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'Knocking Out Breast Cancer'
Designer Barbara Bates is determined to heighten the level of awareness
Designer and former Fashion Star contestant Barbara Bates is in the fight against breast cancer and will present a fashion show to raise awareness and support ongoing research.
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   WHEN Barbara Bates agreed to be a participant in Fashion Star, she had no idea about the degree of exposure the network television show would produce for her. “Fashion Star was an incredible experience for me. It was difficult because I had a business I had to be away from for almost a month,” the award-winning designer says. “But after the show was all over and done, I realized the power of television and how people respond to you. I’ve gotten a lot of business and speaking engagements, things that I had no idea would come from that show.” 
    Not only did Bates’ appearance on the show help her business (Macy’s featured two of her designs), but it also had an unexpected impact on her charitable efforts through her Barbara Bates Foundation. Following her stint on Fashion Star, she was asked to participate in a fashion show for the American Cancer Society in Washington, D.C., where she designed outfits for six models who were raising funds in the battle against cancer. That gave her an idea about her own annual foundation event.
    For years Bates has been hailed for producing a special fashion show each year with the funds being used to outfit underprivileged, inner-city students who needed prom and graduation attire. To date, she says she has created about 500 custom-made dresses and 200 suits for needy youngsters. This year, however, after the Washington, D.C., show and with October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the three-year breast cancer survivor decided to use her annual event to heighten awareness and to further her support to find a cure for cancer.
    After some discussions, Bates partnered with Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation, the breast cancer division at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and this year’s event, “Knocking Out Breast Cancer,” will be held October 28 at Prentice Women’s Hospital (Level 3), 250 E. Superior Street. Proceeds will benefit the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and the Sinai Health System. Some of those funds will be used to provide free mammograms for needy women.

Models who participate in the "Knocking Out Breast Cancer" event will showcase a variety of items from Bates' collection, including coats, evening dresses and other garments made of leather and suede, materials that are used in many of Bates' signature designs. Her message to women who might be facing breast cancer is clear and to the point: "Address it now, so I can dress you later."
   The fashion show will feature at least 58 breast cancer survivors who will model a wide variety of selections from Bates’ fall collection. Included among the models will be celebrity survivors such as Roz Varon of ABC 7 News, Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times and Dr. Sandy Goldberg, chairman and founder of A Silver Lining Foundation. “This event [‘Knocking Out Breast Cancer’] is about saving lives. I want to create more awareness about the importance of mammograms,” Bates says. “Educating women is probably one of the most important things because that’s what saves their lives. Women should know that even though they are diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s not a death sentence.”
    Bates, a self-taught designer who was inspired by the fashionable attire her mother and aunt wore (and still wear), has designed items for some of the country’s biggest celebrities, including Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey and Whitney Houston. She began Barbara Bates Designs in 1986 with a simple fashion philosophy that focuses on fit, especially as it relates to women. “I believe women can wear anything if it fits them properly. If it fits right, it doesn’t matter what size you are,” says the Marshall High School graduate who established the Barbara Bates Foundation in 1999. “People are hung up on models being size 2 and 4, but I believe that whether you’re size 2 or 22, if it’s presented right, the full-figured lady looks just as good as the smaller lady. When you dress, I believe in being age-appropriate and have something that fits you properly.”
    Proper fit won’t be a problem for the models at the “Knocking Out Breast Cancer” event, thanks to Bates and the custom-made attire that will be showcased. But while the clothes will be a focus, it’s the message about breast cancer awareness that will be at the forefront as the night will celebrate the courage and determination of women who are not only surviving but thriving.


For tickets and more information about the “Knocking Out Breast Cancer” event, go to www.barbarabatesfoundation.org .