Feel guilty about shopping? You don't have to in October, when retail therapy can save lives.
In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, stores and Web sites are awash in pink - everything from diamond jewelry to designer dresses to vacuum cleaners. Even Campbell's is offering limited-edition pink-and-white labels on its chicken noodle and tomato soups for the month.
The color became associated with breast cancer awareness 15 years ago when Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of Estee Lauder, collaborated with Alexandra Penney, the editor and founder of Self magazine, to address the issue of breast cancer awareness. Penney thought of the pink ribbon as the symbol and put it on the magazine's cover; Lauder later helped turn it into a brand, by giving away millions of pink ribbons during October through Estee Lauder's various companies.
"I am really thrilled," Lauder said in a recent interview. "It took a few years for the pink ribbon to catch on; now it has caught on in a big way."
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To date, the company has given away 70 million pink ribbons, Lauder said. The pink ribbon eventually evolved into a pink campaign, with companies big and small selling pink products and giving a percentage of the proceeds to breast cancer causes.
Some of the biggest recipients include The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which was created in 1993 by Lauder and raises money for research; the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest nonprofit dedicated to breast cancer research; and CancerCare Inc., a national nonprofit that provides free support services for people who have cancer.
Every year more companies - particularly those with mostly female customers - are joining the crusade.
Bloomingdale's Long Island, N.Y., spokeswoman Alexandra Karcev says the retailer has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause in the past few years.
"We did a pink umbrella that sells out the moment it hits stores, especially on Long Island, because Long Island is so affected by breast cancer," she said. Through October, the store also offers a pink gift card, with 10 percent of purchases going to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and produces a brochure listing all its vendors that are helping raise money to fight the disease.
Other companies are hawking vacuum cleaners (Dyson has a pink-and-gray one), cookies (fashion-themed pink sugar cookies from Eleni's New York) and even airplane flights (Delta Air Lines has a pink plane).
Robbi Fink, vice president of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, who evaluates potential corporate sponsorships, said the good news is that more companies want to help stamp out breast cancer. The bad news is not all of them have products that the foundation thinks are appropriate for the cause. "We just rejected a company that wanted to sell a pocket knife," said Fink. "We've rejected jewelry, because how many pieces of jewelry can you represent? Then there are the people who offer food ... that is just not good for you."
Melissa Etheridge, who is helping to sell Hard Rock International's pink guitar pin, says the number of products can be overwhelming. "Still, people want to help," said the singer, who is a breast cancer survivor and an avid advocate for awareness. "They want to do something against this terrible disease and so this is what we do."
MAKEUP IN THE PINK
Almost every makeup and skin care line has created a special product for breast cancer awareness month. Some highlights:
- Pink eight-piece makeup brush set from Sonia Kashuk, herself a breast cancer survivor, $19.99 at Target or target.com. All net profits go to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
- OPI's Pink of Hearts nail lacquer comes with a pink ribbon-decorated cap, $7.50, check opi.com for locations. The company plans to donate $25,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
- A special pink box edition of ultra-luxe Creme de la Mer is $195 for 2 ounces at fine department stores or lamer.com. The company will donate $27,000 to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
- Bumble and Bumble Classic Hairspray adds subtle sheen and softness, $19 at Bumble and Bumble salons, bumble andbumble.com or call 800-728- 6253. The company will donate $1 for every sale of the hair spray to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
- Packaged in a pink carton, a Bobbi Brown limited-edition lip set includes shimmer lip gloss in pink flower and lip color in sand-wash pink, $30 at Bobbi Brown counters and bobbibrown.com. The company will donate $35,000 to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
- Aveda Hand Relief soothes and softens hands, $20 for 5 ounces; at Aveda salons and aveda.com. Four dollars from each sale go to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.