Clemenger BBDO creative JP Twaalfhoven was a finalist in the Side Hustle category at D&AD Awards 2019 for KYT – short for ‘Keeping You Together’ – bags handcrafted and designed for life with diabetes. The idea stemmed from his partner and co-founder Bridget Scanlan’s own Type 1 diagnosis eight years ago. He travelled to London to present live on stage at D&AD and on his way talked us through the bags.
How did it feel to hear you were one of only five finalists in the Side Hustle category?Pretty stoked! I didn’t realise it would be quite that short a shortlist. This is a project my partner Bridget and I have lived and breathed. We were already thrilled that what we’ve created has really connected with our audience and customers so far.
Our ethos is ‘well-designed wellness’, so to be recognised at such a design-led show as D&AD is even greater validation for our ongoing mission.
Tell us a little more about the process you guys took to creating KYT – the highs, the lows?
To twist the question, the insight for KYT originally came out of a massive low. When Bridget was first diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, it was fair to say her world shifted – it was a big, swift learning curve, and I saw firsthand the emotional impact a diagnosis like this could have. And talking to many others with both type one and two, we found this was a shared experience.We channelled this insight into what has now become KYT – it stands for ‘Keeping You Together’, as we wanted to create something that not only keeps your medical supplies physically together, but which can help keep you emotionally together, too.
To create the designs, we went on a year-long process of research, prototyping and refinement. Along the way we connected with hundreds of people from the diabetes community around the globe to help inform our direction and designs. The great thing is that many have said they can see their input in the finished bag.
A particular highlight was pulling a silver pin at New Zealand’s Best Awards last year in the ‘User Experience – Empowering’ category. This was a huge win for us, as we sweated the details of every aspect of the bag to make sure it not only looked great but worked as hard as it could for our customers. So to be recognised for design that empowered the user was particularly special.
How does the bag work?
Our first bag, KYT Crossbody, reinvents the everyday experience of diabetes from the ground up. It’s designed to hide in plain sight as a contemporary handbag, so you can keep your medical needs discreet. A testing station folds down to keep equipment organised and in easy reach. The bag splits into two, keeping medical necessities and life essentials separate. And it reconfigures into five different bags to suit your changing needs; take it all, or just take what you need. All these key features came as a direct result of co-creating with our community.
No premium, design-led solution existed in the diabetes market. So it was a space we wanted to own. We’ve purposely gone for a premium product and brand experience – high-quality materials and ethical production have gone into a bag that’ll look great, and work hard. They’re sold through our online store for $345, which is comparable with other bags of similar size, materials and quality.
How many bag options are there?
Our first and only release so far is the KYT Crossbody – but there’s plenty more to come. We launched this as a proof of concept to validate that there was an actual appetite for this kind of product. So far, people have loved what we’ve made. And we’ve had plenty of people asking for more options, too. They asked for more colours, so we released three new colour ways in the lead up to Christmas.
They’ve also asked for bigger versions, smaller versions, and we’ve even had plenty of requests for bag options for men; a whole new segment of the market.
We’re currently sampling three new bag prototypes – a refined version of the existing Crossbody, a medium version, and a new option for guys. This is definitely just the beginning though. We’re aiming to launch these with a Kickstarter campaign later in the year and – all going well – this will open up our ability to extend the range further.
How have you marketed the product?So far people have found us through social, PR and word of mouth. We built a small but engaged following from the beginning, by documenting our design process over social, from some of our earliest prototypes. Being open about this process allowed us to get great feedback and steering early on, which helped inform our final designs. It also meant people were invested in us and the bags by the time we launched them for sale.
We’ve also had some great local PR, including hits in lifestyle and fashion mags/sites, and a spot on Seven Sharp (not to mention the likes of Idealog). And this has converted – every hit’s led to an obvious boost in sales. We’re hoping D&AD will create more noise for us on an international scale, to help us grow global interest in the lead-up to our Kickstarter campaign.
What has the response been locally/globally from people with diabetes?We thought our original market would be young Kiwi women aged 20-35. It’s actually ended up being women from 19-90, all around the world. Seeing our customers sharing their lives with KYT over social has been rewarding and surreal; especially seeing a pic of someone wearing one at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Word of mouth has been our friend, with many customers recommending KYT to others. We’ve also been able to create connections between people who’ve seen each other wearing a KYT and realising they have a shared bond in diabetes.We’ve also found a large proportion of our market is gifting – with family and friends using KYT as a way to support the diabetic in their life. Reading some of the messages these people have included for their loved ones has proven to us we’ve tapped into something rather special, and rather rewarding.
The best feedback we’ve ever received was from a woman in her 80s, who got in touch to say she’d been waiting over 50 years for a bag like KYT. Pretty cool stuff.
Update: the winner of the Side Hustle category at D&AD Awards 2019 was The Wayback. This story originally appeared on StopPress.