Prosthetics are amazing things. They replace a missing limb, or body part, which could have been lost through an event or a condition at birth, and are intended to restore the normal functions of the missing part. However, they aren’t much of a looker. To some people, this may not bother them, but to others, it can cause a challenging relationship with self-esteem and confidence, and Chinese jewellery brand, YVMIN, has found a way to combat this.
You might not have heard of YVMIN, but they are a Chinese jewellery brand, who typically creates feminine and delicate jewellery, which they characterise as ‘artistic and romantic’. Their products are experimental and use untraditional materials, and they describe themselves as a body-decoration lab rather than a fashion brand and have the mission to explore connections between body and beauty as much as possible.
Chinese influencer and model, Xiao Yang, has had a prosthetic leg for nearly 20 years, and she says she now considers it very much part of her own body. Even though she has grown to accept it now, she told Vogue it caused her to struggle to have a relationship with fashion; “In high school, I thought that prosthetic legs affected my external beauty”.
Regardless of her previous feelings, Yang started to experiment more with her fashion choices and found herself wanting to incorporate her prosthetic in her developed sleek, modern style of graphic tees and statement blazers. Earlier this year, she met with the two designers behind YVMIN; Xiaoyu Zhang and Min Li, and as a three they brainstormed and thought: What if we treat prosthetics like wearable art?
When speaking to Vogue, Zhang explains she thinks it’s only normal to decorate any part of our body, i.e. tattoos, jewellery, clothes, and prosthetics count as well. Yang was immediately convinced by the idea and the opportunity to turn her prosthetic into a bold statement. This project clarifies that having to wear a prosthetic cannot be changed, but you can change what it looks like.
Xiaoyu Zhang and Min Li came up with three decorative pieces that could be worn over Yang’s existing prosthetic leg, which had more feminine details, such as a heart shaped knee cap. The duo saw the project as an opportunity to challenge themselves and think about practical elements, as well as design. They ended up only creating shells for original prosthetics, as it minimises many technical problems, and allows the user to change for different occasions.
Image Source: YVMIN Instagram
To create the shells, the designer duo had to take 3D scans on Yang’s prosthesis limb and legs in order to make a structure that could fit over them effortlessly. They were made of nylon and resin, as they are lightweight materials that will not affect mobility. To attach and detach the shells, concealed magnets were added so Yang could easily attach them securely.
After the serious part came the fun; adding decorative elements. The heart knee cap and a jagged shape representing a growing plant made the pieces feel more like jewellery. They used vacuum plating to give the nylon and resin a metallic luster, and also inlaid jewels into the shells too. They were able to make the mechanical shells still look practical, while also cute and romantic.
Since posting the designs on their Instagram pages, both Yang and YVMIN have gained thousands of likes and followers for their unique collaboration. For many, it is more than a viral fashion moment, and one follower commented, “I myself wear a prosthesis, but I have never seen such beauty”.
High-fashion prosthetic accessories are a rarity, and normally involve special socks or patterned covers, but YVMIN created an avant-garde anomaly. Overall, all three said the project was fun and a creative challenge, but for Yang, it has provoked something different. She felt so inspired by the collaboration that she’s decided she wants to design prosthetics. As for YVMIN, they hope they have inspired other labels to trial and experiment with the concept too.
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