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Marks & Spencer: Fashion retail for a cause

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With over 90 years experience in area of lingerie, Marks & Spencers will exhibit the brands long-term commitment to the cause of breast cancer awareness. The campaign encourages consumers to donate the balance after they shop at M&S stores, which further goes to the Womens Cancer Initiative (WCI), supporting Breast Cancer Awareness, through the month of October. This will raise awareness around the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and support disadvantaged women with financial aid.

The brand extends their post-surgery lingerie by introducing Prosthesis for breast cancer survivors. The product created by Julia Mercer, Lingerie Tech Lead at M&S, aims to empower women who have gone through tough times by assisting them to lead better lives physically and giving them confidence to feel good about themselves.

Soozie Jenkinson, Head of Design for Lingerie at Marks & Spencer, gives the details to IANSlife.

Q: This is the third year of the ‘Change for Change’ programme. Tell us a little about how Marks and Spencer’s supports disadvantaged women with financial aid through Women’s Cancer Initiative (WCI).

Jenkinson: We are incredibly proud that this is our third year of the ‘Change for Change’ initiative with the Women’s Cancer Initiative (WCI) as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This initiative aims to increase awareness around the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and the importance of customers checking themselves for early detection, whilst also supporting women who are affected by breast cancer. We are inviting customers to get involved by rounding up their shopping bills during October to make a donation to the WCI that will go towards supporting women undergoing treatment at The Tata Memorial Hospital. M&S continues to donate 10 percent of sales of our post-surgery lingerie to WCI all year round.

Q. After breast cancer, which can be an emotionally draining experience, how does the brand help boost women’s confidence through its product range?

Jenkinson: The idea for our post-surgery range came about in 2006 after a loyal M&S Lingerie customer, who had undergone treatment for breast cancer, wrote to our CEO requesting the same great lingerie that she loved buying from M&S but adapted to her needs post treatment and surgery. Our CEO then set myself and the lingerie team the challenge of ensuring women who had suffered with breast cancer could still shop the same lingerie they had loved buying and wearing before their treatment. We researched and designed the range in collaboration with affected women to launch the UKs first high street range of post-surgery bras. We continue to work with breast cancer survivors to design modern, relevant pieces that meet their individual needs.

We were the first on the Indian high street to offer women the same beautiful, feminine post-surgery lingerie, and I was delighted and honoured to launch the range in 2017 in Mumbai. All our post-surgery bras are developed to create a natural shape with special features ensuring all day comfort. We thoughtfully design each piece to include pockets in the cups which hold the prosthesis in place to help the wearer feel confident. We use cotton in the cups, soft straps and specific finishes that won’t rub on sensitive skin. We’ve also invested into training all of our bra fitters in India with specialist training and knowledge so that women who have undergone surgery or a mastectomy feel confident and comfortable and the fitter understands their individual needs

Q: As head of design for lingerie, also tell us about the Prosthesis for breast cancer survivors.

Jenkinson: A key part of our design philosophy is inclusivity, designing beautiful, modern lingerie for as many women as possible. The post-surgery range is very important for us and means that all women can still chose feminine lingerie and we eat this with confidence. Just like every product we design, we pay an enormous attention to every detail. Our post-surgery collection meets the practical needs of women who have undergone surgery such as pockets that will support and firmly hold a prothesis in place and create a natural shape whilst also looking feminine and elegant. The prothesis product was available in India but now it’s gone, so I need to try to get it back there again!

Q. The digital campaign called #CheckHerOut, to urge consumers to check themselves for early detection of breast cancer, can enable millions of women across the world fight the cancer in time. In a place like India which has very poor healthcare, what initiatives can be taken to educate people in rural India?

Jenkinson: Through our ‘Check her out’ campaign with WCI we are able to partner with a charity that shares our ambition to raise awareness of breast cancer and help educate women about the importance of early detection around the signs and symptoms. WCI is a fantastic partner for us to help reach women all over India and to have a positive effect in raising awareness and crucial funds to prevent the disease

We know from listening to our customers that breast cancer is an issue they care about and we can support for their well-being and awareness through our products and fundraising activities.

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