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Local boutique crowdfunds 'breast-free fashion' for cancer survivors

Tuesday - 1/28/2014, 11:05am  ET

Fashion designer and Take 5 boutique owner Sakina Iskender never expected to be making business decisions based on an episode of TLC's "What Not to Wear."

But that's exactly what happened last year after she saw an episode that featured a breast cancer survivor that hadn't gone through reconstructive surgery.

"She didn't know how to feel pretty again. They took her to more than 10 stores or boutiques, but it wasn't easy to find something that could fit her really nicely," Iskender said. "It was emotional to watch it. She's already been though so much, and then she's there crying on TV."

As a result, Iskender and her husband, Mahir, who own Take 5 in Merrifield, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to launch a line of clothing for women without breasts.

To get started on the designs, Mahir researched clothing for mastectomy patients who choose not to have reconstructive surgery. A few online shops offered items, but she found that they didn't look quite right to her.

She started sketching garments she thought would flatter women who had mastectomies, but she put the project on hold when they decided to move their business from Bethesda to Merrifield late last year. Then, after she met a breast cancer survivor who came into her boutique, she started working on the project again.

Now, the two are trying to raise startup funding for what they're calling the Steel Flower line — a tribute to the survivors' steely resolve. The money will help them start production on garments at factories in New York City; they hope to release the line this spring and begin selling it for the fall/winter season later this year.

Sakina has put the traditional line she was designing for next season on hold in order to work on this project.

"This was more important," she said. "There are so many good designers that other people can go and buy clothes from."

The Kickstarter will run through Feb. 27, and many of the pledges come with a gift. Among the offerings are items of clothing from the Steel Flower collection, or, for non-breast cancer survivors, a "Lifeline" shirt designed by Sakina.

At Take 5, the business focuses on exclusive clothing lines designed by Sakina and others exclusively for the store, but the entrepreneurs are envisioning a little less exclusivity for Steel Flower: they plan to offer it online and eventually hope to sell it to retailers such as Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom.

The price point will be a bit lower than the one-of-a-kind designs Take 5 offers in its boutique. Items in the Steel Flower line, which will include tops, dresses, pants and skirts, scarves and hats, will range in price from $50 to $350, Mahir Iskender said.

It is their hope to spread the line as far as possible — maybe even hosting an international fashion show where the clothing is modeled by actual breast cancer survivors.

"Our intention is to get it to as wide as possible an audience," he said.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.