How Tracy Stewart turned surviving breast cancer into a business venture

The Vancouverite's Going Flat Fashions finds the right fit for women who decline reconstructive surgery.

Credit: Courtesy Tracy Stewart

Tracy Stewart founded Going Flat Fashions to help women like her

The Vancouverite’s Going Flat Fashions finds the right fit for women who decline reconstructive surgery

“Thrift stores are kind of my haven,” says Tracy Stewart. And it makes sense—she found solace in them after going through breast cancer treatment a dozen years ago. There was chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and then post-mastectomy reconstruction. But the implants she got were causing health problems, so Stewart, a communications professional by trade, had them removed.

Along with that came some challenges in terms of dressing. “I started, in the last year or so, especially, to connect with quite a few women who were doing advocacy around going flat, or not reconstructing,” Stewart recalls by phone from her New Westminster home. “Some of that led to me being involved in these Facebook groups that were support groups, and some that were fashion groups.”

With people going through the same ordeal she did asking for advice, Stewart decided to open a studio in Vancouver’s Chinatown, and Going Flat Fashions was born last October. “I decided to source clothing that I thought would be suitable for people who are in this situation, but also offer free wardrobe styling for women who need a boost of confidence or don’t know where to start,” she says.

Business was starting to pick up steam near the end of the year, with Stewart offering in-person wardrobe consultations at her studio or taking customers thrifting with her. Of course, once the COVID-19 pandemic came to Canada, those sessions moved online. “I can’t be bringing people over to the studio; don’t feel it’s necessarily safe,” the 49-year-old admits. “A lot of people are immunocompromised, and I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m putting anyone at risk.”

But the Alberta native hopes that her venture will gain some momentum again soon. She’s doing a virtual seminar at the California-based charity event Flattie Ball this year, and the Salvation Army has asked her to be one of its style experts.

“I guess the reason I started it was that I’d been through the experience and felt like I had a valuable thing to offer people,” Stewart explains. “I felt I could help them boost their body confidence, and clothing is a big part of how you feel. Such a small thing can really change somebody’s outlook on a situation or how they feel about themselves.”

There may be a bigger goal on the horizon, too. “They don’t really give you an option to opt out of reconstruction,” Stewart says of the process she faced when she underwent surgery. “I’m involved a little bit in some advocacy work, and there’s still this push to have women reconstruct no matter what.”