West Elm, meet Top & Derby’s Chatfield cane.

Posted on January 5, 2015

Dear West Elm,

I recently received an email from you titled “Our proudest moment of 2014…” and upon finding this in the contents:

West Elm Improving Quality of Life

I knew that I would be key to your proudest moment of 2015. Allow me to explain:

I am writing you as an advocate, not as a representative of the company or item that I am pitching. I have no financial ties to Top & Derby and I will not receive any financial compensation for this pitch.

The item I will be submitting for your review is the Top & Derby Chatfield cane.

Top and Derby Chatfield cane

Let me first tell you a little more about myself. Nearly three years ago, I woke up one morning, fell out of bed and into the hospital. I was 29 at the time. And since that day, I have used a cane and a pair of eyeglasses to get around.You also need to know that I’m fairly adorable.

Forrest Gump Smile Pretty

This life change made me acutely aware of the stigmatization of assistive devices. Walk for a day with a cane. You will see what I mean. There is currently an ongoing series in the New York Times that speaks to this stigma. Falls are the leading cause of death among our elderly population. Once you outfit someone in need with an appropriate assistive device, you virtually eliminate falls. Assistive devices are frequently discarded due to stigma. It is my belief that this stigma is deadly.

So why are all assistive devices stigmatizing when eyeglasses are not?

West Elm Specs Duvet Cover

Two-thirds of leading assistive device manufacturers have admitted that they are not spending a single dollar on any research or development of new products. There are two beautiful canes that currently exist. Top & Derby makes the Chatfield and Sabi makes the Classic.

Sabi and Top and Derby Canes

I believe if these two canes can find their way into mainstream retailers, this could create a spark that could inspire current manufacturers to invest in new, innovative and beautiful assistive products. Which is why I have turned to you. I want you to sell the Top & Derby Chatfield cane.

West Elm is the perfect retailer for the amazing Chatfield cane. It is worth noting that Top & Derby was created by two former EQ3 designers (Ben Grynol ran store planning and design, Matt Kroeker designed some of their most successful products).

Top and Derby Ben Grynol Matt Kroeker

Ben and Matt were looking to try something a little different. Thus the birth of the Chatfield cane. The shaft of this cane is solid walnut and the handle is aluminum wrapped in silicone. The craftsmanship rivals any one of West Elm’s beautiful pieces of furniture or accessories. Ben’s focus is unparalleled:

Ben Grynol Top and Derby

As you can probably tell from this letter, I have a lot of beliefs. Another thing I believe is that the only way to currently get an assistive product into a mainstream retailer is through collaboration. There are certifications and processes that assistive device makers must go through to get their product on the market. And to be totally honest, they’re expensive and time consuming. This is yet another reason why I have selected you:

West Elm We Love Collaboration

Pitching a cane to a furniture retailer begs and answers a question I spend a lot of time thinking about. Where do assistive devices belong? Should they continue to lay hidden in the wastelands of medical warehouses and hospitals? Could they potentially be treated as eyeglasses, sold in their own exclusive shops. Or do they belong alongside other accessories and products in mainstream retail environments. And if they do deserve a place alongside these other beautiful products in mainstream retail environments, what sort of retailers should sell them? Clothing retailers? A cane is not an item of clothing. Furniture retailers? A cane is not a piece of furniture. What about a sports retailer? We don’t tend to think assistive devices are for the athletically inclined. What if, in the most inclusive of environments, assistive devices were sold in all three. What if, instead of one dreary store selling all of the assistive devices, every store sold just one? What would that do to stigma?

I would love to have the opportunity to chat with you more about the Top & Derby cane and its inclusion in your collaborative collection. I am sure that Ben and Matt from Top & Derby would also love to chat with you. They’re outgoing, funny and passionate about assistive devices and furniture. They also live, eat and breathe good design in the same way that I live, eat and breathe inclusive retail.

Forrest Gump Bench

I also want to let you know that I have spent the past year pitching J. Crew to carry the Sabi Classic cane. I believe you are the yin to their yang. West Elm and J. Crew are the two companies needed to change the way we perceive assistive devices.

So… are you ready to change the world?

Your Newfound Friend,

Liz Jackson

P.S. I recently reached out to your customer service department and will be going through the proper submission process, I suppose I just wanted you to know it’s on its way.


What Others Are Saying

  1. Kathryn Mary Stahl January 8, 2015 at 1:00 am

    This is a very good idea. Making canes available in retail stores would “destigmatize” them and make them more available to people who need help keeping their balance. I am one of these people. Having assistive devices available at the grocery store, the pharmacy, the clothing store, the book store, the office supply store, etc. would be a help to me by saving me and others from an extra trip to a medical supply store.

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane January 8, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Kathryn, thank you for your insights and kind words. Sometimes I like to fantasize about a wide selection of devices and I imagine which one I would pick, which one would be the most ‘me’. I hope one day you come across that item you need that is innately ‘you’. Cheers.

  2. Kris Aaron January 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Good pitch. Honest, concise, upfront, does not waste reader’s time; clearly explains what product is, does, and why stores should sell it.
    Only serious criticism: “…fairly adorable” is *too* adorable. Just, no. Also cut the headshot.
    Otherwise, I like the intro! I’d go with it.

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane January 8, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      I followed up with you via email. This is the jist of what I wrote:

      I think you’re right (probably very right). But this is the struggle I have. Disability is only ever perceived as an elderly issue or an ugly issue. I don’t believe either are necessarily true.

      Are you any more or less sold on the pitch without acknowledging this concern? I believe retailers worry about stigmatizing themselves by blatantly marketing to a demographic that is perceived as old or ugly. And for me, this is one of the most important concerns to address… in a nonthreatening way.

      I’d love to know if you have any further thoughts. Hopefully the line didn’t make you gag too much.

      • Madison April 29, 2015 at 6:01 pm

        Also, (and sorry for over commenting) I like the head shot! You are adorable, and the pictures add to the story and help mitigate stigma.

        • The Girl with the Purple Cane April 29, 2015 at 6:37 pm

          You do realize you just complimented me and then apologized for over commenting… right? Feel free to keep the comments coming!

  3. Madison April 29, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I love what you’re doing! I’ve used forearm crutches and AFO’s my whole life and have only recently toyed with the idea of incorporating them, in a conscious and curated way, into my outfits instead of trying to hide them. If you ever expand to include forearm crutches, I’d love to know!

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane April 29, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Madison,

      Both the AFO and crutch markets are absolute fiascos. I’ve seen Open Style Lab [http://www.openstylelab.com/] do some stuff with AFOs, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t try and do something with crutches as they continue to do what they do.

      If there was an updated forearm crutch, what would it look like to you? Have you ever thought about what you’d want if you had a world of options?

      Sometimes I think to myself, I’d love the perfect white t-shirt, it would be soft, and the sleeves would be a certain length, and it would have this kind of neck and it would be fitted but not tight. But I’ve never thought about the perfect AFOs (something I also wear from time to time).

      So yeah, it just makes me think… what are your perfect crutches or AFOs?

      • Madison April 29, 2015 at 9:41 pm

        Thank you for sharing Open Style Lab! Really interesting work, and a good resource to be aware of.

        As far as your question, I am not sure what my perfect crutch would look like. I tend to go for the classic silver loftstrand. Which is unoffensive but boring. AFO’s are seemingly easier to make aesthetically pleasing. I have mine made at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and they do a beautiful job. The actual structure is standard, but with a minimal strap and an all over matte black. They give a little edge when paired with a black leather doc marten shoe or are perfectly elegant with a black stocking and dress shoe.

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