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This Designer Makes Gorgeous Lingerie For Women With Breast Cancer

Ana Ono Intimates is the first brand of its kind to offer bras for women who've had surgeries related to breast cancer, and recently made a historic debut in New York Fashion Week.

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In an inspiring New York Fashion Week show on Sunday, 16 breast cancer patients and survivors strutted down the catwalk in lingerie and loungewear made specifically for their bodies.

Arun Nevader / Via Getty Images for Art Hearts Fashion

The show featured models living with varying stages of breast cancer diagnoses, surgery, and reconstruction choices, as well as surgical scarring. It was part of the Art Hearts Fashion show, a philanthropic-minded runway collective part of NYFW.

Unlike most fashion week shows which are invitation-only, the show sold select amount of tickets to the public. All proceeds went to #Cancerland, a New York based non-profit that provides support and services to women battling breast cancer. Actress and longtime breast cancer advocate Mira Sorvino hosted the event, which took place at a cathedral in lower Manhattan.

They were modeling for Ana Ono Intimates, a lingerie and loungewear brand made specifically for people who've had surgeries related to breast cancer diagnoses — such as mastectomies, lumpectomies, reconstructions — or live with other conditions that cause pain or discomfort.

Arun Nevader / Via Getty

Ana Ono offers bras, panties, robes, and other loungewear options to meet the specific needs of women who have been affected by breast cancer.

The unique designs take all shapes and sizes into account, yet still incorporate the fashionable trends and styles seen in the traditional lingerie market.

Ana Ono's founder, Dana Donorfree, was inspired to launch the brand after her own battle with breast cancer at age 27.

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"I had to remove both my breasts, and decided to rebuild them, but I wasn't prepared for how dramatically my body was going to change," Donofree told BuzzFeed Health. Despite having breast reconstruction surgery, Donofree said she could no longer fit into traditional lingerie anymore, especially bras with underwire or molded cups.

"When I left my plastic surgeon, I was told to wear a sports bra or a tank top and they weren't wrong — those are definitely the most comfortable thing to wear — but I didn't feel sexy or want to constantly dress in a way that covered the sports bra straps just to go to work and meetings," Donofree said.

"I cried a lot in lingerie dressing rooms after cancer. Every time I was handed an armful of matronly, beige utilitarian bras and left in tears, I promised myself I would never let it happen to another woman again," Donofree said.

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People recovering from breast cancer surgeries are often limited when searching for bras because of the way their breast shape has changed and the fact that comfort is more of a necessity than a preference. Donofree, a fashion and design graduate from Savannah College Art and Design who worked for a few high-end labels before battling cancer, decided to take matters into her own hands.

"If I could have sexy intimates before cancer, I was going to have them after."

So she began designing bras, using real survivors to test different styles and fits — such as wire-free designs, hidden seams, gentle materials, and special cuts to avoid pain points.

"I do not launch a style without testing it on women who've had everything from mastectomies and lumpectomies to breast reconstruction surgery and prosthetic breast forms," Donofree said. In addition to bras, Donofree also began designing underwear and also loungewear like robes and nightgowns with the woman's needs in mind.

When she releases a new product, Donofree says she knows exactly which bodies and breast shapes it will fit so she can include this information with the bra, which helps "take the guessing and fear out of bra shopping for survivors." The products are made to fit during various stages of cancer from surgery, radiation, recovery and beyond.

Ana Ono also only uses people who have had breast cancer to model the products on the website."It's important for women on the other side of the screen to see the bra on a woman she can relate to," Donofree said.

Ana Ono is the first mainstream lingerie brand to offer products with both a practical construction and a fashionable, sexy design, Donofree said, allowing people to "feel comfortable and beautiful no matter their diagnosis."

"The traditional lingerie market expects you to have two breasts — but you can have one breast, two breasts, or no breasts and we have an option for you," Donofree said.

It turns out, Donofree was wrong about never letting another survivor leave a dressing room crying. "This one woman whose body was ravaged with radiation and scarring put on Ana Ono and just looked at me with glassy eyes and told me it was the most comfortable and sexy thing she had put on her body since she was diagnosed."

Like this bra, which has deep-cut arm holes to accommodate painful incision scars, pockets for removable prosthetics in women with one breast, and a plunging neckline so it's can still be worn under fashionable tops and dresses.

According to the website, this bra fits customers who've had any of the following: lumpectomy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, augmentation, lift, reduction or no reconstruction or surgery at all.

Or this robe worn in the show by Paige More, who had a double mastectomy five weeks ago. "It has special hooks to hold my drainage tubes in place so they don't snag, but it also completely hides everything and looks cute," Paige told BuzzFeed Health.

More, a 25-year-old producer living in New York City, is considered a 'pre-survivor,' because she had not yet developed breast cancer but had a strong predisposition to the disease. "I tested positive for [a BRCA1 genetic mutation, so I decided to be proactive and had a preventative double mastectomy," More said.

In the show, More modeled the same design she wore after her surgery: the Miena robe. It features a detachable belt and hooks inside to hold surgical drains that carry excess blood and fluid from the breast area after a mastectomy.

"It made me feel sexy after my breasts were removed and I never, ever thought I would say I felt sexy after that experience — the robe was life-changing," More said. The robe was so important to More that she said she decided to call Ana Ono and say thank you, which is when spoke to Donofree, who asked her to model in the show.

"It's amazing to model for Ana Ono in New York Fashion Week — walking in lingerie, topless, allows me to reclaim this space and celebrate my sexuality as a survivor," Ericka Hart, queer sexuality educator and model (pictured below), told BuzzFeed Health.

Hart, who went out topless for the first time during the Afropunk festival last August, said her involvement in the show was important both as a survivor and a black individual who identifies as queer. "Not only do I get to wear this lingerie made for survivors, by survivors, but I get to go up there in public and celebrate the fact that I'm a black queer femme that lives with a chronic illness," Hart said.

"This illness is not morbidity — just because our breasts are gone it doesn't mean our lives are over, we get to celebrate our lives and our sex lives and that's what this show is about," Hart says.

"It's not just a bra," Champagne Joy, #Cancerland founder and breast cancer survivor, told BuzzFeed Health. "When you lose your breasts and put on something that makes you feel like a million bucks, that's not a bra — it's magic."

Arun Nevader / Via Getty

"Just like the services we provide to women at Cancerland, Ana Ono lingerie allows you to be a woman in real-time, with a real life, while also battling this disease," said Joy.

Many people recovering from breast surgeries feel alone, Joy said, and struggle with body image and self-confidence issues. However, Ana Ono has created a community of powerful women redefining what it means to be a breast cancer survivor.

"The least interesting thing about the women wearing Ana Ono is that they have cancer," Joy said.

"Ana Ono's mission isn't just to provide beautiful, quality products to women — we want to create a space for survivors to connect and share their stories, because no woman fighting this disease should feel alone," Donofree said.

Arun Nevader / Via Getty

"As a designer, taking part in NYFW is amazing but it isn't about me — it's about the women who will take the runway and the women who can't take the runway because they are no longer with us due to this disease," Donofree said.

Nearly half of the women who modeled in this show have breast cancer that is considered metastatic, says Donofree, which means it has spread to other parts of the body.

"It's so powerful because they're getting up there and showing that life does go on, and we need to be proud of ourselves and empower each other," Donofree said.

Watch clips from the show and backstage here:

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