Tega Akinola Is Making Footwear From Discarded Cables And We Love Her Designs

Upcycling in fashion has come a long way. Making clothing items and accessories from leftover fabric to recycled paper, fashion designers are getting innovative by the day and establishing upcycled fashion businesses. And now, there’s a young entrepreneur creating footwear from discarded cables. Meet 22-year-old Tega Akinola, who found beauty in used chargers and USB cords and transformed them into gorgeous stilettos. A Nigerian-British final year student studying Sports and Exercise Psychology, Tega’s inclination towards design comes from her mum, who is a seamstress and encouraged her to design her own clothes. However, this interest came through only a couple of years ago when she started putting outfits together and posting them on Instagram.

We caught up with Tega to know all about her creative process, how this super cool idea struck her, and much more.


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A post shared by TEGA AKINOLA (@tegaakinola)

ELLE: What inspired you to start designing with discarded cables?

Tega Akinola (TA): It happened last year, around the start of the first lockdown in the UK. I was let off from a year-long internship because of the pandemic. I’d moved back home and suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands. One day, I was cleaning out my room and found a bag of faulty cables that my family had accumulated. At first, I was going to throw them out, but inspiration struck when the USB connection reminded me of the ankle fastener of a shoe. That was the foundation for the idea. The next day, I bought a heel with a silhouette similar to that USB and then completed the design with the other wires.


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A post shared by TEGA AKINOLA (@tegaakinola)

ELLE: Can you take us through the process of using discarded cables to make a pair of shoes? 

TA: The heels that I use as a base are purchased from reselling platforms keeping the quality and current condition in mind. Cable ties come next and are extremely essential, as they attach the cables to the shoe’s upper material. I had glued the cable for the first heel that I had made, which did not last, nor did it make the shoe very functional. So, I had to adopt a new method of using cable ties. The next step is to then just make the shoe! Sometimes, I do a rough sketch if I have a very intricate design in mind, but I tend to just go with the flow more often than not.

ELLE: You also made a Nike block heel from a discarded Nike bag, and the brand liked it too…

TA: The reaction the Nike block heel got was honestly quite surprising to me; I thought the pocket heel would be polarising, but it turned out that most people liked it and found that to be the highlight of the shoe. Nike commented on the post, which was really cool.


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A post shared by TEGA AKINOLA (@tegaakinola)

ELLE: What are your thoughts on upcycling and sustainability in the streetwear space? 

TA: I think it’s great that upcycling and sustainability are picking up right now, and I hope it’s sustained (no pun intended). People are making amazing, perhaps avant-garde like pieces from second-hand or waste materials through upcycling, and you can even start to see the influence from the bottom up in the industry.

ELLE: Which designer has been your inspiration?

TA: I admire Virgil Abloh and Samuel Ross, both their work and their stories. They’re quite inspirational for me. In the upcycling/re-use design realm, I love the work of Nicole McLaughlin and Helen Kirkum.

ELLE: Will you be experimenting with any other materials? 

TA: I definitely want to work with more materials, particularly waste materials. For example, I really like materials used in digital technology, so apart from cables, there’s a whole world to dive into. They could be used in conceptual footwear like I usually do, but I also want to try art-like clothing pieces.

Tega Akinola


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