For Virginia Carnesale, a senior-level marketing, merchandising and e-commerce executive who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, shopping for many of the items she needed was difficult.
“A breast cancer patient’s needs across apparel, accessories, beauty and home goods will continue to evolve long after the surgeries, chemo and radiation are complete. I shopped from many different sites and stores to find the items I needed during my journey, and even today, as a survivor, it’s been a lot of work” Carnesale told WWD.
“I didn’t need a pink ribbon,” said Carnesale. “I needed to know how to make a wig look natural enough to wear with confidence; how to adjust my diet for the best odds of beating cancer; which nontoxic household products would make my home safer. Most importantly, I needed support, information and advice so that I could take on this journey with courage, grace and style.”
On Feb. 1, Carnesale launched Stage, an online marketplace created to help women with breast cancer feel stylish and comfortable. It has an array of fashion and beauty products and survivor-tested products, as well as expert advice and stories from women who have been through the breast cancer journey. Carnesale calls Stage a “community” for breast cancer patients and survivors, their families, and those in support roles.
“I created Stage to remove some of the stress and guesswork out of this process for other women and their loved ones,” said Carnesale. Her company, she said, is “aptly named for the journey from diagnosis, to treatment, to a post-treatment lifestyle…Stage’s goal is to ensure the conversation around breast cancer does not just happen in October,” which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
After her diagnosis in late 2018, Carnesale learned in early 2019 that the cancer had progressed to stage 2 metastatic and she spent the next two years navigating surgeries, treatments and recovery. She said she was grateful to receive helpful tips and advice from other survivors in her network and was “equally awestruck” by the information on prevention she learned about only after the fact.
Today, she is healthy and cancer-free, but she knew she had to pay it forward by sharing knowledge and simplifying the shopping experience for other women.
Her website, shopstage.co, offers fashion apparel and essentials; clean beauty; nontoxic cleaning supplies; home goods and gifts. Offerings include front-closure pajamas; tops and bras for post-surgical recovery; head wraps; hats; scarves; bags; swimwear; activewear; loungewear; lingerie, and skin care solutions needed for chemotherapy and radiation.
Among the brands listed are Alexa Leigh, Cosabella, Faherty, Solid & Striped, State Bags, Supergoop and Terez. Stage also showcases emerging survivor-led brands such as AnaOno, Everviolet, Mali + Lili, StyleEsteem Wardrobe and The Cleaner Soul. Carnesale said soon patients will be able to create their own registry of products to send to family and friends.
Stage donates 5 percent of its annual net proceeds to charitable organizations that offer grants and supportive services, including financial assistance, fertility preservation and integrated wellness-based therapies and support to breast and ovarian cancer patients.
Most recently, Carnesale served as the interim chief marketing officer for Jaanuu, which sells scrubs, masks and accessories for medical professionals. Earlier, she served as vice president of marketing at The Gilt Groupe and director of strategic planning for U.S. retail at Nike. She also held positions at Bebe Stores and Gap Inc.
Carnesale cited statistics indicating that in the U.S., one in eight women will battle breast cancer in their lives. With 85 percent of diagnosed cases occurring in women with no family history of breast cancer, the news often comes as a surprise, she said. While conventional medicine treats the disease, Carnesale believes additional support is essential to promote a woman’s overall wellness, both physically and mentally.
“The life-saving surgeries, treatments and side effects can be tough on a woman’s self esteem,” said Carnesale. “I created Stage to be a source of inspiration, calm and confidence, peppered with a little sass and levity to women walking this road — and for others to learn how to support her in the ways she needs it most.”