Junk Kouture_Reem Milk Bottles 5

Junk Kouture brings trash fashion to Abu Dhabi

It’s a fashion competition like no other, with designers using everything from an old trampoline to plastic sanitary wrappers, a mannequin bust, ATM receipts and actual living moss.

The first-ever World Final of Junk Kouture, the world’s largest sustainable fashion competition for youth, is happening on January 11, 2023. And with Etihad Airways as a partner, old airplane seat covers, cabin crew uniforms and life vests will join coffee capsules, orange peels and plastic bags as source materials. 

The airline is flying in teams from New York, London, Milan, Paris and Dublin for the event, in which 60 designs — including 10 from the UAE — will compete for the title of World Sustainable Designer of the Year.

Three judges — Central St Martins, London head of fashion Fabio Piras, French model and influencer Lise Pierron and UK broadcaster Mehreen Baig — will also choose six regional winners from the UK, US, Ireland, France, Italy and the UAE, along with nine other awards including those that will spotlight glamour, purposeful plastic and innovation. The even will be hosted by Virgin Radio presenter Max Hakim.

Junk Kouture is a competition founded by Irish tech entrepreneur and CEO Troy Amour, challenging young people to make striking and imaginative outfits out of 100 percent recyclable materials and items that are often seen as waste. It launched in the UAE in late 2021, recruiting local students to model imaginative outfits made from milk bottles, old nylon tights and other bits of “junk” as part of a bold campaign featuring photos taken in the desert and at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Burj Al Arab and Emirates Palace.

“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,” Amour told Livehealthy at the time. “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 

Junk Kouture
Image courtesy Junk Kouture

Amour’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,” he said. “I’ve seen the project have a really positive impact on the habits and behaviors of whole schools and communities.”

While environmental issues are at the heart of the concept, Junk Kouture also encourages individuality.

“Junk Kouture celebrates the beauty of each individual,” said Amour. “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 realize 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

To date the competition has had 100,000 participants produce 15,000 designs, diverting 40,000 kilograms of waste from landfill.

As the UAE’s national airline, we are proud to extend our own sustainability ambitions to empower our partners to contribute in their own way,” said Amina Taher, vice president brand, marketing and sponsorship at Etihad Airways. “In the past, we’ve successfully partnered with artists to recycle aircraft parts into sculptures, and we’re excited about this latest journey into the world of fashion.”

Students from Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi are part of the competition. 

Junk Kouture_Hana, Jess and Sandra (2)
Image courtesy Junk Kouture

“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,” said principal Emma Shanahan. “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.”  

After the World Final, the Junk Kouture World Tour begins, with the goal of reaching 13 global cities by the end of 2023, and educate one billion young people across the globe by 2032. 

• With files from Harriet Shephard

Livehealthymag.com is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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