Why Offering Adaptive Clothing & Accessories Matters
A portion of this piece featuring Aerie graphic designer Brittany, was originally published on Aerie.com on 1/30/2020.
Spoonie Threads, a female-founded company, brings a unique understanding of both medicine and fashion to their line of adaptive apparel and accessories. They understand the importance of functionality and the value of self-expression and design products that are empowering, stylish and on-trend.
Aerie is excited to sell some of Spoonie Thread’s empowering products at Aerie.com, including sleeves, waistbands, ostomy covers, insulin pump belts and cath clips. They’re also proud to feature their very own Graphic Designer, Brittany Hines, modeling her new Spoonie Threads Insulin Pump Belt and more adaptive accessories on their site! They talked with Spoonie Threads co-founders, Dr. Julie Sanchez and Saba Kamaras, about the importance of inclusion, and Brittany about her experience living with diabetes.
What does “Spoonie” mean and what should people know about Spoonie Threads?
Saba: Spoonie is a term from the “Spoon Theory”, an analogy to describe what daily life is like when living with chronic illnesses or a disability. It was originally created by Christine Miserandino, where she uses a handful of spoons to represent the amount of energy one has in a single day. Every single task – like showering, getting dressed, and eating breakfast – costs a spoon. People with a chronic illness have to take extra consideration of their number of spoons when making choices in their daily activities. A lot of challenges that Spoonies deal with are daily stressors that may be ignored or taken too lightly by medical professionals, simply because they occur after the patient leaves the doctor’s office.
Julie: As a pediatric surgeon my initial concerns for my patients were surgery related and the steps leading up to their discharge. One of my first product ideas, for an adaptive onesie with tube access, came after had a parent come to me in tears after a surgery worried about their child, on the autism spectrum, pulling out the feeding tube I had just placed in his stomach. I felt I had failed my patient and wanted to help more parents, kids and teens. I was hearing problems, and I wanted to seek the solutions, but there was limited availability and a lack of products in the market made for younger people.
Saba: I spent eight years working as a fashion designer in NYC, but first learned about the benefits of adaptive clothing from my niece Eva. She was diagnosed with a rare and terminal form of muscular dystrophy when she was born. I watched my brother and sister-in-law partially undress Eva many times every day to access her feeding tube to give her food, water, and medicine. I thought that there had to be a simple solution for other infants and kids with feeding tubes. Eva opened my eyes to the vast need for adaptive clothing and after she passed away, I wanted to dedicate my career to inclusive design.
When I first started working with Julie, we recognized that simple solutions could easily improve the quality of life for someone with a chronic illness or medical device. We didn’t want to just focus on functionality, we also wanted to make beautiful products that people would enjoy wearing. Everyone wants to fit in, to shine, and to show their individuality. We give them that chance with our fun, bright colors—and our funny ostomy covers allow customers to share their sense of humor!
Julie: We test our product designs heavily and reply on feedback from our product testers—they are a key part of the process. My medical knowledge of information like where and how the skin can become irritated helps guide us. We use quality materials that are moisture- wicking and breathable to avoid skin irritation and breakdown. We use soft but durable fabrics, many of which are SPF 50, and our construction features sensory-friendly seams. We know that how a product looks and feels matters as much as how well it works.
We’re so excited to carry some of your amazing products at Aerie.com! What are some of your favorite designs?
Saba: Our playful ostomy covers are some of our favorite things to design (HOT SHIT) and have gotten a great response. They really stand out with a lot of attitude and humor. Our newest additions are the “sh*t happens” and “Peace Out No. 2” designs, I love that one is really in your face and the other is much more subtle (featuring an illustrated peace sign that doubles as a reference to #2). We have brand new prints coming soon too!
Julie: The bags were initially created because of feedback from one of the nurses I work with who, due to leaks in her ostomy bags, had to carry around extra changes in clothes in addition to all her ostomy supplies. We made our covers water-resistant providing an extra layer to protect clothing from stains.
Saba: The zippered insulin pump belt has found uses by a lot of people beyond diabetics. Who doesn’t like an extra pocket? Especially when you are out on the go or exercising. I like to think of it as a minimalist fanny pack; softer material and no straps or buckles. People with allergies use it to secure their emergency mediation. I use it to carry my phone and wallet while chasing my toddler around the playground.
What have you heard from people you’ve impacted with your products?
Julie: I hear so many stories from patients and they feel when they see our adaptive clothing and accessories it makes them feel they have options and support, and they don’t have to do this alone. We want to give them confidence and a chance to express themselves to show that if you use a medical device it doesn’t have to limit you.
I heard from a parent about their daughter who, because of our waistband, felt able to participate in more activities, run, and play with their dog. She wasn’t afraid of her device excluding her anymore and she no longer felt any social barriers.
Saba: This collaboration with Aerie is a major win for the adaptive community, one we'd like to see more of across the apparel industry. You shouldn’t have to shop at a specialized store for clothing and accessories that is inclusive to disabilities and chronic illness. We read messages from young women who couldn’t believe they could get adaptive accessories from Aerie. When a brand like Aerie embraces adaptive products, they are showing that disabilities are a normal part of life.
Can you share a little about your journey with diabetes? How has it affected your life?
Brittany: I was diagnosed at the age of 4, so in a way, this has been my “normal.” I don’t remember much from before I was diagnosed. Thankfully, my parents recognized the symptoms within a week of them showing; my maternal uncle is also type 1 diabetic, so they were all too familiar with the symptoms that come along with it. From a young age, with the guidance of my parents, it has taught me to be responsible, while also not letting it hold me back. I’ve done anything and everything that I wanted to do and will continue to do so, with determination.
Do you use any of the Spoonie Threads accessories? Which are your faves?
Brittany: I am so thankful that Aerie introduced me to this brand! My absolute favorite is the waistband. It has made everything from working out to wearing dresses SO much easier.
Is there anything you wish more people understood about diabetes?
Brittany: There are so many things! But I’ll narrow it down to these points:
- Diabetes is not caused by sugar. Type 1 diabetes, the one that I have, is an autoimmune disease. My immune system inadvertently attacked the cells in my pancreas that produce insulin, so my body does not produce insulin at all. Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t effectively use the insulin that the body is producing (insulin resistance). Insulin resistance is not caused by sugar and there are many factors that come into play, including genetics.
- It is a constant balancing act. Food obviously affects blood sugar levels, but so does activity, colds, hormones. Some days, my blood sugar could be running higher or lower for no reason that I can figure out, and it can become very frustrating.
- This is a manageable disease, but it is also a serious one! I am continually thankful to have been born in a time where there are medicines and tools that make management possible and that I can live a full, fulfilling life. But that medicine is essential and it is not an exaggeration when we say we cannot live without it or not enough of it.
What makes you #AerieREAL?
Brittany: My determination, which my diabetes helped create. Also, rocking my insulin pump and CGM visibly! As well as not letting diabetes define or ever get in the way of my hopes and dreams.
Have you tried one of Spoonie Threads’ amazing products? Comment below & tell us which are your faves!