CHAIN LINK FOR A CAUSE
Byline: David Moin, New York / Kristin Young, Los Angeles
NEW YORK — In the battle against breast cancer, there’s been a national chain reaction.
Stores as big as Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, among other retailers, as well as high-profile suppliers and designers, have thrown their support to the cause, and in many cases, they’ve been galvanized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which in 1994 formed the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign.
With October now National Breast Cancer Awareness month, these businesses have been staging fund-raisers, donating a percent of sales for cancer treatment and prevention and charities, conducting informative forums, hyping limited-edition products to further raise charity dollars, and are just getting people to talk about this most serious issue.
In the context of the retail and fashion communities, survivors are speaking up and telling their stories. It’s a matter of fighting back, helping others and raising the survival rate. This has become an enormous concerted industry effort, and there’s good reason. Breast cancer is among the deadliest of diseases confronting women. The statistics are staggering: one in nine women contract the deadly disease, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, making breast cancer the leading cancer site among American women. The foundation is a national organization with a network of volunteers working through local affiliates and Komen Race for the Cure events. It’s among the nation’s largest private sponsors of breast cancer research.
Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in causing death, although for women 40-59, it is the deadliest of cancers.
According to foundation information, during the Nineties, about 1.8 million women and 12,000 men were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. This year, about 182,800 women and 1,400 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
However, the foundation indicates that when breast cancer is confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate exceeds 95 percent. Since no one knows the cause of breast cancer, “there are no sure ways to prevent it,” according to a statement from the Komen Foundation.
However, the disease has been linked to high levels of alcohol, with the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of contracting the disease. Birth control pills for five years or longer can “slightly” raise the risk of cancer, according to Komen, though “there is no apparent increase in a woman’s risk of breast cancer 10 or more years after she has stopped using oral contraceptives. Also, exercise may help prevent breast cancer if you are premenopausal, or a younger postmenopausal woman, the foundation noted. And a “well-balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes,” helps, too.
The Saks Attack
Saks Fifth Avenue, once again, is clearly leading the charge here, with a goal of raising $3 million for the cause through a variety of means. Working with the CFDA, Saks staged what’s become its biggest event of the year, an invitation-only shopping night with 2 percent of the proceeds donated to fighting the disease. It was held Sept. 19 and several designers and vendors matched the 2 percent. Such fund-raising drives, while they do serve to give sales volume a lift, also raise the image of the store, bestow good will and, even more importantly, heighten awareness of health issues. It’s a win-win.
As Saks chief executive officer Christina Johnson, said, “The majority of our associates, customers and executives are women, so it’s particularly fitting we are fighting this disease, which poses such an enormous threat to women.”
In addition to the flagship event, the campaign covered the rest of the 62-unit Saks chain, with other stores holding parties and donating 2 percent of sales from Sept. 21 to 24 to the CFDA’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Fund. Funds raised in each local market get distributed to local charities and health institutions fighting the disease and supporting those afflicted with it. Last year, Saks raised more than $2 million for the charity, making this year’s campaign even more ambitious.
West Coast Awareness
With the big Saks event igniting the industry drive, breast cancer awareness and fund-raising took off on the West Coast, where designers and retailers are also staging and participating in events this fall. And it’s not only the big brands and the billion-dollar retailers supporting the cause.
For example, this is the third year San Francisco women’s eveningwear designer Robert Barry has participated in the Toomey-Tourell Fine Art Gallery’s Couture for a Cure event. This year’s edition (the event generally draws about 400 people) will be held at the gallery at 49 Geary Street in San Francisco on Dec. 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. Barry said he happened upon the cause by chance.
“I just got swept into it,” said Barry. But he’s never turned back. “This [event] is kind of special,” he said. “[Cancer] affects women, and I love to dress women. It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it.”
Last year, the event raised $25,000 for Breast Cancer Action, an organization that contributes funds to medical research.
Barry said that in addition to raising awareness to the cause, the event is good exposure for his 10-year-old line. “I invite buyers to it,” he said. “It’s good word of mouth, and it provides a venue for people to see my work.”
Catherine Jane, an eight-year-old designer boutique in San Francisco is dedicating 10 percent of all sales during the month of October to benefit Breast Cancer Action held a party Wednesday to kick off the campaign.
Catherine Jane Mendoza, the boutique’s owner, said she chose Breast Cancer Action because the organization takes into consideration the environment and how it affects women’s health.
And then there are her customers. “You hear stories from women who come in — there’s somebody’s mother or sister — you hear their stories and it really touches me on a pretty regular basis,” she said. “I think it’s important for me as a clothing designer to give something back to my customer who supports me.”
On Oct. 6, millions of workers will throw on something denim to celebrate Lee National Denim Day, a campaign to help raise money for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. This is the fifth year VF Corp.’s Lee Apparel Co. has gotten involved and expects to raise $6 million for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Businesses approach employees to sign up and donate $5, a small amount that nevertheless makes individuals feel like they’re making a difference, according to a Lee spokeswoman.
