Jean's Survivor Story
The Facts: A woman has a 1 in 8 chance that she will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime; in New Jersey that chance is 1 in 7 and I later learned that near my home town it is 1 in 4 or 5. Astounding indeed! Also, 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses are men, 1 in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer; every 13 minutes a woman in the U.S. will die of this disease.
On June x, 2007, I was one of those women. In fact, I happened to be on vacation with my family and we were watching Robin Roberts, ABC News, tell the World about her diagnosis with breast cancer. My mother and I began to cry thinking of her sister, my Aunt, Nina and her death not too long along ago when she passed with Stage 4 malignant breast cancer after ten long years fighting the battle as a woman executive in the automotive industry. Later that afternoon, I received a call from the Radiology Department requesting I return for more films. A preliminary diagnosis when they thought they had seen something on my x-rays. They didn't share too much with me over the phone that day. So I worried a lot for the next two weeks until I could return to my home State and schedule additional MRI and sonograms and then received the final diagnosis...."Jean you have bi-lateral breast cancer". Yes, it's true, 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and so my goal today is to share my story and empower all Survivors to Feel Confident and Look Beautiful during their post-recovery journey. I hope you like the CRISSCROSS Intimate Apparel Collection and there is so much more to follow.
All the breast, Jean
Jean Criss, a 9-year Breast Cancer Survivor (diagnosed July 2007), decided after publishing my story in "My Pain Woke Me Up: BLISS" in December, 2013, that someone needed to design better bras for Breast Cancer Survivors. That very next year I did that and rolled out my first prototype in the Fall of 2014, drawing upon my media, technology, sales and marketing expertise to test my first prototype in the intimate apparel and breast cancer marketplace. I had my first fashion show at the Martin Lawrence Gallery in SoHO, New York during breast cancer awareness month on October 30, 2014 with friends and family. The bra received rave reviews from Survivors and Plastic Surgeons alike! I had no prior experience as a Fashion Designer or Inventor.
Since then, I have taken everyone's feedback, tweaked my initial designs, received approved USPTO utility and design patents and completed the collection. I've been well underway for a few years now and this is my premiere product launch (November 2016). They say it takes a village to launch a product well it has just been me in my four walls in New Jersey or in New York and while I have been coached by the best of the best in the industry, I was advised early on to keep my business small "small" and not to get greedy. Well I did that, partnered as a true entrepreneur getting my hands wet and dirty involved in every aspect of the business...from innovation to design, illustration, branding, partnering, manufacturing, operations, research, marketing, sales, distribution, and so on. It gets so much more involved learning a brand new industry from the ground up but I am proud I learned it by myself and grateful to be able to lean on my 25 years in media, management, sales and high-tech marketing. Without this business foundation, the inspiration that I got as a Survivor, confident as a new Author sharing my personal story, I would not be where I am today. I must admit, I knew how to navigate a new industry. For me, it was quite easy, calling from the top down, networking my way around top brands and retail shops, qualifying the best business partners the industry has, and then executing on the right 'breast' relationships for my brand. That has taken a village indeed to accomplish what has been right by me and for my brand thinking of the world and needs of all the Survivors out there. Well, I welcome you to invite me to chat or speak with your organization to share my story if you are interested to learn more about the incubator and start-up process but now, let me share with you more about my breast cancer journey in particular.
You see, I endured numerous surgeries during my post-surgical recovery over a four-year period (2007 - 2011) and that included; bilateral lumpectomy with radiation, bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery and four (4) implant replacements within an 18-month window (unheard of and due to many complications), obtained MRSA - a flesh eating bacterial skin disease and got breast cellulitis three times thereafter and later, endured a fat graph for corrective surgery. I had such a strong passion to improve products in the Intimate Apparel marketplace I said to myself, 'I had had ENOUGH of these white utilitarian bras!. . frankly, I wore too many UGLY, UNCOMFORTABLE BRAS!!!
