Prettier in pink: Designer breast cancer awareness neckwear takes flight
Frontline Alaska employees have added a splash of pink to their uniforms this month to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The custom-designed neckwear, dubbed “Ribbons in Flight,” was designed by Alaska’s uniform designer Luly Yang, and the scarves and ties are her first signature piece for the airline.
“Our employees are passionate about breast cancer awareness, and we were excited that Luly could design a custom uniform piece for the cause,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing.
The pink scarves and ties are adorned with tiny breast-cancer awareness ribbons, and have been worn by customer service agents and flight crew members since the beginning of October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I think it’s beautiful how Alaska has supported this cause – beautiful for its employees, male and female,” says Lisa Rhodes, an Alaska Airlines flight attendant and breast cancer survivor. “It’s a wonderful tribute to our passengers and our loved ones.”
According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. It can be a highly curable disease if detected and treated early.
Rhodes is one of the lucky ones – her cancer was detected early, and she opted for an aggressive course of treatment: a double mastectomy this summer.
“I’m so lucky,” she says. “Some people aren’t so lucky. Their journey is much scarier.”
Rhodes first learned of her diagnosis at work. She had just worked a flight to San Diego and was waiting for her next trip when she got the phone call. Her colleagues took care of her, volunteering to cover future trips and calling out of the blue to check in.
“Breast cancer is such an individual journey for each person. It depends how advanced it is, depends on your home support, your work support,” she says. “I’m touched by the support from my coworkers and my company.”
Employees who ordered the scarves and ties were encouraged to donate to The Pink Lemonade Project, a local charity that supports breast cancer awareness. Alaska matched the donations.
Yang also has a personal connection to the cause: she has friends and clients who are breast cancer survivors, and designs custom dresses for women who have gone through treatment and surgery.
For Yang, designing custom clothing isn’t just about trying to make clients look pretty – it’s about building confidence and inner beauty. Designing a garment is a strategic process to help answer clients’ specific needs and many consultations take place as early as one year ahead of a wedding or an event.
For all clients, the process becomes incredibly personal as the fitting begins. When she meets a client who has breast cancer, Yang begins her design process as she would for any client – by asking questions. Some women may have had mastectomies, or be in the process of reconstructive surgery. Yang plans the fittings and designs based on what treatment phase her clients will be in at the time of their wear date.
“Self-image changes when someone is going through breast cancer. My goal is to help women feel good about themselves – strong, confident and beautiful. Customization is important, as the needs of every woman are different,” says Yang. “First I like to listen, get to know them. I like to get to know my clients by their choices.”
Some garments are designed to conceal surgery scars if that is important to the client. Others are engineered to hold prosthetics, among other solutions.
“These women are positive, inspirational, and I am amazed by their strength,” says Yang. “I have learned that many are willing to share their story. It’s so hard to know what breast cancer is unless you go through it – my clients are open and want others to learn from their personal stories.”