When retailers talk about being “inclusive” it’s really about broadening their product lines to cater to minorities and plus sizes. Those with infirmities are often left out of the conversation.
But Karen MacDonald, the former director of communications for Taubman Centers, has developed a fashion business called Wrapped in Love, catering to women with cancer. She says her business is growing and products for men and children battling cancer, such as baseball caps without seams and products that hide PICC lines, could be developed.
“There are a quite a few options out there with regards to head wraps. But in terms of having a put together look, there’s been nothing,” MacDonald told WWD. “Just because you may not be feeling well on the inside doesn’t mean you can’t feel good about how you look like on the outside. It does a lot for one’s dignity.”
The Wrapped in Love line has fleece wraps, ponchos, head wraps, sleeping caps and scarves. They’re designed to provide warmth, comfort, dignity and some style, and for the patient to be able to put on easily, alone or with a caregiver, since many patients having limited mobility following surgery. The styles utilize soft materials, are chemo port accessible for nurses, and some ponchos are designed with hidden and detachable drain pouches for breast cancer patients who have had a mastectomy and deal with drainage.
MacDonald left Taubman to launch her company two years ago, though the concept came to her about nine years ago when her mother was a patient at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. “My mom had cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. She didn’t want to see any more visitors because she felt she looked bad in her condition. A big part of this was her dignity. I felt terrible. I went home and made a makeshift wrap out of fabric I had. I really can’t sew, but I do have a textile background and I love fashion. I knew enough to make a wrap that goes over her patient wrap, with a flower pin, too. I saw the difference it made. She was smiling. She seemed like her old self for a short time,” until she passed away. “It really gave her some dignity.”
MacDonald began meeting with cancer patients and survivors to learn about their fashion needs. “Many said there was nothing out there that was pretty or that helped you feel put together.”
MacDonald designs the line and has samples made at a cut-and-sew facility in Pontiac, Mich. “I take them to focus groups and share them with women to try on, to see if there’s something that interests them. I also meet with nurses on a regular basis to make sure the designs are conducive to their needs and that they provide easy access to chemo therapy.” That involves having V-neck or open-neck styles, while head wraps utilize modal fabric or a soft bamboo cotton. “It’s breathable and very soft against their scalps if they’ve lost their hair. The skin is so sensitive.
“I don’t design anything that is too loud, just something that makes the women feel beautiful. My mom loved flowers so I try to incorporate a flower or rosette into the wraps and head wraps,” MacDonald said.
“I try to design one size fits most. A lot of times bodies change. Sometimes they swell when undergoing treatment. People gain or lose weight.” Products are also designed with open necks to allow nurses access to the patient. While MacDonald focuses on the needs of cancer patients, many items are appropriate for other illnesses as well.
Recently, MacDonald developed a sleep cap with a rosette, bright colors and pleats that give some structure, but without the typical ties in the back so they’re more comfortable to sleep in. It’s a sassier, youthful look in the pipeline for November selling.
For photo shoots, “I try to use women with cancer or survivors as my models to help them out a bit financially by paying them for their time. They really enjoy the opportunity to have their makeup done and to be in front of the camera and featured in my promotional materials and on my web site.”
Wrapped in Love is sold at hospital gift shops, wig and mastectomy shops and some gift boutiques. Prices range from $28 for a sleep cap; head wraps are priced $30; shoulder wraps range from $60 to $70. The drain pouch jacket is $135. It’s a for-profit business that donates 30 percent of sales each quarter to cancer-related charities including the Pink Fund this month.
“The business is trending ahead,” MacDonald said. “As long as I break even, that’s most important for me. It’s making a difference in people’s lives and that’s what it’s all about.”