Excited to be featured in the Guardian Tech section this morning. Showing people that prostheses can exude style is what we are all about!
Lower-leg amputees can choose from ready-to-wear or custom-made covers in McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda’s fashion range
Written by: Nicola Davis
When Canadian innovator McCauley Wanner began her master’s project in industrial design, she set out to change the public perception of an art. When she’d finished she had created a product with a far greater impact. Wanner had produced an accessory for lower-leg amputees that could be fitted to any prosthetic, and easily interchanged, allowing wearers to express their individual sense of style through their artificial limbs.
“I wanted to challenge the stereotypes that everyone seems to have about fashion – about how it is so frivolous [whereas] it actually is really important for people’s self-identity and self-worth,” she explains.
After completing her thesis in 2011 Wanner began working with artist and designer Ryan Palibroda to develop a commercial line. “We quit our jobs, we sold our cars, we moved across the country to the middle of nowhere and worked on it in isolation – basically on the side of the highway in a shed,” he says.
It was a new wave of accessible tech that proved pivotal in turning the idea into an affordable reality. Made of ABS plastic and costing around $400, the covers are designed in 3D on a computer before being fabricated by CNC – a process that uses a computer-controlled cutting machine. “The digital fabrication process allows us to change something every single time if we want to, which was so important for us at the start,” says Palibroda.
Now based in Victoria, Canada, their studio, the Alleles, offers ready-to-wear and custom-made covers in stylish designs and vibrant colours, with Paralympians among their models.
And these products, the pair believe, are challenging the way prosthetics are viewed. “It’s completely changed the conversation,” says Palibroda. But the team’s ambition doesn’t end there. Determined that prosthetic wearers should have the chance to update their covers as they would their wardrobe, Wanner and Palibroda are releasing both spring/summer and autumn/winter collections each year, with the latest designs scheduled for release next month. “It’s exciting to see that people really do treat it like an article of clothing or like an accessory,” says Palibroda.