Fashion news

The businessman who transforms walking sticks into fashion accessories

Ian Gilson with his walking sticks

A man living with multiple illnesses has launched his own business transforming dull walking sticks into trendy fashion accessories for people with limited mobility.

Ian Gilson has a fair bit of experience in management, he used to run a karaoke company - his love of music comes from performing in a band.

Eight years ago his life took an unexpected curveball when he was diagnosed with chronic tinnitus, around the same time his scoliosis started to deteriorate.

Now 48, Gilson has used his business skills to launch GenXcess, which jazzes up walking sticks for those who need them. He falls into that camp himself, becoming a stick user in June 2022.

A comment stuck with him, one day Gibson was wandering down a local Bristol street when someone called him an ‘old fella’.

It was a lightbulb moment, he transformed his walking stick, which he refers to as the ‘boomstick’, into a tech piece of art complete with an inbuilt speaker modelled on the spaghetti Western movies he used to be transfixed with as a lad.

Gilson’s canes come in a wide range of themes, he’s recently jumped on the Barbie bandwagon and designed a stick based on the infamous movie star doll, there’s a few Star Wars ones lurking about too.

Others come engraved with messages or attachments such as lights or a water bottle holder.

Gilson told Bristol Post: “I make interesting walking sticks. I started using a stick when I was 48 and found that people immediately started treating me differently.

“I’ve experienced a lot of discrimination that older people usually have through the use of a stick. People make judgments about you being weak or vulnerable or even a threat. It has become associated with creepy characters in films like the bond villains.

“It’s because we’ve somehow allowed the walking stick to become a symbol of disability, weakness and even a horror symbol. I want to take that power back and make it about personality, visibility and mobility.

“I had been going through a really dark period previously trying to cope with the pain from the scoliosis and unable to sleep with the high-pitched noises.”

A range of walking sticks available through GenXcess

He added: “I discovered while out in the countryside one day that by listening to the sound of a river I could temporarily block out the constant noise. I literally broke down and cried. It was like experiencing silence again, something I know I will never have.

“I realised that through creating different sound environments, I could be present in the world again. Having the boomstick helps me to create my own soundscapes and enjoy music again at a comfortable volume. Why should a walking stick be any different from a hat or handbag? It’s a fashion accessory, so let's make it personal and make it fun.”

[ For more information and to make purchases visit the Genxcess website ]

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