Diabetes Forecast

Diabetes Chic

Designers of diabetes supply cases make staying healthy look good

By Tracey Neithercott , ,

Skidaddle Bags designer Maria Lester was inspired by her daughter to launch a collection.

Maiya Lester was having one of those days. At 6, she felt different because her type 1 diabetes required public blood glucose tests and an embarrassing diabetes bag. It was the latter that brought her to tears after school one day. "I felt so terrible," says Maria Lester, Maiya's mother. "Not only did she have to deal with [diabetes], but she was dealing with low self-esteem."

Lester vowed to create diabetes bags people would be excited to carry. Despite having no previous design experience, Lester researched manufacturers, sketched designs, and sewed a prototype of her very first Skidaddle bag. Maiya approved. Now 11, she rotates through the different designs, all of which she's proud to show off.

Let's Hear It for the Boys

Purses may typically be a woman's domain, but boys and men with diabetes need to carry supplies, too. Click HERE to see some fashionable (yet masculine) options.

The patterns are fun, tuned into clothing trends. Small details—pockets, clasps, zippers, ribbons, and well-placed studs—add character. Without unzipping each bag, you'd never know they're meant to hold diabetes supplies.

"The beauty aspect is important," says Lester, who still designs each bag herself. "But most important is the part holding the medications." There are slots for blood glucose meters, glucagon, and insulin pens. Mesh pouches keep supplies easily visible. Some of the bags are insulated.

Lester successfully melds the two sides of a Skidaddle bag, creating functional medical cases that look like fashion accessories. "We express who we are with the clothes we wear," she says. "A medical bag shouldn't be any different."

Supporting Diabetes Management

When Rickina Velte, 37 (left), was pregnant with her second child, she had gestational diabetes. Velte bemoaned the absence of stylish diabetes bags each time she pulled her black nylon supply case from her purse. She shared her embarrassment with the online diabetes community and learned that plenty of other people agreed: The boring bags had to go.

Soon after, Stick Me Designs was born. The first bags were a set of wristlets. "It was a simple design, but functional and cute," Velte says. Now, the company offers a variety of fabrics for wristlets and a larger bag, both of which have pockets, pouches, and straps for diabetes supplies.

The mother of two spends her post-work hours (yep, she works full-time, too) on Stick Me Designs. "When I get home, it's nonstop," she says of the way she juggles her day job, household, and business.

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The reward, says Velte, is knowing that her bags help people better care for their diabetes. "I hear a lot of feedback from parents who say, 'At first I couldn't get them to carry their stuff. But now it's colorful and bright, and it's something they want to carry,' " she says.

Encouraging a Discussion

Carolyn Jäger (left) was a fashion plate from an early age. "I could never stand that black [diabetes] bag, so I was always jerry-rigging my own," she says. Her mother caught on and started to sew. She'd buy colorful fabric and reinvent the boring cases both Jäger and her sister Susan (who, like Jäger, has type 1 diabetes) used. Jäger soon began to sew her own bags. After 15 years of DIY design, a career in department store marketing and fashion, and a push from her husband, BJ, Jäger decided to take her idea public.

The resulting company is Sugar Medical Supply. Though the bags are now produced on a larger scale, Jäger, 37, decides on their design and construction: easy-to-clean fabric that's flowery and grown-up, simple and athletic, bright, feminine, masculine, or fun. All of the bags can hold insulin pens and just about any type of meter, secured inside with a clear strap that allows viewing of blood glucose results.

Aside from waging a war on boring cases everywhere, Jäger hopes her bags will prompt people to be more open about their diabetes. "A lot of people don't like to tell anyone about their diabetes," she says. The result: They leave their bag at home and skip blood glucose tests. By making the bags fun, she aims to give people with diabetes a reason to tote their supplies with them: "We should encourage people to say, 'You know, I'll take that [bag] with me today.' "

A Diabetes Chic Collection

From left, Skidaddle Bags Carnival Hipster, $47.24, and Dot Clutch, $40.60, skidaddlebags.com

This pinkalicious handbag unsnaps to reveal two supply compartments. Myabetic Moya Handbag in pink, $59.95, myabetic.com This organizer (from a mom with three type 1 kids) has two see-through interior compartments. Girly Girl Studios Raven organizer, $48.99, girlygirlstudio.com
Choose from an array of fun fabrics for this case with inner elastic straps that secure your stuff. Girly Girl Studios Kayla meter case, $46.99, girlygirlstudio.com A cooler insert in this stylish handbag protects medications from heat. Medicool Cooler Couture Cooler Handbag in red, $34.98, medicool.com
Cases by Sugar Medical Supply founder Carolyn Jäger feature clear vinyl, elastic, and Velcro straps that adjust to fit and display most meters. From left, Java Bloom and Pink Punch bags, $29.99 each, sugarmedicalsupply.com
Designer Rickina Velte, who experienced gestational diabetes, frequently introduces new fabrics in her collection. From left, Stick Me Designs Limited Edition Saffron Wristlet, $34.99, and Punky Girl Deluxe Clutch, $43.99, stickmedesigns.org
One side of this purse unzips for access to a removable supplies clutch. Adorn Handbag in dark khaki, $69.95, adorndesigns.com


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