The Models in This Inspiring Fashion Show Have All Been Impacted by Cancer

The models and emcees for Well Dressed for Spring 2018. Photography by Ryan Emberley

Earlier this month, top retailer Holt Renfrew put on a fashion show at its Bloor street flagship store in Toronto that was so fantastic, the entire audience of 500 people started dancing in their seats while cheering on the models walking the runway.

The Well Dressed for Spring Fashion Show is an annual event benefitting Wellspring, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to supporting cancer patients and their families by offering countless free programs — from wellness classes like Tai Chi, trainer-led cancer exercises, meditation and cooking classes, to more practical education like tax planning, tips on returning to work and pro bono meeting with employment lawyers.

For the 13 models who hit the catwalk, myself being one of them, the cause was deeply personal. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2017 and Wellspring was and remains a refuge from the horrors of this disease. Most of the other models, a courageous, resilient group spanning a wide range of ages, races and backgrounds, are fellow cancer survivors. All of us — including emcees Tracee Melchor from ETalk, and Nathan Downer, anchor of CP24, as well as Fashion‘s own Editor-in-Chief Noreen Flanagan, who provided commentary on all of the ensembles — have been touched by it.

Aya McMillan walking the runway. Photography by Ryan Emberley

It’s easy to dismiss fashion (not to mention the makeup, hair and accessories that go with the runway) as frivolous. But, they can make all the difference when things spiral out of control — especially when things involve the Big C. I’m grateful that Holt’s, Wellspring and sponsors like Fashion magazine, recognize the therapeutic, and yes, sometimes life-changing effect it can have. Every little way we can make ourselves feel better truly matters. Even for someone like myself who works in the industry, that’s a particularly poignant sight.

Check out the full Facebook live viewing from the event here, and watch the video featuring a few of the models and their inspiring stories above.