I’ve always been a bit of a clotheshorse. Every time I go to New York City (NYC), I love to people-watch and check out different fashion styles. Jessica Floeh got her start in fashion design in NYC, where she created her first prototype for her Hanky Pancreas™ insulin pump accessories. Today I’d like to introduce you to Cait Graham, another NYC fashion designer on a mission to help those living with diabetes.
A Stylish Start
When Cait was growing up, her mother worked as a makeup artist, then as a clothing buyer for a women’s boutique. “She was always so trendy and stylish,” Cait said. “I saw everything that she was doing in the industry over the years, which definitely made up a lot of my interest in fashion.”
In college, Cait majored in costume design, and went on to serve as assistant costume designer for renowned Broadway designer Tony Walton, including work on a Julie Andrews musical. She also worked as an administrative assistant at fashion designer Chanel®, helping them with their Christmas party.
As she was working in costume design, Cait was drawn to versatile clothing that served a purpose. “I’ve always been inspired by superhero or spy clothes that you could hide gadgets in, but are also super-efficient,” she said. “I was working on fabulous shows and it occurred to me that I really wanted to work on something that would stick around longer than just the show performance.”
Each of these paths led Cait to fashion design. In spring 2013, Cait was preparing for a night out on the town with a friend who lives with type 1 diabetes, and discussing wardrobe options for stashing an insulin pump. “We wanted to get dressed up but she didn’t know what to wear,” she said. “She opened up my eyes to this whole world of people who live with this condition and that there’s little clothing that supports it.”
Cait ultimately hit on the idea of a steamlined tank top with hidden pockets, and the Type Tank was born. “The idea of concealing a pump and keeping it secure has that ‘spy wear’ practicality,” she said. “It has a versatile function. You can wear it under a blazer for work and also work out in it.”
The tanks are made from exercise-friendly moisture-wicking fabric and feature two zippered pockets on the small of the back, with another hidden just under the scoop neckline. Each pocket allows small items – and tubing – to be secured away beneath the tank.
Cait has heard reports of people carrying a variety of items in the pockets, including diabetes supplies like blood glucose meters, insulin pumps and glucose tabs, as well as cellphones, mp3 players and keys. It sounds like the patent-pending design might be helpful for runners and walkers, like Julie Jaworski, Missy Foy and Susan Ito.
Production and distribution is a very hands-on process for Cait. “I didn’t really know how to start or how to begin, but I just jumped in to see if I could do it on my own,” she said. Along with help from friends, Cait manages all steps in the process, from purchasing fabric directly from wholesalers in New York City and carrying it across the street to the producers, to boxing and shipping from her Brooklyn apartment. The insulin pump clothing is available for purchase on her website.
According to Cait, response from the diabetes community has been favorable. “People seem to be really excited about this product and its possibilities,” Cait said. “It makes me feel like I am using my costume design degree towards something greater than just the next show. It’s really exciting to think that we could actually be doing something that may matter. My proudest moments are when people send a follow-up message because it just makes me feel connected.”
A recent JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes® also revealed similar support, as she passed out more than 500 flyers. “I was lit with this passion to do this, because so many people were willing to talk about it and were encouraging and supportive,” she said. “After the event was over, JDRF called and asked for more flyers to keep at the office, because people were still talking about the tanks.”
Looking ahead, Cait has definite designs in mind for more diabetes clothing, with kid-sized tanks next on the production list, followed by a line of men’s tanks. She also has ideas for dresses and skirts with built-in shorts with pockets. Then it’s on to accessories, possibly with a clutch purse to contain various supplies.
Cait tries to live by the motto, “keep it simple.” “I feel like there is so much thrown at us in life,” she said. “I find the simpler that I keep things, the happier I am. That kind of ties into Type Tanks. Just one tank may help keep it simple for you. To me, when you keep it simple, you allow for so many more other possibilities.”
Cait’s “keep it simple” philosophy appeals to me, and definitely shines through in her designs. I commend her for her dedication to meeting a need in the diabetes community and am pleased to hear of the accolades she’s receiving. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for her! My thanks to Cait for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Cait Graham received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Hanky Pancreas is a registered trademark of Hanky Pancreas, LLC.
Chanel is a registered trademark of Chanel, Inc.
Walk to Cure Diabetes is a registered service mark of JDRF International.