In a world where discussions about breast cancer are still considered taboo, Cherry Blossom Intimates offers something different: community.
Located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the recently opened boutique is the brainchild of Jasmine Jones, a former beauty queen turned entrepreneur and public speaker, and Dr. Regina Hampton. Although Jones and Hampton lead radically different lives, they—like many others—have parallel experiences with breast cancer. Jones’ grandmother passed from the disease nine years ago after receiving a double mastectomy. Likewise, Hampton diagnosed, performed surgery on, and ultimately lost her childhood friend to breast cancer last year. The two met by chance at a breast cancer 5K, and instead of running, they walked and talked about their experiences.
“I remember [my grandmother] shopping for prosthetics, and it was always in a medical supply store, and it was never anything pretty,” Jones says. “Dr. Hampton told me that she’s seen so many of her patients come in who’d had negative prosthetic shopping experiences and post-surgical bra shopping experiences. We just sort of bounced ideas off each other and said maybe this is something we could do.”
Cherry Blossom Intimates officially opened last year. Since then, the store has made a name for itself in the D.C. area and beyond for its unique approach to both the breast prosthesis and bra shopping experience. Custom breast prosthetics comprised of 100 percent pure silicone are made using post-mastectomy, 3D chest-wall scans. The benefits of a custom prosthesis include protection of the chest wall and surgical scars, balancing of one’s posture, and prevention of curvature of the spine and muscular pain in the neck and back.
Unlike the medical supply stores where many women go for their prosthetics, Cherry Blossom Intimates offers prosthetics in 36 skin-tone colors, a deliberate decision on the part of Hampton and Jones. “Like with makeup, people come in different shades. It’s only until recently [makeup companies have] begun to offer makeup in [more shades],” begins Hampton. “We’re taking that concept beyond makeup and bringing it to the breast world.” Adds Jones, “When they see the color options, that’s when they become emotional, because they start to realize the experience they previously had post-surgery will now be changed for the rest of their lives.”
In addition to offering numerous custom prosthesis shades, Cherry Blossom Intimates’ “off-the-shelf” prosthetics come in brown. “We specifically have brown prosthetics as our standards off the shelf. And not a lot of women have seen those or have even been offered those,” says Hampton. “To me, if we keep nothing else in stock, it will at least be a brown prosthetic and then [we will offer] a custom prosthetic.”
With the help of stores like Cherry Blossom Intimates, women can finally own the sort of intimates they once wore and loved before their diagnosis.
Finding a brown prosthesis may not seem like a big deal to some, but for women in the D.C. area, providing brown prosthetics is smart business. Washington, D.C., has the highest breast cancer and breast cancer mortality rates in the country, and Ward 8, which is 92 percent African American, has the highest rates of diagnosis in the area. Supplying potential customers with a brown prosthesis addresses the discrepancies in which populations face the highest rates of diagnosis and what is actually available to people in stores. Other items in the store include mastectomy bras and post-surgical supplies.
Cherry Blossom Intimates is also driven by inclusivity in the bra shopping experience. Rather than separate breast cancer and non-breast-cancer patients, Hampton and Jones designed their store to facilitate the same shopping experience for everyone. Bras come in sizes A through Q cup, and post-mastectomy bras are interspersed with traditional ones. “I take care of breast cancer patients and non-breast-cancer patients. Why can’t everybody just shop in one place?” Hampton asks. “I think that women who have breast cancer just feel so isolated. I don’t think anyone had really thought of [a store] in that way.”
Aesthetically speaking, cancer doesn’t change one’s love of design or beauty. A beautiful piece of clothing is a beautiful piece of clothing. “When you’re 35, and you have to get a mastectomy, you’re still in the prime of your life. And so, even though you may have to wear a prosthesis and you may choose not to get reconstruction, you still want a pretty lacy bra to put your prosthesis in,” says Hampton. “I think that’s something the mastectomy and prosthesis world never thought of.” And it’s not just younger women who’ve grown to appreciate the delicate and colorful offerings on display in the store. “Even our older women want something pretty and sexy. Even our 60- and 70-year-old women, they say, ‘Well what do you have that’s lacy? I don’t want a plain black bra,’” adds Hampton. With the help of stores like Cherry Blossom Intimates, women can finally own the sort of intimates they once wore and loved before their diagnosis.
Back in their shop, customers will not only get a rewarding experience, they’ll also learn a bit about Jones and Hampton’s loved ones on the Angel Wall. A picture of Jones’ grandmother, one of the inspirations behind Cherry Blossom Intimates, rests on a shelf. Nearby is a photo of Hampton’s childhood friend. “We really take time out every day to acknowledge them and their presence because we know so much of the store was inspired by them and how they impacted our lives,” Jones says. “The love that they’ve shown is what we hope to exude in our store every day.” It is these intimate, personal touches that ultimately elevate the Cherry Blossom Intimates experience from both the cold medical-supply shop and a run-of-the-mill intimates store.
Customers walk away from their time in Cherry Blossom Intimates feeling loved and respected, a feeling Hampton and Jones took great strides to facilitate. Guests can receive mocktails and hot tea in their fitting room. Hugs are freely given. And according to Hampton, their employees are personally and intentionally chosen by who has a passion for the work and for the community. Every team member has been impacted by breast cancer in some way. “Written into our employee manual is treat everyone like your mother or your sister or your daughter,” Jones says. “Everyone is going to experience a really beautiful and unique shopping experience for their intimates. And regardless of their breast cancer status or stage, they were going to be able to feel comfortable and sexy and feminine.”
Cherry Blossom Intimates is located at 9201 Woodmore Center Dr., Suite 426, Glenarden, MD. Find them online at CherryBlossomIntimates.com.