Dana Donofree’s New York Fashion Week Journey: Walking the Runways to Raise Awareness

Dana Donofree

On a typical morning on the bustling streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, amidst the brunch cocktails and fashion-forward crowd, a peculiar sound emerges, capturing the attention of passersby. It’s a sound that momentarily suspends the chatter and gossip—a roar of joyous applause emanating from a crumbling gothic church. What could possibly be causing this exuberant uproar? The answer lies inside, where Dana Donofree, a veteran of the fashion industry and the founder of AnaOno, is on a mission to make a difference this New York Fashion Week.

Dana’s journey into the world of lingerie and fashion began with a personal battle—a breast cancer diagnosis at the tender age of 27. This life-altering event forever changed the way she viewed her body and the clothes she wore. Dana explains, “After undergoing the removal of both my breasts as part of my cancer treatment and subsequent reconstruction, I found myself in a dilemma. ‘Regular’ intimates no longer suited me. What I had instead were these awful, ugly, matronly bras. I knew there had to be a better way. Women undergoing cancer treatment are already dealing with so much. They shouldn’t have to hate their clothes as well. So, I set out to find a solution.”

That solution began with creating bras and underwear designed specifically for women in various stages of breast cancer recovery—whether they had mastectomies, implants, unilateral removals, or recent surgeries. AnaOno now offers over 20 styles, ranging from delicate lace lingerie to sleek activewear, with sizes that go up to 3X. Dana emphasizes, “Something I’ll never compromise on is absolute inclusion. Whether you have two breasts, one breast, no breasts, or new breasts, we’ll make it work for all of it.”

First Runway Show

In 2017, AnaOno took a bold step by staging its first runway show in collaboration with Eisai and Cancer Culture, titled “The Revolution for Pink,” during New York Fashion Week. Tickets for the show were sold, and the proceeds were directed toward breast cancer research and recovery efforts. However, Dana Donofree had one fundamental rule for this event—it was not meant to be solely inspirational.

“As a survivor myself for 13 years, I can attest to the times when I’ve been genuinely frustrated by the ‘pinkwashing’ of breast cancer awareness,” she sighs. “It felt exploitative to me—having our pain and ‘resilience’ turned into a marketing campaign. Remember Samantha Jones from Sex and the City taking off her wig at a breast cancer fundraising luncheon? It felt a bit like that.”

Yet, Dana was determined not to abandon the color pink entirely, recognizing that breast cancer awareness campaigns save lives. She explains, “If we can influence research and discover more ways to treat this disease, we can grant people more time with their loved ones. And if we can heighten awareness, we can ensure faster diagnoses, leading to more treatment options.” AnaOno’s runway model, Caileigh Scott, passionately adds, “It’s time to take back pink!”

This year’s runway show, entitled “(R)Evolution” and co-produced by #CancerCulture, a patient-led nonprofit employing art and storytelling to raise awareness, pledged a generous $25,000 donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. However, Dana’s vision extends beyond monetary contributions. She emphasizes the importance of establishing a connection between the clothes people wear and the health of their bodies.

Cancer and Disease

“We are gradually awakening to the fact that cancer and disease are intertwined with pollution and environmental damage,” Dana declares. “Our air, our food, our clothing—these elements are all interconnected. The fashion industry as a whole must acknowledge its responsibility in creating a healthier planet and healthier humans because what touches your skin gets absorbed by your skin. The quality fabric matters to other fashion designers, and to cancer patients alike. So, it’s not just about better bras; it’s about a better life!”

Dana Donofree’s journey from a breast cancer survivor to a champion for change, walking the runways of New York Fashion Week is an inspiration to us all. Her commitment to inclusivity, supporting breast cancer research, and advocating that quality fabric matters underscores the power of fashion to drive meaningful social change. As we celebrate “(R)Evolution” and its impact on breast cancer awareness, let us also reflect on the profound connection between what we wear and our collective well-being. In walking these runways, Dana Donofree is not just making a fashion statement; she is making a difference—one bra at a time.


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