By  on September 30, 2009

NEW YORK — Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, now celebrating its 15th anniversary, really started with Ralph Lauren.

In the late Eighties, then-Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde approached the designer after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hyde’s legacy — she died in 1990 at the age of 57 — inspired Lauren to steer multiple initiatives to raise awareness and fight cancer, and he spearheaded the 1994 launch of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s FTBC initiative.

“In the late Eighties, when my good friend Nina Hyde told me that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I joined her fight,” Lauren recalled. “I was proud to partner with the CFDA by creating a logo that has helped lead the charge against breast cancer for 15 years.”

Since FTBC kicked off that September with a White House reception hosted by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton — and attended by Lauren, Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, Jeffrey Banks, Betsey Johnson, Kenneth Cole and several others — the initiative has raised nearly $50 million for breast cancer charities worldwide.

“I am filled with respect and gratitude for the tremendous strides made in the fight against breast cancer,” Lauren said.

“I have said it many times: Breast cancer is not just a women’s issue, and Fashion Targets Breast Cancer has given that message new meaning and an astonishing momentum to increase awareness and find a way towards the cure,” he added.

Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA, called the initiative “historic” for the CFDA for multiple reasons.

“It brought this sense of community and family in a shared effort to create some change, and really, it was the beginning of our philanthropy and the CFDA Foundation Inc.,” Kolb said. “So much has stemmed just from that idea and cause. The coming together and the number of designers who, over the years, have participated for the various programs speaks for itself.”

The launch campaign, featuring the iconic T-shirt with the organization’s logo, is considered to be the most successful to date, selling 400,000 FTBC T-shirts and raising $2 million for the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Health at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Over the years, the initiative has evolved in various ways. Saks Fifth Avenue partnered with the CFDA and FTBC in 1999 through 2002 with great success. The iconic logo is no longer just restricted to T-shirts. It now graces anything from flip-flops to ballet flats, candles to calendars, and beach umbrellas and pins.

It also has made moves on the international front. Today, the initiative counts 10 international partners, which have been instrumental in raising funds and spreading the message of breast cancer awareness. In Japan, for instance, the program has extended beyond just retail sales. In partnership with Theory, mammography tests were set up in mobile vans during Tokyo Fashion Week.

There is an ongoing global partnership with, which, most recently, included a grassroots campaign called Fashion Targets Summer Fridays, encouraging women to buy and wear the $55 Ralph Lauren-designed FTBC polo shirt at work on Fridays during the summer, with proceeds of the shirt benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other FTBC-supported organizations.

“We have reacted and responded to the changing marketplace, not just looking to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, but also doing programs with Net-a-porter, which is not only selling product, but also, when you check out your purchases, allows you to add a $5 or 5 pound donation to the cause,” Kolb said.

For its 15th anniversary, FTBC launched a charm initiative of sorts, partnering with QVC to launch the QVC Designer Charms for Charity program. Throughout September, the TV shopping network offered specially created charms by CFDA members, including George Simonton, Vivienne Tam, Pamela Dennis, Cynthia Steffe and Stan Herman, as well as a special charm designed by Julianne Moore with Robert Lee Morris.

“For me, the future of it all is to expand the number of products that are within keeping of fashion and design, and to have a greater exposure with many retailers, both brick and mortar, and online,” Kolb said.

Kolb cited a partnership with the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in April. The private school stages an annual Fashion for Action event, which this year benefited FTBC, and raised about $35,000 for the initiative from a runway show that featured clothing items by Rachel Roy, Nicole Miller, Judith Leiber, Amy Smilovic, Tommy Hilfiger and Colette Malouf. That said, it wasn’t just about the money raised, according to Kolb. “It’s also about introducing the next generation, so that [FTBC] has a future, as well,” he said.

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