North Bergen students travel to Abu Dhabi for ‘junk’ fashion design competition

North Bergen students are heading overseas for the finals of an international eco-friendly fashion design competition.

On Tuesday, October 25, up-and-coming, eco-conscious American designers and fashion designers competed in the first-ever New York final of Junk Kouture, a global sustainable fashion competition for young people. During the event, 30 haute couture creations made from 100% recycled materials created and modeled by talented post-primary students took to the digital stage on Junk Kouture’s YouTube and TikTok channels.

Ten creations by young designers aged 13 to 18 from the city and neighboring states were chosen by Junk Kouture judges Ben Barry, Nicole McLaughlin and Emma McKee to represent the United States in the first-ever Junk Kouture World Finals at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 11, 2023.

The final 10 models from the United States will face 50 other models, 10 from each of the other Junk Kouture finals in the UK, Italy, France, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. At the Global Finals, there will be six individual City Designer Awards for each location, as well as the first-ever Junk Kouture World Designer of the Year.

Other awards up for grabs include the Glamor Award, Wearable Art Award, Innovation Award, and Performance Award. Students will model and execute high fashion creations made entirely from recycled materials for celebrity judges, industry experts and an enthusiastic fan audience flown to Abu Dhabi from around the world.

An evening of creativity, performance, talent and live music from special guests awaits students in January. The event is presented as a celebration of young people and the circular engineers of tomorrow.

One of ten designs selected to represent New York at the World Finals includes “The Nightingale” by Christopher King, Myles Perez, Jazzlynn Vargas and Josselyn Garcia of North Bergen High School. The students were assisted by professor of fashion and interior design Marlene Sapoff and professor of sculpture and artistic director Steven Defendini.

The dress itself is made of blue scarf sourced from Hackensack University Medical Center, adorned with flowers made of the same material. The blue wrap is a surgical wrap and is equivalent to 19% of medical waste and pool insulation foam.

Reams of discarded pool insulation were also incorporated into the construction of the dress. This material was fashioned into the angelic wings.

North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco congratulated the students for reaching this stage of the competition at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners on October 26. Sacco said the students were among ten models selected nationally as finalists.

“I just got notified that the high school kids are the fashion contest finalists,” Sacco said during the meeting. “They made an outfit out of medical supplies. They are going to Abu Dhabi. They won the local, and there are only ten national finalists.

Sacco said he saw the dress himself and seemed impressed. He said he was especially so now that the students are heading to the World Finals.

“I went one day and saw the dress, and it took a lot of work,” Sacco said. “I would never have thought that we would be on our way to the final of an international competition. It is very impressive. The children are very talented. »

According to Sacco, Junk Kouture allows two teachers and two students to attend. He said they don’t know if the township would need to fundraise to support them, but they’ll see what’s needed as January approaches.

“We don’t know what else it entails,” Sacco said. “We will give more notice.”

Designs to participate in the World Final in Abu Dhabi

Among the nine designs selected are: “Junk Punk Denim” by Emily Humphreys and Olivia Volt of Clearview Regional High School, New Jersey, made from recycled denim used to create the patchwork, bottle caps, cans and recycled rope; “Sugar Pink Rockstar” by Yanin Thammarangsri, Fatima Koita and Sonia Domlan of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, New York, made from metallic chrome balloons, pink straws, cardboard, string, recycled fabric, pins nurse, staples and paper plates; and “Junk Karnival” by Sarah Arriola and Chloe Davis of McIntosh High School, Georgia, made from coke cans, plastic water bottles, wire, newspaper, yarn, dye, glue, cardboard, tape, old t-shirts, tabbed cans, thread, plastic grocery and trash bags, tape, old bedding fabric, old heels and an old bodysuit.

The others selected are: “D’Fear” by Xiwen Mark from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, New York, made of recycled plastic, paper and clothing; “Grandstar” by Natalia Monsale, Virginia Papasidero and Astro Mejia of Glen Cove High School, New York, made from plastic water bottles, paper bags, paper clips and recycled clothing; “Tree of Life” by Ísis de Farias Madeira of M600 The High School of Fashion Industries, New York, made from offcuts and unsold fabrics for the base of the dress, on which the banana fibers were sewn with threads recycled polyester, and second-hand shoes and embellished with the same materials; “Mask Dress” by Naomi Carrion of Bronx International High School, New York, made from masks, yarn and glue; “Record Breaker” by Lia Aldea-Lustig of Byram Hills High School, New York, made from recycled clothing, CDs, cassettes, seashells and duct tape; and “Buttons” by Marykate Hanus and Jennifer Toler of North Kingstown High School, Rhode Island, made from buttons, fabric, glue, string and yarn.

“Get ready for NYC designs in Abu Dhabi to fill you with hope for the future of fashion and the survival of our planet. What the students have created is truly exceptional – creativity, craftsmanship and limitless consciousness will be on full display,” said Ben Barry, judge of Junk Kouture and dean of fashion at Parsons School of Design.

“I’m so excited to have the world introduced to the finalists and their designs. Judging Junk Kouture New York has been a privilege. We’re a generation of high school fashion designers who don’t think climate justice is an add-on or a an afterthought to their design practice, but rather the basis – a creative opening for new fashion aesthetics, silhouettes and shapes.

Judge Junk Kouture and fashion designer, Nicole McLaughlin, said: “I was incredibly impressed with the caliber of design and execution of projects that I saw from the designers. Junk Kouture is a great outlet for teens looking to explore their creativity in the world of sustainability. They understand the importance of this message and seek to nurture the future through imagination and empowerment through incredible opportunities. And all you want to do is keep cheering them on. This is just the start of their journeys. I hope the creators who travel to Abu Dhabi will remember to create fantastic memories and have fun. Enjoy!”

Miral, a creator of destinations and immersive experiences in Abu Dhabi, is supporting Junk Kouture as the Global Finals Event Partner. With the support of Miral and Etihad Airways, the Official Airline Partner and Global Partner of Junk Kouture, all local and international participants and supporters traveling to the Junk Kouture Global Finals will be immersed in the culture and entertainment that Abu Dhabi has to offer.

Standard ticket prices for the show start at AED 100, with attendees having the option of creating bespoke packages to include accommodation and other unique experiences on the island and in the capital. For more information, visit online at or follow social media @junkkouture.

For updates on this story and others, visit and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at [email protected]

Joseph E. Golightly