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SustainableJunk Kouture puts the garbage in sustainable fashion

Local students Hanna, Jess, Sandra, Tala, Tamanna and Reem surely never would have imagined that one day they would be modelling striking and incredibly imaginative outfits made from milk bottles, old nylon tights and other bits of ‘junk’ in front of the country’s most iconic landmarks.    The UAE is no stranger to head-turning and glamour. However, these garments are normally made from the most expensive materials that money can buy, not what most people consider...
Harriet ShephardNovember 25, 20219 min
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Junk Kouture_Reem Milk Bottles 5A dress created out of milk bottles/Image courtesy Junk Kouture

Local students Hanna, Jess, Sandra, Tala, Tamanna and Reem surely never would have imagined that one day they would be modelling striking and incredibly imaginative outfits made from milk bottles, old nylon tights and other bits of ‘junk’ in front of the country’s most iconic landmarks.   

The UAE is no stranger to head-turning and glamour. However, these garments are normally made from the most expensive materials that money can buy, not what most people consider to be garbage.   

Enter Junk Kouture, the youth fashion challenge, which has arrived in the UAE and is ready to disrupt.  

Challenging students to design and make amazing, unique and thought-provoking fashion outfits using only waste material, the project promotes sustainability, encourages creativity and demonstrates how unwanted items can be recycled and reused to create something beautiful.   

 Inspiring leaders of tomorrow   

Junk Kouture_Tala Nylon tights 2
Fashion created out of nylon/Image courtesy Junk Kouture

Since launching in Ireland in 2010, Junk Kouture has so far saved an amazing 40,000 kilograms of waste from landfill with the help of 10,000 participants from across the UK and Ireland. 

This year, as the event embarks on a world tour, 100 schools from the UAE are expected to vie for a place in the Junk Kouture World Final, scheduled for September 2022. 

Kicking off in the UAE with a bold and imaginative campaign featuring photos taken at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Burj Al Arab, Emirates Palace and out in the desert, founder Troy Amour explains that he thought it  important to use models who were all about to embark on their own creative journey.

“It was hugely inspiring for the students to see what incredible things our previous finalists had done with items as varied as old aprons, eFibre cables, discarded paper leaflets and optic lenses,” he explains. “Junk Kouture is about changing the way that youth view waste materials. We show them that almost any material can be repurposed or reimagined. We’re aiming to change the mindset of a whole generation.”

Promoting recycling and self-expression 

 Troy’s self-educating program encourages participants to recruit their families and local communities to help them collect resources they can creatively recycle within their show-stopping outfits. 

“Our designers often reach out to local businesses, such as cafes and restaurants, to ask for things like bottles or cans, and some have even organized beach cleanups. I’ve seen the project have a really positive impact on the habits and behaviours of whole schools and communities.”

 While environmental issues are at the heart of the concept, Junk Kouture also encourages individuality. In fact, 2019 winner Maxim O’Sullivan said that the greatest thing he got out of the experience was his ‘personality’. 

 “Junk Kouture celebrates the beauty of each individual,” says Troy. “We want to encourage every participant to be true to who they are and find a place where they belong amongst other like-minded, creative young people.

“We help them develop skills like problem-solving and teamwork, define what they want to do with their careers, become more confident and realise how they can make a difference to the planet.  The winners also have opportunities to earn scholarships, bursaries, and priceless travel experiences. The benefits are really endless.” 

 A global movement

 The Junk Kouture World Tour aims to reach 13 global cities by the end of 2023 and educate one billion young people across the globe by 2032. The competition is free to enter for pupils aged between 13 and 18, and it includes design master classes, educational resources and mentoring sessions.

Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi is just one of the schools that has already signed up for Junk Kouture 2021/2022, and principal Emma Shanahan is delighted to be involved. 

“Subjects like recycling, creativity and protecting the environment all form a key part of our curriculum and the way that Junk Kouture highlights these aspects is relevant, engaging, memorable and fun,” she says. “I’m confident that the competition will provide our students with countless amazing experiences, and an exclusive glimpse into the exciting and creative world of sustainable fashion.”  

  • To find out more or to register your school go to the website or find them on Instagram.

Harriet Shephard

Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.

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