Three North Jersey high school students make Junk Kouture world finals

Three North Jersey high school students who turned “medical junk” into fashion couture for a worldwide competition have made it to the finals and will head to Abu Dhabi.

CJ King, Jazzlynn Vargas and Josselyn Garcia are the North Bergen High School students who gave new life to materials once used to save lives.

The three have qualified for the Junk Kouture World Final by making a gown out of recycled pool insulation foam and blue wrap, a medical material that contributes to 19% of medical waste.

Junk Kouture is the world’s largest sustainable youth fashion competition. The fashions are made from 100% recycled materials. The World Final will be held in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 11, 2023.

The students worked with art teacher Steven Defendini and fashion and interior design teacher Marlene Sapoff.

“We have, I feel like, a very long history of doing things out of recycled materials,” Defendini said of why he encouraged his students to enter the competition. “So we actually received an email from Junk Kouture asking if we wanted to participate. I said that sounds interesting.”

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Defendini recruited Sapoff for assistance, and they worked together to assemble a team for the competition. Sapoff said the piece is a tribute to health care workers and the service they provided during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They were our angels,” Sapoff said. “They did so much and put themselves on the line.”

The design is called “The Nightingale” after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. Vargas said the piece has significance for her, the daughter of a nurse.

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