Say hello to Tega Akinola, the newest member of the Ten On Feet gang. The 22-year-old freelance footwear designer has made a name for herself through her mindful trainer craft-ups, dissecting unlikely everyday materials and splattering them onto kicks that will have you taking a second glance. From USB-encrusted heels to boots made from dated Nike socks, no miscellaneous item is safe in the hands of Akinola.
Throughout her adolescence, Akinola was encouraged to repurpose the clothes found deep within her closet. “My parents always taught me not to waste, and my mum, in particular, encouraged me to use the clothes I already had in my wardrobe and jazz them up, or make something new out of them,” she says. Her unlikely journey into footwear was born of her childhood admiration for her shoes. “What drew me to footwear was that I realised design themes on clothing and accessories could be translated into footwear design. And because you don’t usually see such features on footwear, it appears innovative and different. For example, a zip pocket on the side of a bag could be transposed to a pocket on the heel of a shoe.”
From the jump, Akinola took to upcycling, searching for the materials she would splatter on her next pair from secondhand retailers such as Depop, Vinted or companies willing to lend out textile waste. Initially done due to monetary limitations, she quickly learned that it was the push she needed, aiding in her clever design techniques. “A lot of my projects are based on one simple idea or design feature, and I build the whole design around that. For example, with the first cable heel I did, it was the idea of the USB acting as an ankle fastener for the shoe. With my pocket heel series, it was the concept of simply having a pocket in the heel, so having an overall concept of compartment features and using the materials of a duffel bag made sense.” From sketching to sourcing, crafting a shoe can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the designer, but the outcome will leave you giddy for another striking eye-catcher.
As for her most treasured creation of them all, her first cable heel holds a soft spot. “I was cleaning up my room one day in the early days of lockdown and found a bag of faulty phone charger cables that my family had kept. Instead of discarding them, I decided to use them for a shoe design concept. It was a lot of cutting and gluing, and it took some days, but I eventually finished it and decided to post it on Instagram,” she says. That particular concept spurred on a whole chain of events which have led me up to this point and I’m incredibly grateful.”