Recycling milk bottles has never looked so glamorous.
Three Donegal students have scooped a €1,000 prize, plus a further €2,000 for their school, after being crowned champions of Junk Kouture 2020 on Thursday night.
Brónach Harkin, Robyn O’Donnell and Orlaith Doherty won the rescheduled final with 'Synergy', their Elie Saab-inspired dress, which was made of sea glass, plastic milk cartons and smashed jam jars.
The fishtail gown stood out among 80 finalists from across Ireland.
It stunned an expert panel of judges, including X-Factor's Louis Walsh, who described the entry as "so different, so original, so authentic", and RuPaul’s Drag Race's Michelle Visage, who said it has changed how she sees milk cartons.
"Honestly, I don’t know how you worked sea glass into a gown but you did it," she said. "And milk cartons? I’m never going to look at a milk carton in the same way. I could be wearing it instead of drinking from it."
Under the guidance of their teacher Pauline McDermott, students Ms Harkin, Ms O'Donnell and Ms Doherty from Carndonagh Community School collected sea glass to sew onto the dress and made glass panelling for the gown from scratch, smashing recycled glass into fine pieces and sprinkling it on top of PVA glue to create the desired effect. They also cut out every petal on the dress from discarded plastic milk cartons.
"We are shocked and so excited to have won, we can’t actually believe that this has happened after everything in the last year, there were a lot of obstacles along the way," said Ms O'Donnell.
"Thank you so much to the judges for choosing us. All the hours we spent on this gown have paid off – we collected sea glass on the beach, smashed old jars and bottles and cut out hundreds of petals from milk cartons. Thank you to our teacher for all her encouragement. We loved every moment of the Junk Kouture experience and are so glad that the final got to go ahead."
Elsewhere, students from Ursuline Community School, Thurles received prizes in two categories. Among the regional winners was 'Givin’ It Welly' by Laura Hally, Cathy Horgan Emma Ryan, and teacher Michael English while 'Barking Up the Wrong Tree' by Kate Fitzgibbon, Sarah Egan, and Rebecca Hogan received the 'Most Unusual Material' prize.
A glamour award was presented to 'Imperium' by Victoria Canty, Ellen O’Gorman, Saoirse McCarra, and teacher Mairead Fennell of Presentation Secondary School in Clonmel.
CEO of Junk Kouture Troy Armour congratulated the 2020 finalists "who waited so patiently for their moment to shine" and noted the overall winners "embody everything that Junk Kouture is about. They have a flair for fashion and sustainability is at the heart of this fabulous creation. I am sure these young creatives have bright futures ahead of them."
Junk Kouture, the recycled fashion competition, was televised for the first time in its 10-year history. The final was originally scheduled for April 2020 in Dublin's 3Arena but was postponed due to the pandemic.