Natalie India Balmain has been designing clothes as a hobby since she was a child. She also happens to have type 1 diabetes; she received her diagnosis shortly before her 21st birthday. Like many others with the disease, she found that it can come with some annoyances, big and small.
For Balmain, it was the fashion factor that eventually got to her.
“I like a nice jumpsuit,” she 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.”
This “spark” she speaks of is in regard to the special clothing line she went on to develop, called Type 1 Clothing.
This clothing line allows women with diabetes to manage the disease without forsaking fashion or running into common clothing conundrums. For example, many women with diabetes who want to wear a dress or skirt must stuff insulin pumps into their bras—which works, sure, but can also create a bulge and lead to feelings of self-consciousness when they have to take them out.
Type 1 Clothing, however, gives women an easy way to store their pump and inject themselves with life-saving insulin—all while looking awesome and boosting confidence at the same time.
As awesome as her idea was, the popularity of it shocked her. “I knew it would get a few likes and shares from my friends [on social media]… but I had no—no idea, in a million years—it was gonna pick up the way that it did,” she said.
Though Balmain’s line is currently tailored to women, popular demand has driven her to plan on expanding it to others, too, including children, teens, and men. Five percent of the profits from her sales also go to diabetes research.
Balmain also believes her line can increase diabetes awareness. “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.”