Love & Nudes designed bras to help Black women fight breast cancer

Who: Canadian women’s underwear brand Love & Nudes, with McCann for strategy and creative; Craft for production; Nice Shoes for post-production, and Weber Shandwick for PR.

What: “The Stage Zero Collection,” a special line of bras designed to save more Black women from breast cancer by allowing them to see and feel the early symptoms of the disease.

When & Where: This is a social, earned, and influencer-led campaign. The Stage Zero bras debuted on World Cancer Day (Feb. 4), and there’s a two-minute explainer video, and a dedicated section of the Love & Nudes website. Influencers including Cityline’s Monique Taylor Yee-Shui and Canadian artist Jully Blac, are also helping to promote “Stage Zero.”

Why: Black women with breast cancer have a 40% higher death rate than white women, but most of the educational materials about the disease are designed for white women, and don’t show breast cancer on darker skin.

“Breast cancer diagnostic and educational tools are generally designed with only white skin in mind,” said Chantal Carter, founder of Love & Nudes. “All the examination guides report redness as a sign of breast cancer. Unfortunately, discolouration doesn’t look the same on darker skin tones like mine.”

McCann and Love & Nudes developed the screening bras to help Black women identify breast cancer symptoms before Stage 1 of the disease.

How: The creative team at McCann worked with Dr. Mojola Omole—a breast surgical oncologist—to develop the Stage Zero bras to recreate the symptoms as accurately as possible. “We first had to find a doctor who could inform what breast cancer discolouration looked like on Black women. There wasn’t any public information available,” said McCann art director Olivia Hashka.

“We really needed to get this right. We weren’t making an ad; we were creating a tool that could save lives. We didn’t have the benefit of years of research and funding. We needed to act fast, but accurately,” said Jon Dick, copywriter at McCann.

Once they got the details right, they had to 3D print the collection’s parts, create the lumps to mimic what a real lump feels like, and worked with a makeup artist to get the discolouration right. In all, the bras were more than a year-and-a-half in the making.

While the bras exist only as prototypes for now, McCann is working with suppliers to produce more. They collection will appear at other pop-ups, and medical institutions have reached out to get The Stage Zero Collection in front of patients, medical students, and for use in breast cancer awareness initiatives.

Screening: While the bras aren’t actually for sale, they are a way to build an awareness about the problem and to call for support to drop the screening age to 40 from the current standard in most Canadian provinces of 50.

“One in 6 breast cancer cases occur in women under 50,” said Dr. Omole, in the release. “Black women under 50 with breast cancer have a mortality rate double that of white women in the same age group. Because Black women are predisposed to early-onset triple-negative breast cancer, it’s clear that it’s time to change the guidelines on the breast cancer screening age for cancer.”

David Brown