Silky, Soft and Stylish, Bravery Co's Scarves Are Mood-Boosting Headwear for Those Experiencing Hair Loss – Broadsheet

“I suppose the start of Bravery is the start of my medical saga,” says 37-year-old Emily Somers, who was 26 and working as an art director in Melbourne when she first discovered she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer.
“It completely shook my world. I think my first thought was ‘Am I going to die?’ and then very soon afterwards: ‘Am I going to lose my hair?’”
After treatment and getting the all-clear, Somers received devastating news only six months later: the cancer had returned. “If receiving the first diagnosis was shocking, having a relapse was shattering,” she tells Broadsheet.
Somers chose to approach her hair loss differently the second time around; she looked to headscarves instead of wigs for a confidence-boosting way to dress. “It was the middle of summer and the wig was super hot and itchy, so I sat myself down in front of Youtube and taught myself how to wrap a turban.
“I started getting stopped in the streets of Fitzroy and in chemo wards in hospitals, and that’s where the idea for Bravery formed. Other headwear brands out there were so daggy, and aimed at older women, so I wanted to design my own.”
In 2016, Somers launched her online shop, Bravery Co, with nine designs. Six years on and the business has grown to include more than 50 scarf designs of super-soft modal silk, each one a collaboration with leading designers and illustrators.
Gadigal artist Kate Constantine, Melbourne illustrator Beci Orpin, Polish designer Maggie Stephenson, and brands Slowdown Studio and Kip & Co have all collaborated with Bravery Co. Among the designs, one of the most popular is Eve Bracewell’s Wattle Warrior design, which has a deep navy background and popping red native flowers, including waratah and flowering gum.
“Your head can get quite sensitive when you’re going through treatment, so it has to be the right softness, shape and size,” says Somers, who uses a small silk-manufacturing factory in Hangzhou in China – one which pays its employees a higher-than-average wage – to make the 100 x 200-centimetre scarves.
As much as Bravery Co is an online shop, it’s also a bigger support platform for people with cancer. “We share a lot of stories, and not just my own story,” says Somers, pointing to Bravery’s Instagram page in particular. She offers scarf-wrapping tutorials and interviews with other people who’ve had or have cancer. “I don’t shy away from it being scary; I try to show their resilience and strength as well as their vulnerability.”
For every scarf purchased, $2 is donated to Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation in Melbourne. Somers estimates she’s given $10,000 since starting the business; she also gives away scarves to women going through treatment. “It’s lovely to gift them directly to the person that’s going to wear them – to give them more gusto to get through the day.”
Somers’s journey with cancer didn’t end with the launch of her business. In 2019, she had a third diagnosis – this time sarcoma, a form of cancer that starts in tissues like bone or muscle. “Three’s a really good number to end on,” she says, laughing. “It was shitty, but it gave me an insight into cancer that’s really scary … It gave Bravery a change of tone too. Now I understand some cancers are something you manage forever.”
Bravery Co is still a small operation, mostly managed from Somers’s home in Melbourne, with items shipped from Black Rock in Victoria. Each batch of scarves is printed digitally in small batches to limit waste, and in addition to the online store you can also pick up one of Bravery’s scarves at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne and St Kilda’s Space2b Social Design.
Bravery Co’s headscarves start from $119, which can be shipped across the country via Australia Post.
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