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Techinee Nawaing (19) from Athlone, who stars in a brand-new documentary ‘Waking the Muse’.


Awakening young people’s innate creativity: Junk Kouture

5 min read

Awakening young people’s innate creativity: Junk Kouture

5 min read


Awakening young people’s innate creativity: Junk Kouture

Ahead of the much-anticipated Junk Kouture Grand Final taking place on Thursday 9th December, now is the ideal time to delve into just what the revolutionary fashion design competition unlocks in its young participants.

That very topic is explored in the eye-opening documentary ‘Junk Kouture – Waking the Muse’. Commissioned by the Creative Ireland Programme and Junk Kouture, the documentary was co-directed and produced by young award-winning Irish filmmaker Seán Treacy (17) and Junk Kouture Production Coordinator Órla Morris Toolen (21).

The world’s largest recyclable fashion competition for young people, Junk Kouture sees talented creatives from all over Ireland design, create and showcase incredible outfits made entirely of recycled materials each year. 

The documentary follows three inspiring Junk Kouture alumni as they are challenged to work together to design, source and create a unique ensemble to be modelled in New York for Climate Week NYC 2021, for which Junk Kouture was the Sustainable Living partner. Showcasing their growth as designers since their Junk Kouture experiences, their collaboration also demonstrated how the competition’s sustainability ethos can be integrated into the world of fashion. 

The trio, Niamh Porter (24), Cian Newman (20) and Techinee Nawiang (19), reveal in the documentary that the Junk Kouture journey is so much more than a fashion competition. For this talented bunch it has meant everything, from the realisation of untapped potential, to creatively expressing themselves and even making a unique mark in a new, unfamiliar place.

Above: The trio's creation for Climate Week NYC 2021

Donegal’s Niamh Porter found that the competition “gives you a platform and the experience to do something that people that age don’t really get to do.” 

Her art teacher Patrice Gallagher witnessed first-hand the transformation that Junk Kouture brought out in Niamh – “It would have given her the confidence to know that ‘this is the right path for me’, and also to know that ‘I can do this, I’m capable.’”

“Young people are innately creative, it’s up to us as teachers to draw that out” says Patrice. “That creativity can be brought into anything, any field. And apart from anything, it makes you a better person.” 

“Creative kids, a lot of the time, don’t really get to be celebrated and don’t get that hype as much as sports or academic [kids] do. It made you feel special, that’s what was so amazing about it” remarked Niamh, who has since gone on to intern and become a design assistant at a Brooklyn studio, working on pieces for the likes of Michelle Obama.

Above: Niamh Porter (24) from Donegal who stars in a brand-new documentary commissioned by Junk Kouture and supported by the Creative Ireland Programme ‘Waking the Muse'

Introduced to Junk Kouture by his art teacher Deirdre McQuaid, Dubliner Cian Newman describes the discovery as “something [that] switched in me, I was like, ‘I want to do it, I’m going to do it’”. Encouraged by Ms McQuaid to take inspiration from anything and everything around him, the talented 20-year-old raided the family home for inspiration, including his mother’s window blinds!

Ms McQuaid also noted the response of other teachers in the school to Cian’s participation in the competition and the atmosphere it created, “it just brought a light and energy of creativity and to see it in the school was just wonderful.”

Cian Newman in his Junk Kouture creation

Niamh Porter

"Creative kids don’t really get celebrated as much as sports or academic kids do. It made you feel special, that’s what was so amazing about it"

Nineteen-year-old Techinee Nawiang – known as New – says “it was all thanks to Ms Kelly, she introduced me to the Junk Kouture competition”. Having moved to Athlone from Thailand three years ago, taking part in the competition proved a vital method of expressing who she is and a way of sharing her culture with her new friends and community.

Oonagh Kelly, New’s art teacher explained: “We’ve been doing [Junk Kouture] for a good few years, we’re surrounded here with lots of different ways of doing things but New came back with ways of doing things that I’d never seen.” 

Some of these ways included using offcuts from Ms Kelly’s bamboo tree and implementing a scaffold technique in her design – mimicking how buildings are supported in Thai architecture. 

Techinee Nawiang in her Thai-inspired ensemble

“I think New was extremely homesick […] and to be coping with a new school and new friends, there was a lot going on there. The little bit that you could do for her, through art and Junk Kouture, was a small but a very important part of the development of the character, the person and of the beautiful girl that she is. She’s very special.”

An inspiring testament to how creativity and outlets for it can shape young minds and futures, watch ‘Junk Kouture – Waking the Muse’ on Creative Ireland’s YouTube channel and tune in the Junk Kouture Grand Final on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player at 7pm, Thursday 9th December.



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