"The easy part is that you don’t have to try to be different. By being yourself, you already are."
What all started with with a "random bag full of faulty phone cables", quickly turned into a new, intriguing creative initiative. The recent graduate of UK's Loughborough University, Tega Akinola, started her professional career only recently, yet managed to take the internet by storm. The upcycled and reworked Patagonia and The North Face fleece bags, the Nike heels with stash pockets caught the attention of the streetwear and fashion scene in a matter of weeks. "During university, I studied sport and exercise psychology, so any exposure to creativity, particularly fashion and design came from my family and the internet. I started with posting outfit pictures on Instagram, and then gradually transitioned into sharing my creative work. I graduated university in summer 2020, and now, I create concepts and sell some of my work online full time." - explains the young Creative whose work has been endorsed by some of the industry's key players, such as Jerry Lorenzo.
"The works that I am most proud of are probably the ones that are the most challenging to make, which are the cable accessories and footwear. It’s very intricately designed and handcrafted, and there are lot of things that seem so minimal but have to be considered, such as where you place the cable ties and how that influences the overall design. My inspiration behind the cable art is buoyed by my interest in sci-fi costume design, retrofuturism, space age fashion, and fashion using technology."
THE Qu & A
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
Conceptuality – not everything has to be made to be sold or mass distributed; some ideas exist just as well, if not better, as concepts that simply foster discussion.
Repurposing – taking something old and transforming it into something new can be really powerful.
Detail – it can be time-consuming but I think detail is something I purposefully try to pay attention to, as all the little things contribute to the overall design.
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
Sustainability – being consciously aware of what you buy and how you buy it, and how you can reuse it in creative ways.
Quality – just because something is reused or repurposed, it doesn’t mean that quality has to be thrown out of the window.
Craftsmanship – manufacturing that requires skill, patience, and effort.
What is the downside of being a Creative that no one talks about?
I’m sure creatives like me have talked about this, but one downside to being a creative whose main source of exposure is the internet/social media, is the pressure to always create. There are times when you have creative block, or you just don’t want to create anything, but because of how social media works, there’s always this implicit pressure to always keep posting, always update etc. I try to not let that get to me though. Quality over quantity, as they say.
What are ways to disrupt the Creative Industry? Is it necessary in order to get the attention of the audience? Please tell us about your experiences and how you achieved to be seen and respected as a Creative.
This is cliché, but being authentic. There are so many things an individual has that makes them ‘them’ and different to other people, such as their complex life experiences, their niche interests and hobbies, the way they view the world. Incorporating these things into a creation can tell a new story, even with something that already exists. I think people like to be surprised and like to be shown something new and different. The easy part is that you don’t have to try to be different. By being yourself, you already are. I guess the hard part is finding a way to channel that into creativity and making sure people take notice. But the authenticity is fundamental first and foremost.
A quote by Marianne Williamson says “We can’t fake authenticity. We think we need to create ourselves… That is because we’re trying to be special rather than real. We’re pathetically trying to confirm with all the other people trying to do the same.” This is the way I try to approach my work and the creative process. I don’t think I’m purposefully trying to be different to disrupt the creative industry. I’m just being myself and using that. A lot of my work has literally been founded from one random life experience I had, or from things I had in my childhood, or even from a random thought that came to mind. I’m really just feeding all these things particular to me into the things that already exist, such as a bag or a shoe. And that then creates the new story people want to see.
Short Reflection by Tega Akinola
It only makes sense to share the story that pretty much led me to where I am today. At the end of March 2020, the internship I was undertaking as part of my university degree was terminated due to the effects of the pandemic. I had moved back home because of the lockdown, but until that point, I was working full time and I didn’t have much space in the day for creative projects.
When I was let go, obviously it was quite disappointing and I was worried about how it would affect my degree and industry experience for the future. But one benefit was that I suddenly had a lot of free time. One of the first things I did was to clean out my room. I found a random bag full of faulty phone cables that my family had accumulated. Naturally, I was just going to discard it but then I had inspiration to use the cables for a creative project. And that’s basically the story of how I made my first cable heel, which received a lot of attention. That project really gave me exposure and got me noticed by some of my favourite creatives in the industry. I made more cable accessories and footwear, and stylists started to request them for shoots. And I ended up releasing a small collection of my work for purchase including the cable heels later that year.
So, the silver lining for me in getting let go from the internship that I worked hard to get, was that it gave me a lot of time to realise and hone my creativity. And I wanted to really make use of that opportunity because I wasn’t sure when I’d have so much time again to just create and not worry about anything else. In retrospect, it seems like it was a blessing in disguise.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Tega Akinola