“The response that we’ve had to this program is overwhelming and we have exceeded our expectations greatly,” said Kathy Collins, vice president of marketing communications for the Merriam, Kan.-based denim maker. “We initially looked at causes that were relevant to our core consumer, which happens to be women 35 [years old] plus. We went out and did focus groups and asked which ones were the most meaningful to them. Breast cancer kept coming up.” Collins noted that the campaign is set up so individuals can feel like they’re making a difference. Lee has raised $16.5 million in the past four years, she said.
Macy’s Moves to Action
Macy’s West is donating a portion of sales to the American Cancer Society as well as several local organizations Oct. 19-22. The San Francisco-based retailer expects to donate about $100,000 from purchases made by customers using Macy’s credit cards. An additional $50,000 will be donated on behalf of president club members, or Macy’s top customers.
A number of regional events, mostly in-store brunches and fashion shows, are also planned in cities such as San Antonio, Tex.; Las Vegas; San Diego, and Sacramento, Calif., throughout the month of October.
The retailer will highlight specific vendors that support the cause in its regional newspaper advertising, including Estee Lauder, Clinique, Tommy Hilfiger Cosmetics and Donna Karan Cosmetics. Lingerie maker Wacoal is donating $2 for each sale of a pink breast cancer awareness bra to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Karen Neuberger and Coach are other vendors who are participating in the retailer’s drive.
“It’s part of our agenda,” said Rina Neiman, a Macy’s West spokeswoman. “We have certain guidelines for giving charitable donations, and one of the most important [causes] is breast cancer awareness and fund-raising.”
To date, Macy’s West has raised more than $250,000 to the cause and expects to reach the $400,000 mark in the year 2000.
This is the second year Los Angeles bridge casual designer David Dart has gotten involved with Saks Fifth Avenue and the retailer’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer event held on Sept. 21. This year, Dart made an appearance at a Saks location in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Dart said he appreciated the firsthand interaction with his customers, as well as exposure to doctors in the area who battle the disease. Dart also said his involvement ultimately affects people who purchase his clothing and the retailer that carries his line.
“[Saks] believes so much in this charity event,” he said. “The least I can do is help and be at this event,” he said.
Lord & Taylor has also led the way in supporting breast cancer research since the early Nineties when it participated in the first Estee Lauder Pink Ribbon Campaign, and was an early partner with CFDA in the Fashion Targets initiative, once holding a T-shirt signing with NBC’s “Today” show host Katie Couric.
Lord & Taylor stepped up its charitable efforts for women’s health causes and runs a series of programs called “Wellness Wednesdays” dedicated to women’s physical, spiritual and emotional health. Also, the retailer partners with American Express in their Breast Cancer Wareness program.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, founded by Evelyn H. Lauder, is among the organizations supported by L&T. The next joint program, entitled “Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer in the Jewish Population: Highlights of the New York Breast Cancer Study,” will be held Oct. 18.
L&T also supports SHARE, a self-help organization for women with breast or ovarian cancer and has been a major sponsor for SHARE-A-WALK. A SHARE-sponsored breast cancer update featuring noted oncologist Dr. Anne Moore, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and attending physician at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, will be held Oct. 19.
The Wellness series is held free of charge at L&T’s 11th-floor theater.
Macy’s East, in conjunction with Self magazine, will launch “For the Love of Her Life,” during October, in which Macy’s and Self will cohost events featuring Karen Duffy, author of “Model Patient,” and representatives from the American Cancer Society’s Look Good…Feel Better program in New York, Washington, Boston and Atlanta.
“Macy’s is very excited about the program,” said Ronnie Taffet, vice president of public relations and publicity.
Today, Macy’s welcomes Duffy and Alberta Fuentes, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good+Feel Better program at the Herald Square flagship, at 6 p.m. Her book will be sold at the store, and a portion of the sales will benefit the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer health programs. Duffy will subsequently make appearances at other Macy’s stores through the month.
Also at Macy’s, special cards are available for $5 offering discounts and gifts-with-purchase on certain designer and brand merchandise at 87 Macy’s East locations, with proceeds from the program benefiting local American Cancer Society chapters. Among the companies participating: Calphalon, Elizabeth Arden, Warner’s, Olga, Easy Spirit and Hanes.
Furthermore, Macy’s will donate a percentage of purchases made with a Macy’s charge, Macy’s Electronic Gift Card or new Macy’s charge account at all store locations to local ACS chapters during October.
Bloomingdale’s on Bandwagon
Bloomingdale’s is running “Shopping Benefits” at its Century City, Stanford and Newport stores in California to support charities, research institutions and educational efforts to fight breast cancer on Oct. 24.
For example, in the Century City mall in Los Angeles, Bloomingdale’s will charge $10 for its Shopping Benefits running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with 100 percent of the take at the door benefiting four organizations: the Friends of the Breast Program at UCLA; Joyce Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. John’s, Los Angeles Affiliate; the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Women’s Guild, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The admission ticket gives shoppers 15 percent savings on thousands of items offered just for this event. Tickets will be sold only at the door, not in advance. The event also will feature special events, including a fashion show, cooking class, a trend presentation and consultations on how to start a modeling career.
In addition, the cosmetics division has partnered with certain vendors, so for example, with each purchase of Donna Karan Cashmere Mist 3.4-ounce eau de toilette spray, the designer will make a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Estee Lauder, Alexandra de Markoff, Clinique and Bobbi Brown are also supporting the campaign.