00:00 Saturday 01 October 2011  Written by Deirdre Mangan

More fashion, less waste!

Junk Kouture, in association with the European Recycling Platform, this week launched the ERP Junk Kouture Recycled Fashion Competition 2012. The competition, which is in its second year, sets the challenge to budding fashion designers among the nation's secondary school students, inviting them to rework trash and other already used materials and craft them into remarkable high-end couture fashion for both men and women.

Recycling and fashion have become intertwined in recent years. Fabrics made from recycled items are now becoming more commonplace with recycled polyester made from recycled drinks bottles now being made by companies such as Patagonia, Marks and Spencer and Armani jeans.

Eco fabrics

Armani jeans have been incorporating eco fabrics and design since the mid 1990s. Their first eco project started in 1995 with the development of a process to recycle denim. This was revolutionary for the time and the jeans were displayed at the Science and Technology Museum of Milan. Later that year, Armani Jeans developed new materials using 60% recycled wool and recycled cross dyed cotton and introduced hemp eco washes into the collection. This experimentation has continued with the production of an organic knitwear range, the use of pure alpaca and the engagement with fair-trade cotton projects in Peru and Bolivia and recycled polyester.

Some fashion businesses use fabric waste generated during the manufacturing process or material that has been designated as unusable due to minor faults.

Companies like From Somewhere specialise in creating collections from this kind of fabric (and refer to this process as 'upcycling' rather than recycling!).

This year, ERP are delighted to be getting involved in the second year of such a great initiative for secondary schools. ERP is Ireland's only pan-European compliance scheme for electrical and electronic waste and waste battery recycling. The recycled fashion competition, which is open to all secondary school students, will feature regional semi-finals across all four provinces, and culminate in a grand final in Dublin on April 20th 2012.

The winning school will receive €2,500 in prize money, with the winning team receiving €500, IT equipment to the value of €1,000 and a place on a week-long fashion design course at the Grafton Academy, Dublin.

Fantastic opportunity

The integration of electrical waste into the design forms part of the challenge, with a special prize to be awarded by ERP for its most inspired and creative use. Elizabeth O'Donnell, the Junk Kouture coordinator, said: 'To have the support of ERP, who encourage responsible recycling, adds great strength to the message of the Junk Kouture competition.

Junk Kouture gives schools a fantastic opportunity to educate their students on the importance of sustainability, while giving them an outlet for their creativity. We would encourage as many schools as possible to get involved! In October, I will be embarking on a whistle-stop tour of the country, visiting participating schools and educating students on how recycled materials can be used to create Junk Kouture style!'

Head of Corporate Communications ERP Ireland, Yvonne Holmes, added: 'We are very excited to be involved in this competition. We believe it challenges students' creativity and makes them think twice about their attitude to recycling while encouraging behavioural change. We were especially drawn by the creative element of the competition and, after seeing some of the incredible entries from last year, we cannot wait to see what the students create in 2012.'

Many Irish designers have also transformed 'junk' to fashion! Based in Belfast, Lesley Frew creates contemporary, ethical jewellery using discarded plastic bags, tags and other consumer-related items. Her choice of materials is deliberate; she chooses resources that are destructive to our environment and heading for landfill. Lesley gives these materials a second life, by transforming and reusing them. She enjoys confronting people's expectations by taking a discarded material, giving it a new value and showing that it can be beautiful.

Students must submit their entry online at www.junkkouture.com by January 31st.

A shortlist of entries will then be selected, and they will feature in the semi-finals in March 2012, with 60 outfits then progressing to the grand final in April 2012. For more information, log on to the Junk Kouture website or Facebook page.

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