Bridget Scanlan

How an innovative handbag design is revolutionising the way Type 1 diabetics go about their daily routine.

Words Natalie Cyra, Joy Stephens

Meet the designer of accessories brand KYT – Keeping You Together – aimed at making life easier for New Zealanders living with diabetes, whom must carry an abundance of medical equipment with them at all times.  

In 2010, Bridget Scanlan was a happy-go-lucky 20-year-old, when one day, that all changed and she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 

Scanlan joined the more than 30,000 New Zealanders who have Type 1 diabetes. For them, daily life includes taking multiple finger prick tests to check blood sugar levels, as well as insulin injections more than three times a day. Constant monitoring and awareness is required, as is constantly carrying a multitude of equipment: think blood test monitors, finger prickers, test strips, insulin pens, and emergency supplies for those who need insulin pumps.

Scanlan says when she was first diagnosed she was blindsided. “I’d never encountered anyone with diabetes before, and had little appreciation for what life with diabetes meant. It was a rushed and fairly nasty learning curve.” 

Following her diagnosis, whilst navigating her ‘new normal’, Scanlan began researching ways to empower and help other diabetics like herself. Having completed qualifications in both business and fashion, Scanlan focused on developing a product which would address the problem of organising and stashing equipment.

“After I was diagnosed, all of a sudden I had a new set of accessories that had to somehow fit into my life – and handbag. I looked for something that would keep me feeling well organised and put together, but nothing fit the bill.”

So, Scanlan created the KYT (Keeping You Together) Crossbody – a stylish and functional handbag made from leather. She hopes the bag will not only help people keep their physical equipment together, but keep them emotionally collected too.

After creating prototypes, Scanlan refined her design in line with feedback and added tweaks based on what she heard others wished their current bag would do.

The KYT Crossbody features two pouches that pull apart, so that life and diabetes can be organised separately. The diabetes half opens completely, with spaces for insulin and blood testing equipment, as well as a trash pouch for sharps or empties and a slot for medical ID. 

Each bag is produced in collaboration with Wellington’s Duffle & Co., a company making ethically-handcrafted bags, backpacks, duffles and other accessories. Every KYT bag made supports Duffle & Co.’s leather artisans in Bali. Furthermore, a portion from the sale of every KYT Crossbody will go towards supporting Beyond Type 1 – a non-profit organisation funding advocacy for Type 1 diabetes. 

KYT is truly making a positive impact. “One message I got says it best: “To many they are just bags, but to families/people with diabetes such a little thing can be life changing”.

To vote for Bridget Scanlan, winner of the Design category, to be the People’s Choice winner, click here.

To find out more about Bridget Scanlan and KYT, visit kytbags.com

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