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Designing a New Look for Pump Wearers

When Naomi Kinnamon was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in sixth grade, she distinctly remembered how wearing an insulin pump made her feel very different from her peers. While her diagnosis initially impacted her self-esteem, she reached a place of acceptance in high school — except there was still something she wanted to change.

“I realized I’m still a great and awesome person and that has nothing to do with diabetes,” Naomi said. “However, anyone with type 1 diabetes can probably relate that there aren’t as many stylish clothing options out there to specifically accommodate an insulin pump.”

Thankfully, she decided to do something about it. While attending the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia, Naomi applied her creativity to designing a collection of clothing specifically for people living with type 1 diabetes, called “Type 1 of a Kind.”

Naomi aims to design beautiful, fashionable garments that have a hidden underlying component — namely more stylish and comfortable ways to wear your insulin pump.

Showcasing her first collection

Naomi Kinnamon showcasing her first collection. Photo courtesy of SCAD.

Fashion-Forward Thinking

Naomi had been taking Fine Art classes since elementary school. While attending community college, she decided to turn her passion for sewing into a professional career and pursued a fashion program at SCAD.

“Sewing is actually a family trade,” Naomi said. “My grandmother was a master of many fine arts, including sewing. She passed those skills to my mother and her two sisters who all had a hand in teaching me. During my senior year, I had an opportunity to design a five-look collection. One of my ideas was designing for people living with type 1 diabetes who used insulin pumps or injections. Once I came up with that idea, I thought, ‘Okay, nothing’s as good as that.’”

Naomi’s family has also been a big part of supporting her T1D journey every step of the way. Before Naomi started using the t:slim X2 insulin pump with
Control-IQ technology, her mom had to come check her blood sugar in the middle of the night.

Since switching to the t:slim X2 pump, Naomi is more confident that her pump is going to help her stay in range. Plus, her A1c level is the lowest it’s been. And, with a sister who does graphic design and a brother who does film and digital media, Naomi hopes Type 1 of a Kind will become a family business.

Naomi’s first collection required a lot of problem-solving. She wanted to develop designs that were not about hiding a pump, but rather about having a garment that accommodates a person’s unique needs.

“I remember when I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and take my injections, which involved taking my whole shirt off or lifting something up,” Naomi said. “It’s these little awkward things you have to do every single day, multiple times a day, especially when you’re not in the comfort of your own home — that was a major consideration here.”

Where are you supposed to put something that’s attached to your body? That was an exciting journey for me, getting to explore that and come out with five very wearable pieces no one else has really designed yet.

Naomi Kinnamon

“I wasn’t starting from the same place as my peers,” Naomi said. “They were looking at colors or capturing the feeling of a time or a place. I was designing for a very specific problem and trying to come up with a solution.”

First, Naomi explored various types of fabric. She knew that to carry an insulin pump the material couldn’t be flimsy. She also wanted to design clothing anyone would want to wear in various styles that fit everyday wants and needs.

Next, she had to determine where someone could put things in a stylish way. She noted that a lot of women’s wear had a general lack of pockets.

“That’s not even for insulin pumps, but for everything else we need in life: Phones, lipstick, keys, whatever,” Naomi added. “There’s nowhere to put anything, so there’s especially not room for an insulin pump!”

Her designs feature button-hole slits big enough for tubing that have a finished durable edge to hold up for frequent use. And, because many people first use injections when newly diagnosed, there are cut-outs and zippers for easy access to the arm or belly area. There’s also a short enough hem on the leg.

Nicole showcasing her collection

Shot by fellow SCAD student, Celena Riley.

Next Looks

What’s to Come?

Naomi is currently revisiting her initial designs and figuring out the manufacturing process to bring her looks to life. She’s also starting to explore additional designs for men and children.

“So many people have already reached out to me on social media asking, ‘When can I buy this? Is this available?’” Naomi said. “It was always the intention to become a full brand because I know there are people out there who have this need. It’s not just me. I’m working towards that now.”

With Tandem, pump users can choose from a variety of different insertion angles, tubing, and cannula lengths. Naomi’s future designs take into consideration tubing lengths, more ways to easily access your pump or infusion site, overall comfort, and versatility — all to offer additional options for an array of personal preferences, lifestyles, and activities.

Naomi especially wants to create a line for younger people living with T1D who already feel different, so they don’t need to feel more marginalized.

“We all deserve to feel beautiful in whatever we’re wearing,” Naomi said.

Follow her journey on Instagram: @naomikinnamon_official

We can’t wait to follow your career, Naomi!

Note: From time to time, we may pass along suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem insulin pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. Please note, however, individual symptoms, situations, circumstances, and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.

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