Grad invention makes closing buttons a snap

Three graduates from Sheffield University have been awarded £25,000 by Arthritis Research UK to further develop their magnetic button fastening technology.

Matt shows off one of the shirts
Matt shows off one of the shirts

Handy Fasteners is the brainchild of Matt Barrett, Natalie English and Tom Fantham, whose academic backgrounds at Sheffield involve a combination of engineering and psychology. The magnetic buttons can be retrofitted to any garment, making it easier for those with dexterity problems to fasten their clothing.

The team received the award after participating in the Design Council’s Spark programme, an innovation fund designed to fast-track products to market.

When they came out ahead of over 300 other entrants, they were encouraged to pitch for up to £50,000 from Arthritis Research UK.

“It’s been a weird but hugely exciting journey,” said Matt. “The product development process has been really interesting and the look on people’s faces when they try out the shirts is amazing.”

Although many people take it for granted, buttoning up a shirt requires a high level of dexterity, and using magnets is a simple yet effective way of overcoming the problem. Those suffering with arthritis are a primary target market, but the team believes the product could benefit a wide range of people, including Parkinson’s patients and people affected by early stage dementia.

“Arthritis can stop you doing the little things that have a huge impact on your independence and confidence,” said Liam O’Toole, chief executive of Arthritis Research UK.

“If you have arthritis in your hands, using buttons and zips can make getting dressed independently really difficult. That’s why we are delighted to have been part of the Spark Awards and support the winning entry.”