New York The power of pink is undeniable. And unavoidable.
Pink, the official color of the breast-cancer awareness movement, is everywhere: On Andy Boy lettuce packages, Everlast boxing gloves, QVC’s glittery ballet flats from Nine West, Bank of America credit cards and beauty products galore. The combined efforts raise millions of dollars each October for research, awareness and patient care.
But how did one little pink ribbon become so ubiquitous and so instantly recognizable? With all the worthy causes out there, how did breast cancer end up as the favorite child of the fashion and beauty industry? And why does it resonate so deeply with consumers?
It was Evelyn Lauder and Self magazine’s Alexandra Penney who launched the pink ribbon campaign in 1992, offering the ribbons as subtle reminders to women who stopped at cosmetics counters in department stores that they needed to schedule breast exams.
At the time, the pink ribbon was so little known that some people thought it symbolized AIDS awareness. “There had been no publicity about breast cancer, but a confluence of events — the pink ribbon, the color, the press, partnering with Elizabeth Hurley, having Estee Lauder as an advertiser in so magazines and persuading so many of my friends who are health and beauty editors to do stories about breast health — got people talking,” says Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of The Estee Lauder Companies and founder of the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.
Lauder, the daughter-in-law of the late Estee Lauder, who founded the brand, recalls a bellwether moment in the evolution of the cause. At first, she had to explain her own pink pin everywhere she went. Then, three years after distributing the first one, a flight attendant noted it on Lauder’s lapel and said, “I know that’s for breast cancer.”
“From there, it became ubiquitous,” she says.
Since the efforts began, $330 million has been raised in Breast Cancer Research Foundation donations-turned-research grants, including $50 million from Estee Lauder products, employees and retail partners. Other breast-cancer initiatives rooted in the fashion and beauty industries include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade and Fashion Targets Breast Cancer from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.