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Cancer Support Team Partners with StyleEsteem, Made Possible by Junior League of Bronxville Grant

Cancer Support Team Partners with StyleEsteem, Made Possible by Junior League of Bronxville Grant

"Empowering Confidence with StyleEsteem"

With a grant from the Junior League of Bronxville, Cancer Support Team has been able to purchase dozens of special head coverings from StyleEsteem. Sonya Keshwani, the founder, met with CST’s staff and explained how she came up with the idea to create her beautiful pieces. She is also donating additional turbans to increase the number CST can provide to our patients.

My background is in public relations and public affairs. I worked for the government for most of my adult life, but I grew up wanting to be in fashion and always saw myself as potentially being a couture designer. Growing up in New York, I realized my second passion was to see people who look like myself in positions of power. I was at my dream job at the Department of Justice, working in national security, and at the peak of my professional life, when at age 29, I caught something that felt suspicious in the shower.

I received a stage one breast cancer diagnosis with a triple positive tumor. Almost immediately I had to make plans for treatment and decided to continue working full time in DC and get treatment in New York.

As soon as I started treatment, the hair loss started to happen. I felt like there was a lack of information about the hair loss process. I was just told to buy a wig and wait for it to happen. So that's what I did. I got a blonde wig, and it was kind of fun for about five seconds, until I realized this is really uncomfortable.

I started treatment in the summer, and I was traveling to work with my wig in my purse, and it was just such a strange thing to have to do. I just thought, “there must be a better way to do this, a way that makes me feel more like myself, not less.”

I started looking online and in stores for head coverings, and I really wanted something beautiful and fashionable. I just saw a lot of options that were targeted towards me as a cancer patient, but not as someone who appreciates the fashion and art of dressing.

I said to myself, “if I wouldn't wear this when healthy, why am I going to wear this when I'm sick? It's kicking me when I'm already down.” I figured if I can't find the solution, I'm going to have to try to make it myself. And as someone who has a background being Indian, I figured if my people can create such beautiful clothing, maybe I have some hidden talent in me where I can also do the same.

After each round of chemo, I started visiting a fabric shop near my infusion center in Astoria, Queens, and would just peruse different fabrics. Every time I found something that caught my eye, I would imagine experiencing better times while wearing that fabric. If I found something that was a jewel tone, I would think, “oh, the holidays are going to be so nice this year,” and if I found something floral, I would think. “Next time I can travel, I want to wear this.” Just seeing different fabrics helped me imagine and mentally create a healed life in my mind.

And it turned into a ritual. Each time I went for treatment, I brought home some fabric. It would take me a week to recover at my parents' place before I could travel back to DC. So, I'd have my laptop on one table while I worked from home, and I'd have my mom's sewing machine right next to it. And I would just go back and forth and distract myself with global problems on one hand, and with fashion design on the other. It really helped me not think about myself, which is what I needed at the time.

The pieces that I created, the way that it impacted my life personally, the way that it gave me a piece of my identity back and allowed me to create a new identity without having to think “Oh, I wish I could be my old self,” I was realizing that my old self, I may or may not see her again, but that's not a bad thing.

Each time I got dressed in the morning, I found myself enjoying it a little bit more, finding new ways to wear the clothes in my closet, connecting with the person in the mirror. I felt if this is impacting me so positively, this has the potential to really help other women too.

And so, I launched StyleEsteem, a place where women can shop for headpieces the same way they shop for clothes – by season and occasion. With collections for spring/summer, and fall/winter, as well as day wear, evening wear, lounge wear, active wear and so much more, we also recently launched our couture collection at New York fashion Week. This collection extends the 4,000 yearlong fashion history of turbans to every StyleEsteem Queen who crowns herself in our designs. Each one-of-a-kind couture design from our presentation celebrated headwear across cultures, religions, trends and more. From our custom pieces to our ready to wear collections, each crown is created for the woman and not the patient, and is designed for all hair journeys.

An equally important part of the mission behind what we do is to help and to give back. That was part of the company before I ever made my first sale because community service is something that I was raised on as being very important. So, giving headpieces to people who need them, it's something that we want to make sure happens and to partner with organizations like yours to really make a difference.

The name StyleEsteem is really a reminder when you think about what you're wearing, I want you to look your best and feel your best, and to realize that what you're wearing tells your story about where you come from and where you're going. The uniqueness within you should be celebrated as your superpower power. It's really something that you should lean into and be proud of.

StyleEsteem is incredibly grateful for Cancer Support Team's partnership, and the work of the Junior League of Bronxville.

To learn more about Cancer Support Team's resources and to attend their upcoming gala alongside StyleEsteem Founder Sonya Keshwani, head to their website here. 

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