Abu Dhabi hosts Junk Kouture's World Final Sustainable Fashion Competition

Abu Dhabi Welcomes Junk Kouture for Its First World Finals Sustainable Fashion Design Competition

Celebrating the voices of youth, creativity, and sustainability from different places around the world.

I don't know about you, but we're three weeks in and I'm still in the spirit of the new year. “Out with the old, in with the new” is still the motto. Lately I've been obsessing over upcycling and re-using my old threads for new style ideas, so much so that I fell down a rabbit hole of environmental sustainability. 

Lucky for me, I stumbled upon Junk Kouture, a safe space for the youth to express themselves creatively and showcase their designs on a global stage; a sustainable-fashion platform for high school students 13-18 years old that hosts regional design competitions. But there's a catch: All garments must be created using 100% recycled materials. 

When I read about Junk Kouture's many collaborations with students, teachers, and several climate change organizations worldwide, I knew I needed to dive deeper into this world. Just in time for June Kouture's world finals on January 11, hosted in Abu Dhabi, I boarded my flight and headed to the Middle East to experience JK first hand. 

There were 60 exceptionally talented teams of young designers, all hailing from different regions: the UK, USA, Ireland, France, Italy, and the UAE; all of them qualified to showcase their designs for a roaring crowd of supporters at the iconic Etihad Arena on Yas Island. Each team created a look in fulfillment of increased reuse, re-purposing, upcycling, and recycling. Those looks were then featured on the catwalk, to be evaluated by three expert judges: Fabio Piras (head of fashion at Central St Martins, London), Lise Pierron (French fashion model and influencer), and Mehreen Baig (UK broadcaster and author). 

“The aim of Junk Kouture has always been to spread the word of sustainability via creativity to as big an audience as we can but also to create a competitive outlet, like a sport, for creative kids," Junk Kouture founder and CEO Troy Armour tells Teen Vogue. "By holding our global final celebrating the voices of youth, creativity, and sustainability from different places around the world, this is undoubtedly our biggest statement yet." 

Back to the Future, a Dublin design by Joshua Osabuehien and Solomon Eduard

Back to the Future was awarded Junk Kouture’s first World Sustainable Designer Award.

Sixteen awards were announced after presentation on the catwalk, including the Glamour Award, Purposeful Plastic Award, the Innovation Award, and the broader World Sustainable Designer of the Year. “This year’s entries have featured some truly groundbreaking designs, from a dress made entirely of electrical wires to one consisting of banana fibers," Armour says. "Which just goes to show how imaginative young people are with their designs.” Contestants used a wide array of materials, including ATM receipts, trampoline parts, surgery masks, and even actual living moss. 

These students exceeded my every expectation. I had the lovely opportunity to get to know a few of them and to ask some pressing questions about their masterpieces. Check out more of the story below.

Tale of Two Pods

Designers: Eimear Keenan, 17 | Samantha Irwin, 16 | Katie Molloy, 16 

Tale of Two Pods is a design curated at Moate Community School in Ireland. Created using more than 3,000 coffee pods, a broken umbrella, secondhand heels, and a reused dress, this masterpiece symbolizes the power of connection. Each individual pod represents its own story, a story shared over the cup of coffee the pods supplied. 

Tale of Two Pods walks the runway.


Designers: Susana Martin González, 17 | Giselle Marshall, 18 | Sasha Musselwhite, 17

Interfectorum is a design curated at the Academy International School in Paris. Created with garden wire, newspapers, broken guitar strings, cardboard, and old bikinis, this masterpiece raises awareness of sea pollution and the mindless destruction of sea life. 

Masked Fury

Designer: Camilla Cortesi, 18

Masked Fury is a design curated at the British School of Milan. Created using plastic bottles, surgical masks, and old T-shirts, this masterpiece tackles the world's medical-waste problem.

Masked Fury walks the runway.


Designer: Iva Ajotski, 18

Spiralism is a design curated at the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi. Created entirely with nothing other than receipts, this masterpiece is a criticism of capitalism and the glorification of consumerist culture. The receipts are a symbol of our progressively transactional society and, though presented in a glamorous way, they remind us of how the modern world defines humans using numbers.

Mind Pollution

Designer: Bonnee Haynes, 18 

Mind Pollution is a design curated at Jersey College for Girls in the UK. Made up of carefully chosen articles and headlines that represent how the news and media in general negatively represents our world, this masterpiece was created using plastic bags, newspapers, and a reused hoop skirt.

Mind Pollution walks the runway.

Whether proud parents, supportive friends, or environmental enthusiast with a knack for fashion, the atmosphere of the fashion show was alive and full of inspiration. If you and your school are interested in becoming apart of the Junk Kouture initiative, visit them online for more information. Or to stay up to speed on all things JK, please visit the movement’s Instagram account @junkkouture, TikTok @junkkouture, and on the YouTube channel junkkouture.

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