Negotiating the sticky ladder of success

Nail varnish, hairspray and even Tippex are some ways to stop women’s stockings and tights from laddering. But all these repair ideas are messy, unsightly, and stick to the skin.

Now after 10 years’ development, there is a scientific way to stop ladders in their tracks. The Runaway instant ladder stop spray has been, well, a runaway success since its inventor, Elizabeth Chantree from Rayleigh, Essex, won a prize at the British Female Inventor of the Year Award in February.

Since the event, sponsored by the Patent Office, Chantree has sold over 250,000 Runaway aerosol sprays and is about to launch her own vending machine operation to dispense Runaway in hotels, railway stations, bars and garages.

Runaway is a clear, instant drying lacquer. Sprayed from a lipstick-sized aerosol, it puts a barrier around tears in stockings and tights to prevent them from running. It’s invisible, dries in seconds and doesn’t stick to the skin, according to Chantree.

A simple idea, maybe, but it has taken Chantree 10 years to get her idea off the drawing board and into the shops. You can now buy Runaway in Superdrug and Fortnum & Masons, and a number of other high street retailers are starting to show interest.

It all started when Chantree was an 18-year old design student in London trying to think up ideas for new products.

On her way to a party one night she laddered her tights. ‘That really wound me up,’ she says. ‘And I thought, I’m sure I can do something about that.’ That led to the idea of a spray-on lacquer. She knew exactly what she wanted – a discrete aerosol producing a fine, non-sticky, quick drying, clear lacquer, but containing no CFCs and requiring no animal testing.

This may sound easy enough, but it took Chantree a further decade to find the right chemicals and an aerosol design that wouldn’t clog up.

All the while she was having to finance the patents and prototypes from her normal work as a designer.

Today, Chantree’s company, Juniper WPD, is expecting first quarter sales of Runaway of £250,000 and first year sales are targeted at £1m.

‘I knew I was on to something very special the very first day when I took my drawings to show someone and was offered £5,000,’ she says.