© Gustavo Villar for Lingerie Talk
Fashion Week comes and goes each year, but how often do the glitzy designer shows leave a lasting, meaningful impression? For that matter, how many are forgotten as soon as the lights go up?
That won’t be an issue for last night’s presentation in lower Manhattan by mastectomy lingerie label Ana Ono Intimates, which cast breast cancer survivors to model its new collection. Called ‘Exposed’, it may well have been the boldest, bravest and most utterly unforgettable fashion show ever staged in the city.
A total of 16 non-professional models of diverse ages and body types, and at varying stages in their personal breast cancer journey, strode the catwalk in Ana Ono’s briefs, bras and recovery loungewear pieces.
Models included both survivors and previvors (women with genetic markers for breast cancer), and came from many walks of life — a ballet dancer, a tattoo artist, a musician, an actress and a trans cancer activist. Several of the models appeared either topless or disrobed during their walk, revealing mastectomy scars, surgical reconstruction or decorative tattoos.
It was a far cry from the typical parade of stoic mannequins that are commonly seen on fashion runways and in many ways the event was a rebuke of the giddy superficiality that surrounds fashion week in general.
Not surprisingly, the show was a profoundly cathartic and empowering experience for the models and an emotional one for audience members.
“All [the] women walking the show … bravely expose the reality of breast cancer alongside their own strength and determination in fighting through the battle,” event organizers said in a press release.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to show that these inspiring women walking our runway are no different than any other woman walking New York Fashion Week, or sitting in the audience or even riding the subway or walking into your neighborhood coffee shop,” said Ana Ono founder Dana Donofree, herself a breast cancer survivor at age 28.
“We want to show that whether you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or have a genetic marker, have breasts or have none, have visible scarring or even tattoos in place of nipples, it doesn’t matter. You are still empowered, strong and sexy!”
The show was a collab between Ana Ono and #Cancerland, an advocacy group determined to shed the stereotypes associated with breast cancer survivors by showcasing women who refuse to be hobbled or defined by their illness. Oscar-winning actor and activist Mira Sorvino was on hand to host the show.
“The ladies of #Cancerland are coming out of the closet, blowing their wigs off and fighting not just to live, but to live splendidly and change the face of this illness,” founder and breast cancer advocate Champagne Joy said in a press release.
“To bring together these … women who have been transformed, who are willing to be exposed, on the world’s stage of fashion and beauty is to bring powerful, needed awareness that this disease is affecting all of us.
“This is not a group of brave-faced victims being marched off to their pink ribbon deaths. … Our group of ladies know that the world is clamoring to hear the honest voices of a plight that is pervasive and under-reported, let alone underinsured. … This is where you meet women who know that every moment counts and how to live each day as if it’s their last.”
The Ana Ono show was not part of the ‘official’ New York Fashion Week schedule, but was one of numerous independent events held throughout the city to coincide with the main designer showcase. It was staged by Art Hearts Fashion, a philanthropic collective that raises money and awareness for designers who support important causes. All proceeds from last night’s event go to support the work of #Cancerland.
Lingerie Talk photographer Gustavo Villar attended the event, and his stirring portfolio can be seen below.