how far along a woman is in their individual journey post-diagnosis, AnaOno offers a range of picks from nighties to breathable leisurewear.

“Something I’ll never compromise on is absolute inclusion,” the creator continued. “Whether you have two breasts, one breast, no breasts, or new breasts…we’ll make it work for all of it.” With that being said, Donofree ensured her size range varied, with the largest available option being a 3X.

Donofree’s desire to design her brand supporting breast cancer survivors was also about inspiring other women, through a fuse of agency, style, ease, and motivation in keeping a healthy body and mind. This also meant straying from the “pink-washing” that is often associated with the disease.

The fashion executive noted: “As a survivor myself for 13 years, I can say that there have been times when I’ve been really mad at the ‘pink-washing’ of breast cancer awareness. It felt very exploitive to me, you know, to have your pain and ‘resilience’ put in a marketing campaign!”

And that’s exactly what she avoided in this year’s runway display during fashion week in the Big Apple. Inside a Lower East Side church, Donofree’s show titled “(R)Evolution” unfolded negligee versatility to promote properly fitting garments and breast cancer awareness.

“I didn’t want to abandon the use of pink altogether, because breast cancer research and awareness saves lives. If we can impact research and find more ways to treat this disease, we can get more time with the ones we love,” the fashion mogul remarked. “And if we can impact awareness, we can ensure people get diagnosed as fast as possible, which leads to many more treatment options.”

“We’re finally awakening to the fact that cancer and disease is an issue that’s linked to pollution and environmental damage,” she continued. “Fashion as a whole needs to accept responsibility to create a better earth and healthier humans, because what touches your skin gets absorbed by your skin. Using quality fabric matters a lot to me, and to other fashion designers. And it also matters greatly to cancer patients.”

Donofree enlisted the help of #CancerCulture, a patient-led nonprofit organisation dedicated to spreading awareness in creative avenues, to co-produce the show. The brand’s display will also lead to a donation of $25,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Center, with hopes to reach a larger sum of $50,000.

In Donofree’s experience, she’s concluded that the right bra will lead to “a better life”.

“It’s not just about your body – it’s about your story,” AnaOno’s website reads. “No matter who you are, no matter your story, we believe you should have a bra that fits your unique shape.”