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Mops, burlap bags and juice boxes aren’t just utilitarian items, they could be the future materials of the high fashion industry, according to a group of students at the Bermuda High for Girls.

BHS students Senecia Smith, Karissa Burrows, Abigail Christie-Veitch and Keesha Miller calling themselves the Eco-Chic team recently won a fashion design competition at their school using these items. The Eco Runway Competition was an eight-week programme that required BHS students to create high fashion at least half of the materials had to be recycled.

The winners are all 16-years-old.

Eco-Chic used a total of nine recycled materials to make their outfits. They made a burlap top, juice box miniskirt, industrial chain-link necklace, and a soda can hobo bag lined with recycled paper. They also made an evening dress constructed with a bottle cap bustier and mop dyed turquoise skirt, trash bag bowed belt, a clutch bag made of recycled paper and a ring made of wire.

The clothes were then strutted on the runway, at a fashion show at the Pembroke school.

“The casual outfit with sneakers represented the rebellious teen, and the evening dress in heels represented a more sophisticated version of this person, while staying true to herself with the big hair, messy tie dye mop skirt and metal top,” said Keesha.

Team leader, Senecia, said they used the ‘divide and conquer’ approach to get the designs completed. “We each were responsible for creating the top or bottom of each garment, as well as an accessory,” she said. “It came together naturally, but we worked tirelessly; we wanted to do our best.”

Karissa said they chose models within the group because they knew they could depend on each other and would have a vested interest in the outcome.

“It worked,” she said. “We did a walk-off to determine who would best represent each look.”

The competitors were assisted by a number of people in the fashion industry, locally and abroad. Orange Bay Company’s Delight Morris (a BHS graduate) mentored and sponsored the team. Hers is a home furnishings store that recently extended its philosophy of creating unique styles with ‘gently used’ pieces from the world of home decor to the realm of high fashion.

Mrs Morris said she took part in the programme, partly because she really believed in the philosophy, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. She drew upon her network of contacts to help mentor the girls. Mrs Morris arranged for the team to work with contacts with experience in the fashion and design industries.

She coordinated the efforts of Rinelle Elizabeth of Salon Magazine and Zoe Gould, a fashion buyer in the United Kingdom who offered their input on the initial designs and numerous revisions to the garments leading up to the competition. The group was also invited to explore the Orange Bay Company showroom to develop an appreciation of the beauty of incorporating gently used items into an overall look, and to the office of Salon Inc to discuss fashion construction and design.

Abigail said this mentoring system worked well for she and her teammates, and they learned a lot from Mrs Morris.

“We listened intently to the constructive criticism of our mentor, Delight, as well as Rinelle and Zoe,” she said. “We continued to tweak our creations. For example, modelling the outfits, we realised that the skirt and dress wouldn’t stay up so we designed an elastic waist for the skirt and mop straps for the dress. It was an evolution of ideas.”

“With their determination, spirit of collaboration and hard work, they were destined to win,” said Mrs Morris.

For the competition, the models’ make-up was designed by Hannah Collins. Judges were Nike Bada, a local fashion blogger, fashion designer Amir X, and Shiona Turini, accessories director of ‘Teen Vogue’ and creator of Style Bermuda. They decided the winning team based on the garments’ originality, wearability, presentation and creative use of materials.

The competition was organised by Jennifer Burland Adams, director of advancement at BHS. Other teams in the competition were mentored by Atelerie, Boutique CC, Gibbons Co, AS Coopers, Cecile and Lovit Boutique. Today mentor stores will host a special shopping event for the BHS family, with part proceeds donated to the school.

Miss Smith said the event was a wonderful learning experience, and students learned not just about fashion but also about the importance of recycling to the environment.

“Most importantly, we learned respect for each other’s ideas,” she said. “Teamwork was the critical element in creating the winning designs. We would like to thank Mrs Adams for organising the event and giving us the opportunity to learn so much about ourselves, working together and the benefits of recycling.”

School principal Linda Parker said this was a fashion show with a twist, and praised the junior designers for doing a “phenomenal job”.

“Through this initiative, the students learned about leadership, teamwork, the environment, recycling, fashion and ‘thinking outside of the box’. I am so proud of all of our students who participated as models and designers. I would like to thank their community mentors, who shared their expertise and partnered with these young adults. The event was a roaring success. We look forward to running it again in the future.”

This is a hobo bag made by the winning team out of soda cans, and lined with recycled paper. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Bermuda High School student Karissa Burrows modelling in the Eco Runway Competition at the school. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Pictured here is model Keesha Miller, 16 with her burlap top, chain link necklace and skirt made out of juice boxes. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Model Keesha Miller with team member Senecia Smith who is describing the juice box mini skirt. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 29, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 29, 2012 at 9:10 am)

From ready to trash, to ready to wear

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