Cancer is not a death sentence,” says Pink Unity president Lena Abdullah. “I myself am a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The other nine ladies who are here with us today have lived with cancer for more than five years. If anyone tells you that cancer is the end of you, itu bohong.”
Early detection is crucial, she notes. “Most people can feel when something is wrong with their body. You don’t wake up one day and get diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Seek early treatment, go to the right specialist.”
Fashion brand Variante has announced a new collection of scarves to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The launch took place at The Orchid Conservatory, The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, on Oct 4. Surrounded by a hanging garden of orchids, founder and creative director Leslie Variyan disclosed the collaboration between the local label and Pink Unity — a women-led focus group for cancer survivors, under the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM).
Proceeds raised this month from all Variante products, including blouses, pants, skirts and dresses, sold at its seven outlets across the Klang Valley and online will be donated to the organisation. “For the last 10 years, our funds for this project have accumulated to five figures [in ringgit]. Our target is to reach six digits so we can keep doing more for this good cause,” says Leslie.
The partnership between the two bodies goes back to a decade ago when the label offered assistance to the organisation, which could not afford to participate in an event.
“Variante was the first to sponsor Pink Unity with blouses, and beautiful baju kurung for our ladies to wear for an Islamic fashion show. At a time when we did not have enough funds to purchase more than 20 pieces of clothing, it came forward and provided them for free,” says Lena.
The collaboration marked the beginning of Variante’s Fashion Fights Cancer programme and the Pink Unity CSR Campaign in 2013. Leslie is a firm advocate of giving back to society. He chooses to work with the group because of its efforts to spread awareness of cancer and support those affected by it.
“We believe each of us knows someone, directly or indirectly, who has had cancer or, sadly, even passed away from it. Pink Unity provides an amazing source of support, whether emotionally, physically, financially or simply by just being there for the patient,” says Leslie, who lost his father and sister-in-law to cancer.
“People out there need to know the work its volunteers have done for patients, survivors and even caregivers. By creating awareness, we may be able to encourage more people to offer assistance in any form.”
This year, the brand has exclusively designed three square scarves, taking inspiration from the pink carnation, which symbolises love, gratitude and appreciation. The first in the collection, Warhol Pink Carnation features a black-and-white drawing of the life cycle of the flower, from when it buds to when it blooms. Next in line, the Pink Monogram Carnation boasts realistic illustrations of carnations in pink and red at two ends. Lastly, the Pink Carnation Border is a dark blue piece decorated with soft pink carnations across its borders, with the middle part devoid of any design, making it ideal for those who prefer subtle and elegant style.
“There is something for everyone. Some may buy one scarf, others may get all three,” Leslie says. Suitable for use as a head cover or accessory around the neck, the scarves are made of comfortable and soft premium silky matte satin. Each is priced at RM89.
What makes this collection unique is that the design process was not executed by Variante alone. The cancer survivors also contributed ideas for the creation of the products. “With all the activities carried out, it has created a close bond between us,” says Lena.
Besides the 10 members of Pink Unity, personalities Raja Azura, Noryn Aziz and Zara Zya were also present at the event to show their support for the founder of Variante, who they described as “the most kind-hearted and thoughtful person”, as well as the good work carried out by Pink Unity over the years. Noryn serenaded and moved the audience to tears with the song You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban after sharing her experience of losing her father to the disease last December.
“We had six months to go through the journey with him. We spoke to the oncologists to monitor his condition and they told us the remaining time he had. We are not saying the doctors are gods, but with their experience and knowledge in tending to patients, they know better than us and can see the progress of cancer,” says the jazz singer.
“There is so much to be done and we can all lend a hand to make this world a better place,” Leslie adds.
See here to puchase the scarves.
This article first appeared on Oct 10, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.