I saw something in the news this week that almost made me cry. And while, I’m more inclined to cry when I see the news these days (since Brexit in June and Donald Trump’s inauguration) these near tears weren’t borne out of sheer despair at the state of the world (that’s another blog post), these almost weepies came as a result of something that happened at New York Fashion Week on 14th February.
While I may not look like I know my shit when it comes to fashion, I think it’s pretty fair to say that I do. I’m no expert but I sit at the sidelines of the internet and watch with interest as fashion shows unfold around the world. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to explore backstage and sit on the front row for a couple of shows at London Fashion Week and I was absolutely in my element. I know I’m not exactly a style icon. It’s rare you’ll find me out of my jeans and a baggy tshirt, especially in these uniboob days, but my love of fashion has been formulated by the fact that it was my sister’s first love. So I’ve watched as the shows have rolled out of New York over the last few days. I clocked “hot convict” Jeremy Meeks (aka Stockton’s most famous export) on the runway for Phillip Plein, I swooned at Oscar de la Renta’s utterly dreamy AW17 collection and I noticed the rise in “fashtivism” on and off the runway throughout the week.
I never expected to look to a NYFW catwalk and see myself looking back at me. I’m not disillusioned, despite my recent rendez vous on the catwalk for Breast Cancer Care – I know I am far from model material. I do not see myself in Gigi Hadid or Karlie Kloss. But when a bunch of incredible and awesome breast cancer survivors, over half of whom are living with metastatic breast cancer, took over New York Fashion Week in an alternative lingerie show, I saw myself. I saw my broken and scarred body in these women and saw that it could still be beautiful. I saw their confidence and I saw their passion and determination and I recognised that I carry that with me now too. Not always, and not often as clearly as these guys did on the catwalk, but I do. I think every breast cancer survivor does in one way or another.
I whooped when Ericka Hart stood at the end of the catwalk, holding her power pose. I had to hold back the tears when one of the models who spoke to the BBC said that she felt really powerful because she is “tired of feeling ashamed of having cancer”. I was overwhelmed with pride for these women.
I read a lot about race and gender and representation. I know that as a white, straight, cisgender woman – representation is not an issue for me. While I may not see people like myself on runways in fashion shows, I do see them everywhere else – on the tv, in magazines, on billboards, in newspapers, in movies – but I appreciate how important it is for young girls to see women of colour on their TV’s or in their magazines. I can understand how incredible it must feel for disabled people to recognise something of themselves in advertising campaigns and I had an even better understanding of it when I saw these powerful breast cancer survivors normalising the after effects of a disease which has impacted every.single.part of my life. I know that I have nothing to complain about when it comes to representation. There are far bigger fish that we need to fry on that account. But this show made me feel human again. And it made me feel like a woman again. And it made me feel that I can be sexy again and beautiful again, regardless of the fact I’m missing a breast, a nipple and the vast majority of my self confidence. It made me feel powerful again. For today at least.
Created by AnaOno Intimates, who specialise in mastectomy and post surgery underwear and curated by US designer, and breast cancer survivor, Dana Donofree, the show was a first for NYFW – never before have “real” women stomped their way down the catwalk and I’m pretty sure no women will ever do it in quite the same way again.
Donofree told Reuters: “It is a very important moment for them [the models] to get out there and experience something like this because breast cancer has taken over their bodies.”
And this isn’t just important for the models Dana. This is important for every breast cancer survivor everywhere.
So thank you.
Image taken from AnaOno Intimates blog.