Junk Kouture highlights talent and innovation of secondary school students

Martha Brennan

Skirts made out of fishing nets, peacock feather hats and orange peel shoes. These are just some of the innovations on display at the Junk Kouture design competition.

Created in 2010 by a teacher in Buncrana, Junk Kouture has exploded from a small competition for Ulster teenagers, to a nationwide six-part event that concludes in the 3 Arena.

Junk Kouture has attracted over 40,000 students and 100,000 audience members in the last ten years and this year is its biggest yet, challenging students once again to make red-carpet ready outfits completely out of recycled materials.

“Junk Kouture challenges post-primary students to create outfits out of items that you’d usually consider junk. So items that are single use or have outlived their original purpose,” Junk Kouture’s Katie Brill explained.

Last week saw two of the competition’s regional finals hit The Helix, where 30 designs were selected to proceed to the grand final in April. Both events were sold out and according to spectators, the atmosphere was “electric”.

“The Helix shows made us even more excited for the final. If that’s what an audience of 500 is like, we can’t wait to see 5000 in April,” Brill said.

Katie, who is a past contestant herself, designed an outfit made completely out of orange peels for the competition in 2012 and has been involved since.

“Our goal is not just to have a positive impact on students in Ireland but across the globe. Junk Kouture is totally relevant to kids everywhere. With the current climate crisis, every student wants to make an impact,” she said.

Students have been working on their design concepts since September with over 1,300 entries rolling in for judging.

One standout from the Eastern region was a design based on fast-fashion where the student used recycled wool and linen to create a piece that promoted upcycled clothing.

“I looked at one outfit last night and thought ‘I would wear that’, and that’s what we need.” Katie said.

“That’s the way the fashion industry has to go. They have to start reusing materials because something has to change. The industry at the moment is totally polluting the environment and that’s something we hold close to our heart.”

The winner of the competition gets €1000 as well as €2000 for their school. Their design will also be showcased on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival.

“It’s all about how these garments wouldn’t look out of place on a red carpet. That’s the kind of intricate detail that goes into these pieces.” Katie said.

RTE 2fm have a special wildcard decision in this year’s competition where they will pick an extra five students to proceed to the grand final.

To announce the decisions, DJ Tara Stewart will be knocking on school doors to let the lucky entrants know that they will show their designs off for over 5000 people, as well as judges Louis Walsh and Michelle Visage.

Tickets for the final go on sale in mid-April.

Martha Brennan

Image Credit: Junk Kouture