Stylish Local Tastemakers: McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda

By Athena McKenzie

Partners in love and business, the styles of McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda of Alleles Design Studio artfully complement each other.

 Ryan Palibroda and McCauley Wanner in the studio for Alleles Design, which creates decorative covers for prosthetic legs.

Ryan Palibroda and McCauley Wanner in the studio for Alleles Design, which creates decorative covers for prosthetic legs. PHOTO: JEFFREY BOSDET

McCauley Wanner wants to make something clear: fashion and style can be used to solve problems — and make the world a better place.

“Some people think it’s frivolous and shallow,” she says. “But really, style can define you as person. It’s how you project yourself to the world, and that’s the entire mission behind our company. We didn’t start it as a prosthetic company; we started it with the fashion aim first, and then it evolved into prosthetic covers.”

Alleles, whose studio is based in Market Square, makes fashion-forward decorative covers for prosthetic legs in bold colours and designs. Their goal is to bring people chic designs, styling inspiration and the chance to evolve their wardrobe.

When it comes to personal style, Palibroda believes it is the “narrative that one creates for oneself.” The two describe their own styles as very different but complementary.

“I do a lot of thrifting and I like a lot of vintage things,” Wanner says. “Things with history in them. My favourite thing that I have is an old jewelry box filled with costume jewelry. I can imagine the people who wore them before.”

Palibroda says that layering is Wanner’s skill but that he himself prefers to be “super simple” and doesn’t really like to wear accessories or jewelry. For her part, Wanner describes Palibroda’s style as very European.

Their different approaches do make their way into the studio.

“We are so different in our styles, and we even design differently; it’s a mesh of those esthetics,” Palibroda says.

Often design inspiration comes from the simple question, “Would I wear this?” explains Wanner, referring to how different colour palettes and patterns come into play.

Working in the studio means opportunities for dressing up don’t happen as often as when the pair worked in Montreal — Palibroda as an architect and Wanner as a “user-experience designer” for an advertising agency. But they are able to take joy in the way their clients express themselves with their creations.

“We recently got a three-paragraphs-long email from one of our clients, a young woman in her 20s who previously only had the foam cover,” Wanner says. “She loves fashion and she used to hate getting up in the morning to get dressed. But now she can’t wait to get up to pick the clothes that she wants to wear. That’s important, to feel confident in what you are wearing. That’s fashion working right there.”


Favourite accessory
McCauley: Salvador Dali “Telephone” earrings
Ryan: A good pair of sunglasses

Go-to shoes
McCauley: Day to day: A silver metallic pair of ankle boots with a chunky 1.5-inch heel. For a night out: Irregular Choice heels
Ryan: Sneakers

Signature scent
McCauley: Chanel No.5
Ryan: Jean Paul Gaultier’s le male or Givenchy’s Pi 

McCauley: Jean-Paul Gaultier’s full-body houndstooth look from his 1991 collection or any of the dress/shoe combos from Alexander McQueen’s 2010 Plato’s Atlantis Collection
Ryan: Steve McQueen trials jacket with a crooked breast pocket

Movie esthetic
McCauley: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryan: Trainspotting