Jessica Floeh is the designer and founder of Hanky Pancreas: “a series of fashionable products for wearable diabetes technologies. Current products consist of scarves, neck pieces, and decorative elements that envelop these devices. The goal is to ignite positive conversations and holistically improve health for those living with diabetes.”
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 4 years old, Jessica has always been interested in the social and psychological issues of living with diabetes. She began wearing an insulin pump at 21 years old and struggled, just like the rest of us, to make it work with her clothing. After studying photography and media arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder, she realized that she wanted to be a part of making diabetes better for women, but she wasn’t sure how to do it.
As a graduate student at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, Jessica began to look at the role of clothing, acceptance and identity for women wearing medical devices. Working with a focus group, she began to create what is now the successful, growing business, Hanky Pancreas. She focused on women because “They are a more vulnerable population and struggle with body images issues.” (Though Hunky Pancreas is in the works.) Jessica’s designs began gaining attention and she received a design award from the Mayo Clinic. She wanted to create something that people liked carrying around, like the iphone…something that people wanted everyone else to notice, not hide away. After a lot of work, her final result, and graduate school thesis, is the fun and fashionable Hanky Pancreas.
Her current designs work with wired insulin pumps such as Medtronic, but she is researching designs for the Omnipod. (As an omni-podder, I can’t wait!)
The accessories are made from “feel good” fabrics and with helpful videos posted to her website, you can figure out how to wear them with your insulin pump. In a variety of fun colors: grays, cobalt, sea foam and plum, these pieces bring spunk and pizzazz to the very dull, durable insulin pump. Jessica says it’s important to her to help improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and this is her contribution. “I’ve met a lot of great people who wear my designs and their feedback gives me the chills,” she says.
Jessica also says a lot of these same people have said the Hanky Pancreas is “a great way to hide the pump.” This makes her uncomfortable. “I feel really conflicted when people say that, because I want to address the current shame and difficulty people have wearing the pump. I continue to address the need to hide these devices and want to push the design toward a status symbol, like the iphone,” she says. “Clothing ignites conversations,” she adds.
Let’s keep talking….