U.Va. alumnus partners with fashion designer Oscar de La Renta to create clothing aimed at improving patient comfort

The Care+Wear X Oscar de la Renta Hoodie was released last month

ODLR BLUE Hoodie

U.Va. Alumnus' startup company Care+Wear partnered with fashion designer Oscar de La Renta to create hoodie for hospital patients.

Courtesy Care and Wear

Care+Wear — a startup company creating hospital gowns that aim at providing greater comfort and privacy for patients — has collaborated with high-end fashion designer Oscar de la Renta to create the Care+Wear X Oscar de la Renta Hoodie, released April 17. 

In 2014, Chaitenya Razdan, a McIntire School of Commerce alumnus, founded Care+Wear hoping to present cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with comfortable, stylish, protective and functionable clothing. By 2018, Care+Wear has collaborated and partnered with hospitals, such U.Va., Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, and professional fashion designers, such as Oscar de la Renta and Lucy Jones.

After obtaining a graduate degree from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Razdan began his professional career working for business firms A.T. Kearny and Goldman Sachs. In 2014, some of Razdan’s friends and family members were diagnosed with cancer, and while watching them undergo chemotherapy treatments, he noticed they were often unable to wear comfortable, stylish or even normal clothing. Some wore tube socks on their arms. 

During treatments, drugs are administered via a PICC line — a long, flexible tube — that is inserted into a vein on the arm. The PICC line must remain in the patient until treatment is over and could be in the patient’s arm for weeks. Inspired with the idea to make clothes specifically designed to wear with PICC lines, he turned to his friend and now co-founder, Susan Jones, a fashion designer who worked with trending companies like kensie and Free People.

“The goal was to really improve your experience while you were getting treatment and create a product that isn’t screaming, ‘Hey, I have cancer, and I’m going in for treatment,’” Razdan said. 

According to Razdan, historically, everything in a hospital setting has been focused on function, not on style or how it makes the patient look or feel. Care+Wear’s goal is to change the way patients look and feel during treatment, and his recent partnership with Oscar de la Renta provides his consumers with another product to help them feel more positive and comfortable during treatments. 

At a panel in 2017, Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta, and his wife, Eliza Bolen, a daughter of the late Oscar de la Renta, were immediately taken by Care+Wear’s brand and mission, Razdan said. Oscar de la Renta underwent intensive chemotherapy himself and their own brand intends to provide clothing that allows their customers live without restraint. 

The first Care+Wear X Oscar de la Renta product is a hoodie that features multiple zippers and clips to allow necessary medical attention while maintaining a minimal and discrete style. The high price tag of a typical Oscar de la Renta product did not influence Care+Wear’s affordable reputation. The hoodie is priced at $85 and offered in three sizes — small, medium, and large — as well as two colors — navy or pink. 

Previously released Care+Wear items, such as the men’s and women’s chest access shirts, are sold for $45 and $35, respectively. Care+Wear is also inclusive to children, offering a $30 shirt in a gender-inclusive style and blue-green color combination. 

“Our goal as Care+Wear in general is always to make products that are available to all patients,” Razdan said. “What was really important about this product was it was priced to maintain the integrity and quality of both Care+Wear and Oscar de la Renta.”

To help maintain the functionality of the products, Razdan relies on feedback from advisory clinicians from institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Beacon Health. For example, Elissa Bantug, director of Johns Hopkins’ Breast Cancer Survivorship Program — an organization created to help survivors transition back into their cancer-free lives through financial, psychological and educational support — has helped to provide clinical feedback to Razdan and his team for about four years. 

“I am also a two-time breast cancer survivor myself … and so I also sort-of bring in my experiences as well as my clinical experiences,” Bantug said.

According to Bantug, she helps to advise Care+Wear on what features she thinks patients will like and find most important. Razdan said that he relies on his advisors to help ensure their designs remain functional while remaining stylish and fashionable.

Razdan’s product design also heavily incorporates customer perspective. If a need is not met, Care+Wear strives to make a new product or edition that addresses these concerns, Razdan said.

For example, a hospital that is now within the University of North Carolina’s Wayne Memorial system said they wanted to use their product, but they used an extended version of a regular PICC line. Care+Wear responded with a new product, the Long PICC Line Cover, to accommodate their needs. They have also created the Performance PICC Line Cover, geared towards their customers who were trying to remain active during treatments.

In terms of colors, Razdan posts polls on Care+Wear’s Instagram page to get feedback from the company’s community and to make the product more appealing to consumers.  

“At the end of the day, our style is much more focused on incorporating what the patients want as well as what is medically needed, and so I think that will always be the driving force, going back to the trifecta of patients, clinicians and designers all in one,” Razdan said.  

Care+Wear’s mission will soon be expanding beyond cancer patients. In a recent partnership with Lucy Jones, the 2015 Parsons’ Womenswear Designer of the Year and member of Forbes’ 2016 30 under 30: Art & Style, they intend to add “mobility gloves” to the existing line of clothing. 

People who use wheelchairs, walkers or crutches often use gloves to avoid calluses or blisters. Razdan said Care+Wear X Jones’s mobility gloves will provide special grips and padding to make patient’s lives easier, more mobile and more protected. 

Razdan hopes Care+Wear will always provide affordable yet medically practical products to patients in need. 

“What is out there today is very different than what was out there yesterday, and what is going to be out there tomorrow,” Razdan said. “Our philosophy is that there is never going to be a perfect product, and things can always be improved.”

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