In a world where women are compared with men, one designer is determined to give women amputees a prosthesis to feel good about.
Industrial designer Aviya Serfaty was always fascinated with the human body, especially with the body image of women. So when it was time to create a final project for school, she immediately turned to her interest in the human form. What started as research on the human body in general quickly turned to research on prosthetics and women amputees and the creation of a new prosthetic leg designed with women in mind called Outfeet.
“Most prostheses available in the market today still try to imitate the look of a natural leg, and, most of the time, fail to compete with the real thing,” Serfaty, the designer of Outfeet, told O&P Business News. “Prostheses that don’t try to imitate the human body often use a simple light steel pole that disregards the female body silhouette. Outfeet aims to turn the disadvantage to an advantage, and suggest not only a medical device but a fashion accessory. It gives the amputee the ability to express and recreate herself according to her mood, special events she attends and different desirable looks.”
Development of Outfeet
Originally from Tel-Aviv, Israel, Serfaty is a graduate of industrial design from the Holon Institute of Technology. She created Outfeet in 2010 as her final project for school.
“It was my first time designing for amputees,” Serfaty said. “It was actually a great experience from which I learned a lot.”
Outfeet addresses a design-wise neglected group with unique needs — amputee women who still would like to overcome the trauma and lead a colorful, socially active life. The prosthesis includes a collection of flexible skins that can be stretched over the carbon fiber body to give it the volume and silhouette of a leg without compromising its functionality or overloading the leg.
To understand exactly how women amputees live, Serfaty began her research by reading studies, interviews and documentaries and by also speaking to surgeons, doctors, prosthetists, psychologists, physiotherapists, orthopedists and amputees.
“I confronted the technical and daily aspects of my research with society’s take on women amputees in art, fashion, film and dance,” Serfaty said. “After learning all these aspects in the life of amputee women, I took on the main project I wanted to tackle: the more feminine side of appearance and body image.”
A variety of skins stretch over the carbon fiber Outfeet prosthesis.
Images: Aviya Serfaty
Through her research, she concluded that the biggest fault with prosthetic legs is that they are designed to look and feel like a human leg.
“Prosthetics will never look like the real leg and by trying to imitate what’s not there makes amputee women feel damaged and insecure,” she said. “Outfeet doesn’t try to imitate or compete with the leg; however, it is designed and shaped in order to show consideration to the female’s body and curves.”
To achieve a more flexible and lighter design, Serfaty looked at modern sports prostheses for inspiration and created Outfeet using carbon fiber and titanium screws. In fact, Outfeet weighs 15% to 20% less than other prostheses. It also uses a socket that is adapted to the patient by a professional technician and then screwed to the prosthesis body structure. Serfaty designed inserts that would be implanted inside the socket during the process of the socket production which will enable contact with the main structure.
“Outfeet is designed to be a functional product and is just as functional as other prostheses,” Serfaty said. “Usually, with every prosthetic leg, the user decides whether they feel comfortable enough to use it for a few hours or for the day. This is very personal to each user considering their own physical and emotional condition.”
Outfeet has been exhibited at the V&A Museum in London and the Helsinki Design Museum. It was also a finalist at the Metropolis Next Generation Awards in 2010 and received a special mention at the Well Tech Awards in Milan in 2011 for the Innovation Developing Prize.
Outfeet’s design highlights a woman’s body and curves.
“Since this project was exposed through exhibitions, magazines and the internet, I received many emails from amputee women from all over the world that were interested in Outfeet,” Serfaty said. “I realized that there is a real need to proceed with this project and to make it available for them.”
What women want
With her current efforts focused on the funding and production of Outfeet, Serfaty’s main goal is still to design a prosthetic leg that is comfortable, fashionable and that appeals to women.
“Women living in today’s modern world struggle with ideals of beauty and femininity. Amputee women find these struggles even tougher to meet because of their special condition, a daily encounter with their own ‘faults,’” Serfaty said.
With hopes of working on similar projects for amputee women in the future, Serfaty believes that the skins designed to go over Outfeet have a potential future in the fashion industry with a collection that will enable women amputees to create an entire wardrobe, including daywear, sportswear and eveningwear. Overall, Serfaty hopes that her unique designs for amputee women will help prompt new research and designs in prosthetics for women.
“Women’s bodies and needs, both emotional and physical, are different than men’s and it needs to be taken into consideration [when designing prostheses],” she said. “We need to realize that, for amputee women, the prosthetic is more than just a functional product. It is part of how they see themselves and how they present themselves to the world.” — by Casey Murphy
Disclosure: Serfaty is the creater of Outfeet.