A Cane That Looks As Good As it Works

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A startup studio in Winnipeg is hoping to improve the aesthetics of canes, taking them from hospital-issued utilitarian props to fashionable accessories that a person of any age would be proud to sport.

Called the Chatfield, the stylish walking stick has a shaft made of solid American black walnut and an easy-to-grip handle cast in aluminum and coated with silicone.

It is the first prototype by Top & Derby, a new company run by Winnipeg-based designer Matthew Kroeker and his two business partners, Gerrit de Vries and Ben Grynol.

The team is aiming to raise $20,000 over the coming weeks, through the funding platform Indiegogo with the goal of manufacturing and shipping the first batch of canes by September 30, 2013. Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Business in Toronto, is also backing the project as an advisor.

“The home healthcare industry isn’t glamorous,” says Kroeker, “but it’s ripe for innovation. We were looking for an area that needed more design attention and this was a logical choice.”

Other designers have found healthcare design to be rich with untapped potential. Lanzavecchia+Wai, a design studio we featured in Azure last fall, grabbed attention during Milan Design Week 2012 for an elegant chair that tips forward, allowing the elderly to stand up from a seated position without struggling; its utilitarian function doesn’t hamper the chair’s clean lines and form.

Top & Derby’s Chatfield is also intended to look as good as it works. The endpoint of the handle is gently angled to rest against a wall without falling over, something most canes have a habit of doing; and the “sneaker-inspired” thermoplastic rubber shoe at its base is abrasion-resistant and super sturdy. Three colour options are available: lights-out black, on-the-vine red, or cry-baby blue.

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