Wacoal Malaysia general manager Vincent Leong (left) and Takashi Watanabe, executive director of Wacoal Malaysia have collected many stories on breast cancer from Wacoal’s Pink Ribbon events.
Wacoal has been a leader in intimate apparel since 1949.

The Wacoal Pink Link Awareness Ride aims to raise greater awareness of breast cancer, writes Aneeta Sundararaj

BEING a conservative, it feels rather strange having to interview two men about women’s lingerie. Yet, Vincent Leong, 58, and Takashi Watanabe, 41, who are the general manager and executive director of Wacoal Malaysia respectively, see working in this industry as nothing more than it being part of their job.

“It’s all about whether or not men really know how to conduct themselves when doing business. We’ve always paid importance to trust and respect for women,” says Leong, who, like Watanabe, is inspired by Wacoal founder Koichi Tsukamoto whose dream was to build a business that would benefit society.

Through the decades after 1949, Wacoal grew into a global company that became a leader in intimate apparel and contributed to cultural development, engaged in R&D that would benefit women through its products, and promoted Pink Ribbon activities all over the world to raise awareness, encourage early detection and treatment for breast cancer.

Today, the company is organising the Wacoal’s Pink Link Awareness Ride campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer and promote breast self-examination. “About 600 cyclists are taking part in a bike ride around the city,” says Leong.

Having run such programmes in Malaysia for over 10 years now, both men have collected many stories about the people — both within and outside the company — whom they met along the way. Somewhat emotional, Watanabe shares a story about a co-worker. “She was about 50 years old,” begins this father of two. “I remember that she was one of our very dedicated sales people. But, suddenly, we heard that she died from breast cancer. I didn’t even know that she had cancer. She was so energetic the last time I saw her.”

That reluctance to speak about breast cancer seems to be a recurring theme, says Leong. “Many times, they don’t want us to shed tears for them. I understand because breast cancer, and cervical cancer too, is something very private. It’s not always easy for any woman to talk about this.”

Nonetheless, he encourages and supports women who choose to speak of their experiences.

“For example,” he says, “a few years ago, celebrity Carmen Soo, a Pink Ribbon Ambassador appointed by Wacoal, shared her story. It was very touching. Just last week, at one of our workshops, a delegate, of her own volition, made pink ribbons and handed them out to everyone.”

Leong adds: “Even within the company, our staff are willing to participate in this event. They’re not just doing the work because it’s just another event. They’re really interested and do things for our annual breast cancer awareness programmes with a lot of heart.”

Both men hope that with this cycling event, their desire to promote the fact that women need to do self-examination will gather strength. In addition, women are encouraged to come forward and share their stories and experiences dealing with breast cancer, and help disseminate information on this potentially deadly disease.

Wacoal’s Pink Link

When: Today

Where: From New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad, Balai Berita, 31 Jalan Riong, KL

Bicycle: All types C/W hand brake.

Distance: 21km

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