CRISSCROSS™ became my initiative and inspiration and is now the trademark brand name for the entire Collection inspired while I documented my journey in my first book entitled 'My Pain Woke Me Up - BLISS!' a survivor's tale about breast cancer, love, life and the pursuit of happiness. Based on my personal experience, I decided to dedicate the Collection in memory of my late husband, who passed away tragically in my arms at the youthful age of 28 from an auto accident during the cross roads of our newly founded marriage. Also, after a family history of Cancer and other illnesses, I decided to name key styles of the CRISSCROSS™ brand in memory of them, dedicated to family, friends or dear loved ones.
The first bra is named the "Nina" bra - after Annina Vulpetti, my dear Aunt who died tragically of Stage 4 BC. Nina meant so much to me and my family. The "Christina" bra will be the next design named after Christina Bloom, a dear friend and business colleague of mine who spent many wonderful days traveling and socializing with me during our post-surgical breast recoveries while we penned our books along the way. "We traveled and lived our dreams and always gave back to our favorite charities."
Jean then designed a men's vest and named the "Joe" Vest after Joe Vulpetti, her Uncle who also died of Stage 4 cancer. "Sometimes tragedies can bring you inspiration, those that affect you personally and those of your family. My father always told me 'to enjoy life to its fullest and don't put off tomorrow what you can do today' and I think about that each and every day. My first husband used to tell me 'to stop and smell the roses', I do that too!"
Celebrate life and keep the legacy alive with the CRISSCROSS™ brand. Drawing upon my vast experience in media and technology, i thought about ease-of use, longevity and transitional undergarments to wear during post-recovery, healing factors that would aid in the process, trendy, chic designs to make a woman (or man) feel confident and look beautiful (or handsome) throughout this experience. Well this has all been accomplished in about 2.5+ years and I am proud to introduce the line and garment for men too, about 20 proprietary patent designs in all with more to follow.
CRISSCROSS™ includes bras, briefs, thongs, men's vest, pouch with the initial launch. "Coming soon" will be plus size bra, sports bra, camisoles, and other garments plus a one-piece criss-cross hospital gown to aid in patients during hospital stays to ensure they are comfortable, and medical scrubs for our caregivers in medical institutions, the OR room or at home near our bedsides. While you wear your CRISSCROSS™ pouch you can place the drain directly inside a top, shirt or pant and remove it to deplete or empty. I am selling women's tops and yoga pants to match my collection made with the same soft fabulous fabric as the bras and panties. You will be so comfortable in the entire collection and look so stylish! A breast cancer Survivor never had it so good. Future bold, colorful prints will become available next year. I thought about the entire EXPERIENCE a Survivor goes thru from day 1 beyond day 120+ when you are well on your way throughout the post-recovery process .....
My motto. . .Don't let cancer get the BREAST of you. I didn't!
Below are the series of videos and podcasts involving the evolution, history and inspiration of CRISSCROSS by Jean Criss
Crystal - plse add this video: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dr-barbara-holstein/2014/05/07/secrets-to-marketing-your-book-that-no-one-ever-told-you-until-jean-criss
Launch CRISSCROSS prototype bra October 30, 2014, Martin Lawrence Gallery, SoHo, NY - tested in the marketplace since then by Survivors and Physicians. A special thanks to Conquering Kids for Cancer (formerly TayBandz) and to Sue Matthews for donating the lovely scarves our models wore and gifted our guests. Special thanks to all our 50 sponsors that evening.
A special thanks to the core CRISSCROSS advisory board team including Daymond John, Helen Rockey, Paul Gaglioti, Michael Mastrangelo, Sue Malone, Leena Gurevich, Tina Wilson, and special dedication for long-standing advisors Dr. Tracy Pfeifer, Victor Vega, Roslyn Harte and all my breast friends at Susan G. Komen. A special thank you to my wonderful Mom, Jo Fontana, who endlessly cared for her siblings whom this Collection is dedicated to...the 'Nina Bra' in memory of her sister Annina Vulpetti and the 'Joe Vest' in memory of her brother Joseph Vulpetti, who both died of stage four cancer. I could not have been so driven and persevered without all the advisors encouragement, inspiration and insights. Thank you all. With love and all the breast, Jean