How a Designer Uses the Runway to Advocate for Metastatic Breast Cancer

Dana Donofree took her cause to New York Fashion Week.

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New York Fashion Week isn’t just about bold fashion and setting new trends. Increasingly, the event is being used to showcase not just clothes, but ideas and movements.

For Dana Donofree, a fashion designer and breast cancer survivor, New York Fashion Week (NYFW) was a chance to both show off her designs and bring attention to a cause. “One out of three women that are diagnosed with breast cancer will turn metastatic at some point in their lifetime,” says Donofree. Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.

Donofree’s show at NYFW didn’t just honor women with metastatic breast cancer—it featured them. While partnering with Project #Cancerland, she brought in 24 women with metastatic breast cancer to display her designs on this massive stage, located inside the gorgeous Angel Orensanz Center.

The models wore designs from the AnaOno line, which is Donofree’s lingerie company that creates designs specifically for women who have had breast reconstruction, surgery, or mastectomies due to breast cancer. She created the line after shopping for a bra after breast cancer surgery herself and struggling to find options that made her feel beautiful.

“Every year we try to evolve the conversation [and] open up the door to speak about our disease in a different way,” Donofree says. “Some [of the models] have metastasized in the last year; some just received new [diagnoses] of progression in the last week. I mean, these are real lives, these are real stories, these are real people.”

This was AnaOno’s third annual trip to NYFW, and this year’s theme was #NotJustOne. “It’s not just one person on the runway,” explains Donofree. “It’s not just one dollar raised. It’s not just one more male or female that’s getting diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s not just one more male or female that’s dying of breast cancer. We need to do this for each other. We are raising money to save lives.”

“As a fashion designer, to showcase what it is that I love on the runway at New York Fashion Week, for a cause that I’m passionate about, was really a dream come true,” says Donofree.

All of the proceeds from the show went to METAvivor, a non-profit organization that helps raise awareness for metastatic breast cancer and fund research for treatment, according to Donofree.