We love to hear about our graduates and the pathways they decide on after NZ Fashion Tech. Recently we talked to Bridget Scanlan in the wake of her recently launched label, KYT, to find out how she built her own niche brand of luxury diabetes bags. We are so inspired by these colliding worlds and can’t wait to see more! Scroll down to read her story.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Bridget Scanlan, 28, born and bred in Wellington. I’m the designer & diabetic behind KYT: a range of designer bags, designed for diabetes.
I studied a Certificate of Fashion Technology (CFT) at NZ Fashion Tech in 2015, because I wanted to transition from working in the beauty industry into fashion. At the time, I had no idea that it would also unlock a concept that had been sitting at the back of my mind since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 20. I managed to get ahead with my coursework and started to use my free time to develop designs for a premium diabetes bag that would look like a contemporary fashion bag, instead of the battered nylon case I was carrying.
After CFT I joined in on Project Fashion Wellington, where I pitched my idea around designer diabetes bags. Through this programme I was able to find a leather mentor and start making the bags for real. A year later, I am live with KYT and connecting with people all over the world about my bags.
When did your interest in fashion start?
The three most significant women in my life – my Mum, Grandma and Oma – were all fashion mavens. My Oma used to air freight Vogue to New Zealand in the 1950s for new patterns and inspiration. My Grandma was a tailoress and made all of our special occasion outfits as kids. My Mum taught me the basics of sewing and has always had a love of colour and style – she banned me from wearing black. They used to talk about “cutting on the bias” and different fabric types, and I just wanted to be a part of it. Fashion has therefore always been part of my life, and also runs in my blood.
What do you love most about what you do?
I have spent the last year bringing KYT to life. While it’s a huge amount of work and there aren’t many chill out days anymore, I love that no two days are the same either. I’m a great problem solver (which is handy, because there have been many along the way) and I feel such a sense of achievement every time I cross another hurdle or milestone, knowing that I personally made it happen.
I also love how much KYT has opened me up to the international diabetes community and made me aware of how many amazing people live beyond their diagnoses. I’m constantly uplifted and supported by people who want to help, and believe in me. That is hands down the best part of what I do.
Why did you choose NZ Fashion Tech? What did you enjoy most?
I had heard about NZFT a couple of years before I actually went, through the Kleenex paper dress series. I thought it was so amazing that local people were creating couture looking dresses out of toilet paper! There was a part of me that itched to do it too. A few years later the timing aligned, and I decided to enrol.
I LOVED my time at NZFT. I had never met so many people who were as keen on fashion as I was – you should have heard our chats on Met Gala day! Although I was really scared of the industrial machines at first, I loved working at one each day, and couldn’t believe how quickly we all took to them. NZFT really is learning like no other – I’ve met a lot of other sewers since and I believe that the way we learn puts NZFT grads head-and-shoulders above others in terms of real-world workroom skills.
Who inspires you?
I’m constantly inspired by the diabetes community that I’m now designing for. Diabetes is a complicated, unrelenting experience that has the ability to take the best from a person. But I meet and speak with people every day who refuse to let diabetes stop them. I know I’m better for this experience, too.
How did you choose the name KYT?
When I was at Fashion Tech we were running with ‘sick bags’, but that name was culled for obvious reasons! I used to call my ugly equipment bag my ‘kit’ and were playing on ways to use this as our name. It was also important to me that we didn’t have anything that would allude to diabetes in our brand name, as many people like to be discrete about it. One day we clicked that ‘kit’ could stand for ‘keep it together’ and this then developed this in to KYT: ‘keeping you together’.
What’s your creative process for developing new bag designs?
For Project Fashion, I started by imaging what my diabetes bag could look like if it mimicked a contemporary leather bag. I showcased a range of six bags, and afterwards I took these bags to the diabetes community for feedback. I can’t stress enough to any emerging designers reading this – you need to talk to the people who will wear and buy your designs!
I learnt so much from the community about what their ideal diabetes bag would do, hold and look like. With all of this feedback in mind, I directed all of my attention towards one bag that I knew was the crowd favourite, and made refinements based on the feedback I had heard. This led us to our launch bag: the KYT Crossbody.
I’ve now had lots of requests for other bag styles, a men’s range, and bags for different conditions. I plan to follow the same design process for all of these: check-in with the end users first about what they need, and design based on the commonalities I hear.
Who are your favourite NZ designers? Style icons? Go-to fashion brands?
I’m a huge fan of Juliette Hogan, twenty-seven names, Tuesday label, Kowtow, Kate Sylvester, Harman Grubiša and Charmaine Reveley. I’m inspired by women who wear colour and print mixed with tailored and slightly masculine pieces – think Leandra Medine, Jenna Lyons and anyone wearing Paul Smith. And because I’m a bag girl, it goes without saying that I’ve always dreamed of a Chanel boy, Hermes Birkin, and every leather good Céline has ever made!