AnaOno Intimates: New Comfort for Women Around the Globe

Dana Donofree created a line of products for breast cancer survivors — and fashioned a new market niche in the process.

One day before her 28th birthday, Dana Donofree was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.

That grim surprise kicked off a grueling series of events. She endured chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery. Twelve months later, however, things were looking up. She was excited about her career in fashion and her new marriage. The one problem: She couldn’t find good bra options for women who’d undergone reconstructive surgery.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and thought: Why do I keep complaining about this? I’m a fashion designer. I can do something,” recalls Donofree, now 33 and living in Philadelphia.

That frustration helped fuel the creation of AnaOno Intimates, a line of bras and lingerie. The bras are engineered to accommodate surgically reconstructed breasts. They also work for women during the post-surgery transition phases, as tissue and muscle are gently expanded to fit implants. “My work in fashion taught me a lot about fit, construction and the technical aspects of clothing,” says Donofree, who found traditional underwire bras painful and sports bras unacceptable for work or evening attire. However, she had a lot to learn about the lingerie business and about running a company.

But she got up to speed quickly, thanks to the robust demand for her products. Shortly after launching her website in May 2014, she began selling wholesale to specialty boutiques. The launch also generated serious media buzz. Donofree was featured in The New York Times, in People magazine and on NBC’s Today show. She also was awarded a $10,000 FedEx Small Business Grant to explore how to market her products and expand the business. The publicity and grant have helped — AnaOno has seen a three-fold increase in sales since April 2015.

“We’ve hit a tipping point,” says Donofree, who expects to hire her first noncontract employee soon. “Much of this year has been stressful, but exciting.”

The AnaOno line includes five bra styles — each named for a woman Donofree has met during her breast cancer journey. The styles are appropriate for different types and phases of reconstruction as well as for different types of clothing, from workout wear to formal. “What makes my bras unique is the soft structure,” she says. “The bra needed to fit me. I didn’t need to fit the bra.”

“I wanted to make sure women could continue to live their lives,” adds Donofree, who spent three years developing the product and building out a supply chain. She sources fabric from the U.S., China, Colombia and Canada that has more stretch than typical bra material and recovers its shape well. Initially, the bras were made in China and shipped to the U.S. via FedEx, but she’s since moved manufacturing operations to Philadelphia to gain greater control over the process.

While AnaOno was the first firm in the niche, it’s only now starting to tap into a significant market. In the U.S. alone, 2.9 million women are living with breast cancer, and by some estimates, about one-third of them have had reconstructive surgery. Once the website went live, international orders also came in, and AnaOno now uses FedEx to ship all over North America, as well as to Asia and Europe.

So far, she’s found that survivors who try the bras are the company’s biggest ambassadors, telling their friends and doctors about the product. But the products may have broader appeal. Donofree says she has sold bras to women who’ve had non-cancer-related breast reductions or augmentations and even women who don’t care for traditional bras.

But Donofree is keeping her focus on helping her fellow survivors. The models on the AnaOno website are all survivors, and she contributes 5 percent of sales to two charities: Jill’s Wish, which provides financial assistance to women as they go through the treatment process, and Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a foundation focused on providing information to breast cancer patients from diagnosis through treatment.

While the business is taking off, Donofree says her efforts extend beyond financial rewards. “I have a mission to help women around the world,” she says.

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Comments

  1. As a sixteen year survivor and thirty year FedEx employee I am happy to hear of our support for Breast Cancer survivors!! Sometimes conditions such as costochondritis can also make it uncomfortable for us. Anaono Intimates will be well received!!

    kathleen October 7, 2015
  2. My 41 year old daughter is scheduled to have breast reduction surgery and lift on both breasts in November. I felt like one reason her breasts lost all substance with her first child 15 years old was because when pregnant, she would not wear a bra because she said it hurt her and made it hard for her to breathe. Most of the time, she rolls them up and puts on a loose fitting sports bra. That is why I am glad to find this article on my FedEx homepage today. I will be anxious to get more information on your products to give my daughter. Thanks for exploring this new area of sales to help women.

