“The show must go on” is a famous line from nineteenth-century entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, fondly remembered as the “Greatest American Showman”. This was certainly the case for Ireland’s favourite sustainable fashion competition, Junk Kouture. Although the 2020 final was set to be held in April of the same year, due to the pandemic, this, unfortunately, couldn’t happen. That said, nothing could stop the Junk Kouture winners and participants from showcasing their works of art and instead, the show took place virtually in February 2021, airing on RTÉ.
In the run up to the 2021 competition, which will take place online later this year, we spoke to Junk Kouture Judge and Head of Fashion Design at Griffith College, Jane Leavey, who tells us what Junk Kouture is and what advice she would give to those preparing for the final.
Jane has been on the panel for five years, alongside Music Manager Louis Walsh and more recently Michelle Visage of RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Traditionally, the competition year kicks off in September,” Jane tells us, “when the Judges meet for the launch. We have been working together for a number of years now, so we look forward to meeting up, as there is always a lot to catching up to do!”
Memorable Junk Kouture Winners
When reminiscing on her time working on the Junk Kouture panel, Jane recalls one piece in particular that stood out to her. “It’s safe to say that there are a number of pieces that have blown us all away over the years, but a special mention has to go to Moo from Our Lady’s Bower Athlone. This was modelled by Isabelle Clarke and designed by Mary Brody. Moo surpassed all expectations and astounded the judging panel with a great performance and was an exceptionally well-crafted multifunctional design.”
“Seeing the creativity and perseverance that goes into these projects has to be the highlight of the event. Meeting students who are passionate about sustainable design is one of the most rewarding aspects for me.”
True Sustainability Combined with Great Workmanship
To ensure the live shows go off without a hitch, a huge amount of preparation and production goes into the lead up to the competition, according to Jane. “Until March 2020, there was a lot of travelling associated with judging the competition. We would normally travel to regional venues to meet the designers and their team, speaking to them at great lengths about their project in order to fully understand the concept behind it.”
These regional venues are dotted across the country and normally include The Helix in Dublin and Limerick’s University Concert Hall, with the Grand Final taking place at a packed out 3Arena in Dublin. With the competition moving online this year, the travelling element is gone, but a huge amount of time is still spent studying the individual projects to determine the worthy winners online.
When it comes to judging, there are a number of elements that Jane and the panel take on board when considering an entry. “Ultimately, it comes down to the concept. It must be an exceptionally creative design as well as being very unique. This, combined with the need to be truly sustainable paired with great workmanship is what is required to be considered for a place in the competition.”
Who Won Junk Kouture 2020 & Advice for Applicants
Junk Kouture 2020 was won by Carnadonagh Secondary School students Robyn O’Donnell, Orlaith Doherty and Bronach Harkin, with their project, Synergy.
When giving advice to those taking part in Junk Kouture 2021, Jane said, “Sustainability is such an important factor for the future of fashion design. Consider the issues which fashion can impact and develop a design concept in response. Find new and exciting ways to reinvent discarded materials or junk, discover new making skills and create truly exciting innovative designs to bring to the Junk Kouture stage.”
Jane and her fellow judges are busy working through this year's submissions with regional finalists due to be announced in the coming weeks.
We’d like to take this opportunity to say good luck to all of this year’s entrants and well done for all the work you’ve put in so far!
For updates as the competition progresses, check out Junk Kouture’s Instagram account.