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Styling Katy Fox, Hair John Mullan, Make-up Thom Walker, Model Kayla @ StormPhotography Daniel Evans & Brendan Baker

Meet the designer turning medical aids into wearable art

Annelie Gross, the ITS x YKK accessory finalist, tells us why she's pioneering a new aesthetic for orthotics

In her Defects collection, German-born designer Annelie Gross uses fashion to explore her interest in medical aids and their relationship with body deformities. Growing up with the desire to assist those not blessed with fully functioning human bodies, she began to wonder why medical aids had to look so unsightly when they provide something so positive. With this question in mind, she started tapping into traditional ideals of perfection, aiming to challenge how people perceive orthotics and body deformities by re-creating medical aids using media with which they are not typically associated. Her designs, presented here, twin traditional orthopaedic materials with materials more commonly seen in jewellery, and are both wearable and viewable as a standalone artefact. With her striking designs and unique concept, it's no surprise that Gross was one of the finalists in the 2013 ITS Accessories Award, organised in partnership with YKK. We met the finalist to hear more about how she created Defects.

How did Defects come about?

Annelie Gross: The project came about as part of my Master's in Fashion Artefact at London College of Fashion. The course allows you to be very experimental with your work, and the tutors encourage you to develop a collection that blurs the lines between fashion and art. 

What drew you to orthopaedic pieces?

Annelie Gross: The collection has a lot to do with my family’s background in orthotics. For over 150 years now my family has been making prosthesis and other medical aids. During my undergraduate studies, I worked in our family workshop a lot. It was then that I started wondering why medical aids had to look so unattractive, when they offer something so positive.

How do you go about incorporating unconventional materials into your work?

Annelie Gross: I wanted to create a new aesthetic within orthotics by using materials that are usually not seen in a medical environment. I combined common orthopedic materials such as polyethylene with materials used in jewellery and accessories such as silver, leather and acrylic glass. With this mix I tried to take a fashion approach to medical aids, potentially introducing a new way in which people view medical aids.

Do you think exploring non-traditional ideas of perfection is important in the current fashion climate?

Annelie Gross: Some designers had already worked with models like Amy Mullins or Mario Gallo, who were born with body deformities, for example. I hope it will happen more often. I hope that my collection challenges the current idea of orthotics as well as the body ideal that fashion tends to prescribe.

Credits: photography Daniel Evans & Brendan Baker; model Kayla @ Storm; styling Katy Fox; hair John Mullan; make-up Thom Walker