Donegal students Brónach Harkin, Robyn O’Donnell and Orlaith Doherty win rescheduled final with Elie Saab-inspired dress made of sea glass, plastic milk cartons and smashed jam jars

“I’m never going to look at a milk carton the same way!” – Judge Michelle Visage

Months of sewing, cutting and smashing glass paid off for three Donegal students Brónach Harkin, Robyn O’Donnell and Orlaith Doherty on Thursday 4th February as they were crowned champions of Junk Kouture 2020. Their design, ‘Synergy’, a fishtail gown made of sea glass, plastic milk cartons and recycled glass such as bottles and jam jars, reigned supreme over 80 finalists from across Ireland as the recycled fashion competition was televised for the first time.

Viewers at home tuned in to RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player on Thursday to witness an array of incredible designs created and modelled by the talented young designers who waited so patiently throughout the pandemic for their moment to shine. The 2020 final was originally scheduled for April 2020 in 3Arena, Dublin but was postponed on account of the outbreak of Covid-19. However, all was not lost as Junk Kouture, supported by Creative Ireland, found an incredible alternative to the live event as the final was televised for the first time in its 10-year history last night.

The winning creation ‘Synergy’, a show-stopping gown inspired by world-renowned designer Elie Saab, certainly displayed the synergy between the three deserving champions, as their combined effort wowed an expert panel of judges including X-Factor judge Louis Walsh and RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage.

Under the guidance of teacher Pauline McDermott, students Brónach, Robyn and Orlaith from Carndonagh Community School collected sea glass to sew onto the dress, as well as making 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 lovingly cut out every petal on the dress from discarded plastic milk cartons. Thanks to their exquisite craftmanship, outstanding creative prowess and impressive stage presence, the team now walk away with €1,000 in prizemoney and a further €2,000 for their school.

Other worthy award-winners were also honoured at the after show, the Winners’ Party which was broadcast online on immediately after the TV programme. A full list of winners can be found below in Notes to Editors. Meanwhile, the winner of the RTÉ Audience Choice award will be announced on 2FM at 3PM on the Stephen Byrne Show on Saturday 6th February as voting closes on Friday 5th February at 6PM.

Synergy team member Robyn O’Donnell said: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! 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.”

Michelle Visage said: “Synergy! You were scintillating, that was unbelievable! Honestly, I don’t know how you worked sea glass into a gown but you did it! 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. That is unbelievable babes, you deserve it all. Congratulations!”

Louis Walsh said: “Synergy, that was so different, so original, so authentic and it’s made from glass. Obviously, an awful lot of work went into it and it shows. It’s just absolutely beautiful and a great, great winner – well done Synergy.”

CEO of Junk Kouture Troy Armour said: Well done to all our 2020 finalists who waited so patiently for their moment to shine. I hope everyone watching on TV here in Ireland and in our new international territories on RTÉ Player enjoyed this spectacular show. As always, I am in awe of the talent among these remarkable young people. I would like to extend a huge congratulations to our overall winners Brónach, Robyn and Orlaith – they 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.”

Director of Creative Ireland Tania Banotti said: The Creative Ireland Programme is delighted to congratulate Robyn, Brónach and Orlaith from Carndonagh, Donegal on their fantastic design. We celebrate their amazing use of recycled materials that includes jam jars, sea glass and milk cartons. An enormous congratulations must also go to their teacher Pauline McDermott who has guided her students so successfully in this wonderful project. The enthusiasm and skills demonstrated by all the entrants has been wonderful to witness and we celebrate their hard work, their vision and their commitment to a greener world.”

Meanwhile, this successful format of recording finalists remotely and producing a show for broadcast will continue into 2021. As always, the golden rule is that the outfit must be made from 100% recycled materials. Registration for the 2021 competition is open now for students across Ireland and the UK until Friday 19th April. Head to now for more on how to enter or register on the brand-new Junk Kouture app available to download for IOS and Android.

In September 2021, Junk Kouture will begin its expansion into exciting new territories such as France, Italy, the USA and the UAE.

Students and teachers can also keep up to date with all things Junk Kouture on all social media channels, @junkkouture.


Notes to Editor:

Full list of winners 2020

  • Overall winner and North Region winner: Synergy by Brónach Harkin, Robyn O’Donnell, Orlaith Doherty, teacher Pauline McDermott, Carndonagh Community School, Donegal
  • East Region winner: The Devil Within by Laura Byrne, Katie Brady, Lisa Murray, teacher Grace Boon, Margaret Aylward Community College, Whitehall
  • South East Region winner: Element 13 by Grace Maher, teacher Kate Garner, Tullow Community School, Tullow
  • West Region winner: Blinded by Perfection by Caoimhe Lowry, Grainne Geoghegan, Erin Hickey, teacher Pamela Keogh, Moate Community School, Moate
  • South Region winner: Givin’ It Welly by Laura Hally, Cathy Horgan, Emma Ryan, teacher Michael English, Ursuline Community School, Thurles
  • Glamour Award 1: Imperium by Victoria Canty, Ellen O’Gorman, Saoirse McCarra, teacher Mairead Fennell, Presentation Secondary School Clonmel
  • Glamour Award 2: Hanging by a Thread by Gabriela Dyrcz, Lucy Egan, Christine Keely, teacher Frances Kerrick, Colaiste Brid, Enniscorthy
  • Most Unusual Material: Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Kate Fitzgibbon, Sarah Egan, Rebecca Hogan, teacher Michael English, Ursuline Community School, Thurles
  • Waste2Wear Creative For a Cause: Darkness Into Light by David Tulgara, Jack Scally, Sian Mc Laverty, teacher Sharon Carberry, Castlepollard Community College, Castepollard
  • Finishing Touches: Get With the Programme by Jessica Henson and Louise Denby, teacher Oonagh Kelly, Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone
  • Bright Enterprise Award: Peace Unfolds by Sarah Tuohy, Elise Finn, Grainne McCaul, teacher Jayne Louise Kelly, Scoil Chriost Ri, Portlaoise
  • Best Performance: Warrior Team by Ange Mputu (performer), Simone White, Bernadette Maughan, teacher Caroline Murray, Blanchardstown Youth Reach
  • LSAD Bursary: Element 13 (recipient Grace Maher), Tullow Community School, Tullow
  • Griffith College Bursary: Synergy (recipient Robyn O’Donnell), Carndonagh Community School
  • Teacher Hall of Fame: Pamela Keogh, Moate Community School, Moate
  • JK Junior (announced in March): The Story Begins by Sasha Evans, Rachel Treverton, Leah Rainey, teacher Tanya Creighton, City of Armagh High School, Armagh

Junk Kouture is supported by the Creative Ireland Programme, an initiative by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media which aims to support and develop engagement with, and in arts, culture and creativity by individuals and communities, thereby enriching individual and community well-being, as well as promoting Ireland’s arts and culture globally. 

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