    Charlotte Lovitt October 7, 2015
  3. yes i love the work you all done, my sister have breast cancer ,she have that same problem try to fine a bra that fix ,thanks you brooks

    berdotha brooks October 7, 2015
  4. I applaud your spirit! Wishing you health & happiness in all of your endeavors!

    Erica Tiberio October 7, 2015
  5. Thanks! I am also a breast cancer survivor. You make a lady feel and look like a lady again. You are awesome!!

    Carol October 8, 2015
  6. I applaud your work and dedication! As a breast cancer survivor back in 1990 the best I could hope for was a "granny" bra that felt more like a corset and stuff it so I didn't look and feel lopsided in the process! This is a point in a woman's life when she feels anything but sexy and comfortable so this is great news! It's not just about a bra, it's about self esteem and feeling normal.

    Even after reconstruction, things don't fit the same and even women who have not experienced breast cancer tend to have breasts that aren't symmetrical so I am very excited about this! Thank you for being here for all the survivors who just want to feel like themselves again.

    Lori Smith October 8, 2015
  7. Dana,
    My wife is going throw breast cancer now. About 4 month ago found a lump on one of her breast and two weeks later she was having breast surgery. Now she is on her 3 out of 4 chemo infusions. The chemo is very hard on her but she will make it. Her doctor is Frank DellaCroce in New Orleans. Dr. Frank is wonderful. Keep fighting never give up!

    Guy Clesi October 8, 2015
  8. amazing

    ANGELA BROUSSARD October 8, 2015
  9. You Go Girl!!!!!!

    Jessica Hillman October 9, 2015
  10. As a 2 time breast cancer warrior, I appreciate women who don't let something like cancer get them down and keep thriving despite of it. Someday we will have a cure in part, of money donated for research. I smiled when I saw her beautiful picture and her scars were medals of courage .

    rita canole October 9, 2015
  11. I cant believe there was not already a market for this. This is something that would have a decent demand I woulf of thought. Good on her for her bussiness savy!

    Mark Hentz October 12, 2015
  12. I was diagnosed July of this year. Had a double mastectomy on September 1. Can't wait to start shopping when I'm able to. Thank you from one survivor to another!!!!

    Terri Bucks October 21, 2015
  13. Absolutely super courage!
    The grace of God!
    You go Girl!
    Girl Power!

    Henry Gee October 21, 2015
  14. What a positive spirit – and the photo is beautiful!

    Tess Smith October 21, 2015
  15. I am a five year Breast Cancer survivor I can tell you first hand that Bra's are IMPOSSIBLE to find that fit right. I went through four reconstruction surgeries and had my chest stretched each time. After the fourth rejection I decided I was blessed to be alive with or without breast. My skin from the stretching has shifted under my arm so I have to wear two bras ( one to hold the extra skin ) and one for the prosthesis. I would love to see lighter prosthesis and a bra that would hold everything in place and not roll up to were your tugging on it all day. I have tried everything out there and maybe one day I will hit the jackpot but till then, I thank God each and everyday for my second chance at life.

    Lisa l. Morgan October 21, 2015
  16. a four-year breast cancer survivor and I refuse to wear a bra every day because it is totally uncomfortable. I had an injury and it has continued to cause tenderness and pain. my Diep flap surgery was somewhat successful, but I probably would have simply plastered both breasts the same way if I were the doctor. I'd like to have symmetric breast, but the pain is unbearable so most of the time I go braless. Thanks for letting me vent and congratulation on making intimate wear and clothing for the disfigured woman.

    Andrea February 9, 2016
  17. At age 46, I joked about having to shop in the girls department for bras. It was inconceivable that I would ever get breast cancer being "barely there". Now, having just completed bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, the thought of being able to shop for bras gave me something to look forward to. Then, my surgeon explains that traditional bras will not be comfortable or fit right and I felt pushed back to square one. Until now, my reality was limited to uncomfortable and unattractive sports bras. But no more! When I read that your line is made from bamboo, I was SOLD! It is the softest fabric I've encountered and you can plan on seeing my orders over and over!

    Judy B. March 10, 2016

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