Four years ago, as Lee was talking about a chair design he was working on over breakfast, his friend Dion interrupted with a familiar joke: “Does the world really need another chair?” They laughed. But then Lee paused to ask Dion, who then ran the Gateway Shelter and Linens laundry service that gave work to people staying at Salvation Army drop-ins, what kind of chairs are used in shelters. Dion explained that he’d never seen one that lasted much more than a year.
The challenge that Lee and his business partner Terence took on then was more than just building a durable chair that’s affordable. The Fig40 duo visited drop-ins across the GTA in order to suss out more key needs—they included cleanability, bed bug resistance, and an aesthetic that feels more homelike than institutional. But more than just responding to their research, they wanted to go a step further and create an employment opportunity similar to the laundry service Dion had founded.
“The people building these chairs are not going to be the same day after day, and they might not want or be able to work full time” Terence said, explaining the need to keep the assembly as simple as possible. “And the question then is, ‘With the time they do have, can they do something meaningful with it?’”
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Fig40 combines the talents of industrial designer Lee Fletcher and engineer Terence Woodside. Together, they collaborate with some of the world’s most progressive thinkers to make objects that matter.