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Fashion with a life-changing purpose

Natalie Balmain is using fashion designs to raise awareness of diabetes and help those with the condition to feel more confident.

What inspired you to set up Type 1 Clothing?

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 20. I should have been having the time of my life, but I didn’t feel glamourous and I didn’t feel good about myself.

I have to inject anywhere upwards of six times a day, so when I was out I’d often have to go to public toilets and they’re not always the nicest places. I found myself falling into a rut of wearing leggings and jumpers because they were the easiest.

“In September 2015, I was sitting on the sofa wearing an old pair of leggings with a hole in and had the idea of creating clothes that made it easy for people with diabetes.

Fashion never considers health and wellbeing, quite the opposite in fact, but why can’t you have something that looks good and serves a purpose?”

How do you hope it will improve people’s lives?

“When I got my diagnosis I was devastated. I consider myself to be quite confident, but I became very depressed. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young girl in her teens. Feeling confident in yourself really matters. The stories of those who have bought my clothes mean more to me than the orders themselves. Because people know I have diabetes, they trust me and know I understand what they’re going through.

I hope the range will also be a catalyst to start discussions and raise awareness.

“I had one man in his 50s who got in touch to ask when we were bringing out a men’s range – he said he’d been waiting for clothing like this all his life. I also heard from a mum who was really worried about how her daughter would cope with diabetes when she became a teenager and said these clothes would make a big difference to her confidence.

“Sometimes we trivialise things and presume that people just cope, but these things are important. When your emotional wellbeing is not 100 per cent, then you don’t feel like looking after yourself properly, but you can’t afford not to look after yourself when you have a life threatening condition like diabetes.

“On a practical level I hope my range solves a problem, but I also hope it will be a catalyst to start discussions and raise awareness about what is one of the most common, but least understood conditions.”

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