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You Can Turn Your Old Charging Cord into Viral Fashion

Tega Akinola loves juxtapositions. She is attracted to casual and formal, luxurious and old, and the unexpected. Over a video chat, the 22-year-old designer explained that her main focus is to transform mundane objects into something more than they are. Her favourite materials lately are those home office items that you either ignore or deem urgently in need of an upgrade. While locked down at her parents’ house in the U.K. Midlands in early 2020, she found a bag full of various electrical cords–faulty phone chargers and wired earbuds. She decided to redirect their path onto a pair of old heels, a mix of castoff accessories.

She sewed fragments to the uppers of the court shoes and block heels. Sheathed wiring around each toe, a USB port ankle closing, prominently placed volume control and headphone jacks. Her result was her first experiment with these materials. It even caught the eye of visionary footwear designer Salehe Bembury. Since then, she has ceased her career as a sports psychologist to pursue design full-time. She created a limited edition run of cable heels at the conscious boutique APOCStore and has expanded to other silhouettes, including a pair of Air Force 1 Lows, a bucket cap and a handbag made from a reconstituted speaker.

Akinola is a fan and student of Nicole McLaughlin’s innovative approach to upcycling. She understands that the magic in her designs lies in their transparency–the open display of hardware, the celebrations of a telling detail-and how those choices force us to rethink the original object. Her work with cables and cords creates a bridge between our understanding of the digital and physical. Like wires, it allows us to consider how we classify them.

Akinola freely admits that she didn’t think about the environment when she started making these accessories. However, her designs draw attention to E-waste, a broad category covering Everything from cables to computers to phones to washing machines to DVDs and exercise equipment. At the current rate, the world’s population is producing a “mountain of electronic waste is about the same weight as the Great Wall of China every year. Most of it ends up illegally being dumped in developing countries to toxic effects. The short life spans of electronic products combined with a lack of viable recycling options are the main reasons for this rapid growth. Although a few cables heels won’t solve a problem this serious, they can spark a conversation.

Gaby Wilkinson: What was it that inspired you to make the cables?

Tega Akinola This was the first thing that occurred to me when I saw the USB port. This is the action of connecting. and This reminded me of the fastener at the heel of a shoe’s ankle. Everything else was improvising.

Are cables difficult to work with? How do they work?

They’re quite difficult. Since I began selling the pieces, my process has changed. However, when I first started working on the cables, I just glued them. It was difficult to keep them in place. It’s now more difficult because I use cable ties. I have to think about where they will go and how it will impact the overall design.

It’s almost architecture. Each choice must have both a functional and an aesthetic element. Please walk me through the design process and construction of a pair of shoes.

Sometimes I can sketch out a design, but the end product doesn’t always stick to it. The first step is to get the shoe. Next, I lay the cables on top of the shoe and create different kinetic movements. Next, I plan where and how I will attach the cables to the shoe. It’s very spontaneous.

Do you love playing with clothes and accessories, personalizing them, or cutting them up?

Although it may sound strange, my mom tried to get me to do these things. She is a professional seamstress, and also makes art pieces. She also makes jewellery and bags. But I was not interested in this. Sometimes I would draw clothes designs and sometimes my mom would convince me to do it with her. I also used my existing clothing to jazz up the outfits I had. In my teen years, sports were more appealing to me.

Daniel S. Williams

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