The Alternative Limb Project and YVMIN are enabling amputees to embrace individuality through prosthetic design.

By Lizzy Zarrello.

Recently designers have seen these utilitarian limbs as a moment to embrace body diversity by constructing prosthetics with more creative freedom and adornments. 

When thinking about fashion, prostheses aren’t often the first thing that comes to mind. However, Chinese jewelry brand YVMIN is changing that. Ever since the company founders Min Li and Xiaoyu Zhang were in college, they were constantly discussing the concept of jewelry prosthetics. However, it wasn’t until this summer that their vision came to life. When the co-founders came across an OOTD created by Xiao Yang, a Chinese influencer and model, they saw great potential in her strong personal style. Zhang discusses their first interaction in an interview with Mission, “When I met Xiao Yang for the first time in Chengdu, I asked her why most of her photos were taken within the last year. She stated that it was because she replaced her new prosthesis last year.” Her new prosthesis has a more realistic calf than her previous one. This lack of diversity in prosthesis styles inspired them to begin their latest project. 

Zhang continues, “Xiao Yang told us that a prosthesis is like a part of her body. We think it is only natural to decorate any part of our body, prosthetic as well.” By creating a decorative shell attachment for her prosthesis to avoid technical problems, Yang can wear her prosthetic jewelry for different occasions and remove them when necessary. Zhang states, “For this project, we want to help a girl who loves to dress up to have more choice in her prosthesis. In the future, we want to let people know that any part of your body can be decorated.” 

The Alternative Limb Project by artist Sophie de Oliveira Barata uses the latest prosthetic technology to create wearable art pieces, putting her skills to develop realistic-looking limbs alongside more abstract, experimental designs. In collaboration with prosthetist Chris Parsons, she makes prosthetics of various forms designed to exist as alternative limbs and stand-alone sculptures. Her pieces vary from futuristic and industrial arms to prosthetic legs carved from cherry wood. 

Sophie de Oliveira Barata hopes to empower amputees to celebrate body diversity and embrace self-expression through her work, which she designs as customized wearable art similar to haute couture. She states, “Every piece by Alt limb pro is unique not only in fit and style but process-wise, choice of materials and function. We work alongside the wearer to arrive at the design. Our designs are typically quite outlandish and not for everyday use as they have been designed with a performance in mind or with a view to exhibit.” 

These days, more military funding is being put into prostheses technology. These designs feature a new sleek-looking componentry made for injured veterans that allows them to walk 15% faster while expending less energy. These developments are making their way to the masses, featuring computerized prosthetics accompanied by sensors and various settings. 

Oliveira Barata hopes to bring “more outlandish and exciting ideas to a wider variety of people with different limb differences and ethnicities.” She believes that the future of prostheses holds, “more sensors, for different kinds of sensory feedback, alternative functions, more choice in style” and that “prosthetics will be made up of more modular pieces (for different uses) that the wearer can interchange without always needing to see a clinician.” 

While there are currently companies providing accessible and affordable 3D printed covers or prostheses, it’s designers and brands like Sophie de Oliveira Barata and YVMIN who are exploring the evolution of prosthetics. With the addition of new military technology being adopted by the public, amputees can begin to embrace their prostheses with individuality.

Imagery: The Alternative Limb Project and YVMIN