Reuse, recycle, refashion is the motto for two Longford schools as they prepare for the next stage of the Bank of Ireland Junk Kouture Recycled Fashion competition.
Students from Ardscoil Phadraig and Cnoc Mhuire in Granard have been working hard since the Autumn to turn junk into glamour and rubbish into style.
Imaginations have run wild in the two schools, with students gathering everything from feathers to brochures and wires to crisp packets to create striking couture designs and works of wearable art that are sure to catch the eye of judges and fashion fanatics alike.
“This is our 6th year to take part in this competition. We have been lucky enough to make it to the finals four times and in 2015 we secured the Enterprise Award for our design ‘Pretty Poll Topper’ made from old election posters,” said Charmaine Hetherton, who teaches Art and Irish at Cnoc Mhuire and is the teacher co-ordinating the girls’ entries.
“This year’s costumes are made from Babybel cheese packaging, inserts from selection boxes and biscuit tins, medals, wires and computer parts, carpet cut-offs and tiles, loom bands and balloons, gun pellets and old Junk Kouture brochures from previous competitions.”
Cnoc Mhuire has eight creations by 22 Transition Year students this year, each one as striking and unusual as the last.
Outfits range from ‘Babybelle’, which is made entirely of the netting, wrappers and rubber-like packaging of Babybel mini cheeses; to ‘Point Blanc’, which is made up of tiny white pellets that were gathered after being used on a shooting range; to ‘That Takes the Biscuit’, which uses up old biscuit tins and inserts from Christmas selection boxes.
The students drew their inspiration from various parts of the world around them. ‘Wear it with Pride’ is inspired by the LGBT community; ‘Wipe the Floor with Fashion’ is inspired by various home decór items, such as carpet, tiles and wood; and ‘Wired and Wonderful’ draws its inspiration from technological scrap such as old wires, CDs and phone chargers.
Other costumes make a statement. ‘Junk Galore’ states that one competition’s junk is another competition’s kouture, using brochures, armbands and tickets from previous Junk Kouture competitions to create a work of art worthy of this year’s runway.
And, going for gold, ‘First Impressions’ is made up entirely of old medals that were previously gathering dust in people’s attics and kindly donated to a team of students for their entry.
“At times when an idea might not come together it was frustrating to try and come up with another solution but everything worked out in the end. They have learned how to work effectively together in groups and learned where their strengths and weaknesses lie in different areas,” said Miss Hetherton.
While Ardscoil Phadraig have less than half the number of entries, they certainly have as much imagination and dedication as their neighbouring school. This year, students from TY, fifth year and second year put three dresses forward, under the supervision of Art teacher Miss Cooney.
“The students absolutely love taking part in Junk Kouture. The excitement starts in September when the Junk Kouture catalogue arrives to the school. Then it’s a case of whose ideas have the potential to go further and actually become a wearable piece of junk art.
“Obviously there are sad hearts when their design does not make it to the Regional Final, but disappointment ends quickly when they know that they can attend the show as supporters and cheer on their fellow students,” said Miss Cooney.
The three outfits this year have huge potential: ‘Maid of Diamonds’ had students putting a call out for old jewellery and all things sparkly to create a dress inspired by Beyoncé, Alexander McQueen and Dancing with the Stars.
‘Black Beltie’, which is made from old belts, old handbags, bean-can lids and part of a chimney sweeping brush, has a gladiator theme and is dedicated to all teenagers everywhere.
And ‘let them eat Tayto’ comes to mind with ‘Marie Anton Ate Tayto’. The imaginative dress draws inspiration from history and is made entirely of old tayto bags (cheese and onion of course), old floor underlay and scraps of fan ducting.
“As a teacher, I have always noticed how they gain in confidence, respect each other’s talents, and how there’s such an energy and enthusiasm among them as they work together for a common goal,” said Miss Cooney.
The common goal, of course - for both schools - is to make it to the Regional Finals in Castlebar. There are plenty of great prizes up for grabs and the final itself will be judged by top names such as X Factor’s Louis Walsh and Una Healy of the Saturdays.
“The students are really nervous about the results. They all worked so hard and should be so proud of themselves.
“They all deserve to qualify but the competition is so fierce now and so many schools take part that it is impossible to say. They are so excited to be judged by such famous people as Louis Walsh and Una Healy,” said Miss Hetherton.
One issue, however, is the voting process. Students who make it to the Regional Finals will need the support of the public which, according to Miss Cooney, makes it difficult for students.
“I feel the voting system is unfair because it generates too much hype and those students who are not getting maximum votes feel that their entry is not good enough, when the exact opposite is true. They are judged on the quality of the outfit, their performance on stage and how well they have used junk materials,” she said.
For now, though, it’s up to the judges and at the time of print, entrants were waiting with bated breath to hear whether or not their entries made it through to the next round - an announcement which was to be made on Tuesday February 14 at 7pm on the BOI Students Facebook page.