People with diabetes may have a lot of obstacles to overcome.
Treatment plans and trying to maintain an active lifestyle are among them.
Fashion, however, may not immediately jump out as a major concern.
But for many people with diabetes, it is.
That’s where Type 1 Clothing comes in.
The brand is the brainchild of Natalie India Balmain, who has type 1 diabetes herself.
It’s a line committed to giving women with diabetes clothes they can feel good wearing while also allowing them easier access for injections and a better way to carry insulin pumps.
And it appears the need is there. The clothes are high fashion and clearly made for women on the go.
Diagnosis led to design
Balmain was first diagnosed in early 2007, three months before her 21st birthday.
She told Healthline that she had been ill for quite a while before her official diagnosis. She had dropped close to 86 pounds by the time she saw a doctor.
“I struggled with accepting my diagnosis for a while,” she explained. “There were a few years after where I just didn’t have the self-confidence to do much.”
It wasn’t until 2015, when she was better at managing the disease, that she began to think about some of the little annoyances that go along with diabetes.
For her, clothing was a big one.
“I like a nice jumpsuit,” Balmain said. “But if I wear one, I have to go to a toilet to pull it all the way down to access my stomach or thigh when I need an injection. I remember thinking that I wanted to just be able to sit at a restaurant and unzip a bit of fabric on my leg to inject. And that was the spark.”
From there, Balmain began to think about people who wear insulin pumps and often have a hard time finding dresses that can accommodate that piece of equipment.
Dresses don’t usually have pockets, and even when they do, the insulin pump tubing still needs to be fed over the dress to get the pump in the pocket.
Most women put their pumps in their bras instead, but that can leave a bulge and also requires fishing the pump out of the bra every time a dose is needed.
Fashion with a purpose
Balmain wanted to fix these problems.
Much of it came naturally to her.
She’s been designing clothes for as long as she can remember — dating back to childhood, when a family friend used to call her “Glam Nat,” specifically because of her vivid imagination when it came to fashion.
But this isn’t just about clothes to Balmain.
“For me it’s as much about the movement as it is about the practical clothing,” she explained. “I hope that if [people with type 1 diabetes] are able to sit openly in a restaurant to inject, then maybe people will get more used to seeing it and hopefully more conversations will be had to help educate people and drive out some of the misconceptions there are about this condition.”
“There really isn’t anything like this out there for diabetics,” she added, “and I think it’s really important for anyone who has to manage a long-term condition to have things that make their lives a little easier and help them to feel good about themselves. Because managing a long-term condition is hard work, and it’s so easy to burn out and stop taking care of yourself.”
So, what’s up next for Balmain?
“I started with the ladies wear because that was obviously the area I knew best,” she said. “But I have since been inundated with messages asking for other lines, and I absolutely plan to move into kids and teen lines, sportswear, and even a men’s line.”
Balmain also pledges 5 percent of her profits to diabetes research studies around the world.
“Research is the only way that we can improve treatments, develop new medicines, and save lives. It is really important to me that I give back to the community that I love and that has supported me through this journey.”