Frederikke will be designing Daniel’s leg prostheses for the Paralympics

As a leading Danish para-athlete, Daniel Wagner is used to focusing on the functionality of his prostheses. For the Tokyo Paralymics a designer from Design School Kolding will bring aesthetics in play

This summer’s Paralymics in Japan will not be Daniel Wagner’s first. The young top athlete has already won Olympic 100 metres and long jump medals, along with World and European Championships medals. However, it is going to be the first time he will be competing wearing two very personal leg prostheses designed especially for and with him.

The designer is Frederikke Ryhl Toft. She holds a BA degree in Accessory Design from Design School Kolding where she is currently completing her MA degree in Design for Play. The collaboration with Daniel Wagner is part of her graduation project, which she will be presenting this summer.

Frederikke and Daniel just had their first design meeting:

- I create my designs in close collaboration with the users. Therefore I asked Daniel to bring a few objects that are close to his heart. Together with the workshop meeting these objects will inspire the look that Daniel wants to go for. He already told me he wants the jump prostheses to have a clear Danish mark and the running prostheses to have a Japanese mark, so I have to figure out a way to comply with his wishes, Frederikke explains.

Daniel Wagner brought his finest medals to the workshop along with a beautiful and personal piece of jewellery designed by his girlfriend’s brother who is a goldsmith. It is made from carbon fibre from the prosthesis he wore when he won his Olympic medals, and inherited gold.

Daniel competes wearing a J-shaped sports prosthesis. The part Frederikke will be decorating is the socket, the device that joins Daniel’s residual limb to the sports prosthesis. The socket is specially made for Daniel by his personal prosthetist, Toke from Sahve. Since Daniel is competing in the 100 metres as well as the long jump, he needs two different sockets.

- When I compete, I want to represent Denmark the best way I can. Being able to highlight the design aspect and the visual look is just great, Daniel says.

He thinks of his achievements as team efforts that involve coaches, prosthetists, etc. Now he is thrilled to have Frederikke on the team as well:

-Working with talented people improves my perfomance, he explains.

A special design for ordinary people
Frederikke describes the workshop and Daniel’s designs as a pilot study for the other cases she will be working on in her graduation project. One of her goals is to design a ”system for the design meeting with a prosthesis user” that will also be of good use to her collaboration partners. Frederikke’s primary collaboration partner is Anatomic Studios, a Swedish cutting-edge company that specialises in design and development using technologies such as 3D print and bodyscan. Danish Sahva is involved as a dialogue partner. She worked with Sahva during her BA studies making observations, interviews and designs with more than 30 prosthesis users.

Frederikke’s methodology and designs can be applied to an unlimited number of wearables. She also designed for children with Scorliosis (a medical condition in which a person's spine has a sideways curve, ed.), for instance Omar who now has a unique super hero spine brace.

- In Denmark local governments don’t automatically grant funds for cosmetic add-ons like they do in for instance Norway and Sweden. Here we mainly go for the pork sausage-coloured look and nylons. However, my studies show that there is a need and an audience for customized solutions. Of course, physical capacity and functionality are the main priorities, but you shouldn’t underestimate the psychological impact of a personalised prosthesis. The sense that anything is possible on one’s prosthesis. I see me designs as a form of mental rehabilitation for the users, Frederikke explains.

Summer Paralympics
We all get to see the results of Frederikke and Daniel’s collaboration this summer when the Paralymics take place in Tokyo from 25 August to 6 September.

Since this article was published, the IOC has decided to postpone the Olympics until 2021 due to the corona virus.

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