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When Sabrina Streich saw a cool hoodie sweatshirt on the website of active wear brand Athleta, she fell in love with the look and no-doubt comfy cut. But the Colorado sixth grader had a big concern: how could she make this piece of clothing work for her life with type 1 diabetes?
She would need a zipper for the front kangaroo pocket, to keep her smartphone, CGM (continuous glucose monitor) receiver, and/or insulin pump secure from accidentally falling out.
So the 11-year-old who’s been living with T1D for a few years now reached out to Athleta, makers of the popular women’s sporty apparel line owned by The Gap. Amazingly, she heard back and was even invited to a meeting with company officials, leading to a product design change and new “diabetes-friendly” hoodie! Sabrina has now been featured in Athleta’s online brochure.
As they say, it never hurts to try, and this T1D preteen has proven that speaking up pays off.
In an interview with her local Colorado newspaper, Sabrina said she wrote Athleta to tell them, “I need more pockets because girls just in general don’t have pockets in their clothes and we need more pockets, just as much as the boys do.” She even included stats pointing out that 1 in 300 kids have T1D, meaning 1 in 600 girls need even more pockets. Along with her letter, Sabrina included a sweatshirt sketch illustrating the proposed extra pocket.
Remarkably, Sabrina and her mom heard back, in a return letter signed by several designers at the company!
During their first-ever conference call, the designers asked Sabrina questions about the specifics of her idea and how big she’d want the pockets to be. They also asked about her favorite colors. On top of that, the company asked if she’d fly out to San Francisco for an upcoming catalog photo shoot — and of course both Sabrina and her mom made the trip so she could model the sweatshirt the girl helped create.
Athleta aptly chose the name “Own Your Power” for the sweatshirt, an empowering message that has Sabrina’s life with diabetes in mind.
We reached out to Athleta’s media-folk, but were told the company execs weren’t able to comment at this time. They did note that the first line of “Own Your Power” sweatshirts is already out of stock online, but is still available in certain stores nationally (while supplies last, of course). Additionally, their sub-brand Athleta Girl has a section on their e-commerce site for “Storage, Seamless & Soft” pieces, where similar D-friendly products with helpful pockets may be available.
We had to smile cheek-to-cheek when reading Sabrina’s comment to her local newspaper: “I think I owned my power and wrote this company with my power to tell them that girls need pockets.”
Naturally, Sabrina’s mom is bursting with pride, as seen on her social media posts. The Diabetes Online Community (DOC) also reacted proudly, echoing how awesome it is to see a trendy national brand listening to customers, and reacting by taking action. They’ve helped so many just by adding a special pocket!
While this is very cool, it’s not the first time a company has done this sort of thing. In fact, Athleta itself isn’t a stranger to our D-Community as they had previously included one of own in their marketing: in Spring 2018, fellow type 1 and mountain climber Maggie Crawford appeared on Athleta’s Chi blog sharing her story and modeling some of the company’s active wear.
Also featuring diabetes (and other health conditions) prominently was American Eagle, which in 2018 brought in real-life models to show off their product lines. That included the 2018 catalog for its Aerie line of intimates, featuring fellow T1 Evelyn Riddell in Toronto who showed off her CGM and insulin pump while modeling a bralette. Just as with Sabrina’s recent win, Instagram and the DOC exploded with support, encouragement and inspiration in seeing diabetes represented so publicly.
What an upbeat story here, and we’re thrilled to see a mainstream clothing company (or any company for that matter!) actually listening to customer voices and embracing their requests. We’ve been shoutin from the rooftops for years that medical companies should do the same, in regards to hearing patient voices. Some companies have gotten the message, while others have failed. It’s ironic in a way that mainstream, non-medical brands like Athleta are leading the charge embracing life needs of people with compromised health.
Props to Athleta for listening and taking Sabrina’s idea to heart, as well as being so welcoming to others with health conditions. It’s heartwarming to see this, and we hope other companies — diabetes and beyond — follow suit.