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Designer’s win rubber-stamped

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Laurel Kurt models one of Margaret Dunne’s winning designs.(Photo by Niké Bada)

Rubber is agony to sew. Margaret Dunne, learned that the hard way when she used it for her designs in the Bermuda High School’s Eco Runway competition.

The annual event challenges students to make and model high fashion from trash.

“The hard part of the competition was finding materials,” the 17-year-old said. “I kept thinking of materials I could make a dress from, but I couldn’t source the stuff.”

In the end, she found the perfect materials in her own basement.

“My father [Peter Dunne] said he had some leftover rubber roofing installation from a roofing project. When I saw it I knew it was perfect. He was going to throw it out.”

Once she started sewing she realised rubber was far from being an ideal material.

“At first I tried to use a sewing machine, but it kept getting jammed,” she said. “Then I started sewing it by hand. It was not easy going. I had some terrible blisters afterward.”

She realised she’d made a mistake with the first dress but just left it as it was.

“It was so much work to take all the stitches out,” she said. “I didn’t want to do it over again. Having to get the back to fit was quite hard.”

She chose an Alice in Wonderland theme. One of her dresses has red flowers on it, a nod to the Queen of Hearts. “I wanted to create a design that showed women as strong,” she said. “I wanted to play with the nature of beauty.”

It was the third year she entered the competition, which was held last month. In previous years she made outfits out of used boat rope, burlap and rubber tyres.

“I really wanted to win the competition this time because I only had one year at BHS left,” she said. “It was now or never.”

Her grandmother, Denise Dunn, taught her how to sew.

“She taught myself and my cousins and we would often sew things as kids,” she said. “Recently I have made several outfits for myself. I am looking forward to the summer now, as I have some fabric set aside to make myself outfits. I do have an interest in fashion.”

She’s sewn for school plays and was in charge of costumes during BHS’ recent drama, Honk!

However, her passion for fashion was inspired by designer Alexander McQueen. Her parents took her to see an exhibit featuring his work at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“I am a huge fan of his work,” she said. “I have been following his New York Fashion Week runway stuff. That helped me get into fashion. My new favourite designer is Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen, who was also inspired by McQueen.”

Miss Dunne’s friend Laurel Kurt, 16, helped her model her outfits for Eco Runway.

“I was thrilled when I won,” she said. “I think people really liked it. The judges were extremely nice. A lot of my friends were there and were really supportive.”

The prize was a red stiletto heel made by the school’s new 3D printer. “Unfortunately, it is not full size,” she said with a laugh. “I have it at home now in my bedroom. The dresses are in my closet. I don’t think I will be wearing them anywhere. Last year, a couple of us modelled our outfits from the show during Earth Hour at City Hall.”

Her dream is to be admitted to the fibre science programme at Cornell University in New York.

“They are the only school with a programme like that,” she said. “It is all about the chemistry behind textiles. It is a four-year degree programme.”

She is hopeful that the Eco Runway win will look good on her college resume.

“It was nice to be recognised for something that I am passionate about,” she said.

Margaret Dunne in one of her winning rubber dresses at the BHS Eco Runway trashion show.(Photo by Niké Bada)
Top prize: BHS students Margaret Dunne and Laurel Kurt receive the red stiletto heel prize during the school’s Eco Runway show.(Photo by Niké Bada)