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Ribston Hall High School

Ribston HallHigh School

Cerulean Couture: Ribston's Tabitha Riley Wins London Junk Kouture Final

By Harroop Bhandal, Year 12

Ribston Hall's Year 12 A-Level textiles student, Tabitha Riley, went through to the London City for the Junk Kouture competition on May 20th, 2024. This competition challenges young designers to craft high-end couture from recycled materials, promoting sustainability and creativity. Tabitha's winning design, "Cerulean," is a testament to her innovation and skill, constructed entirely from repurposed blinds from the school's textiles room. 

A Visionary Creation: Cerulean

Tabitha drew inspiration for the name of her piece from one of her favourite movie, The Devil Wears Prada. She recalls, “One of the most iconic moments in the movie is when Meryl Streep's character passionately explains the importance of the fashion industry, highlighting the significance of the colour cerulean.” 

The corset, a signature element in Tabitha's designs, was modified from a previous pattern to be more extreme and exaggerated. She skillfully incorporated unbent wire hangers to create the loops for the lace-up back, showcasing her resourcefulness and attention to detail. The material from the blinds posed a unique challenge due to its thickness. “I sampled different ways of sewing and manipulating the blinds material. It is very thick and hard to sew, so from the very beginning, I knew the look would have to be structured,” she explained.

Tabitha worked hard to achieve the right balance of form and fluidity in the skirt. She cut the blinds into strips and stapled them in a lattice pattern to create a ruched effect, working on the mannequin to ensure the design was both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The underskirt added modesty and cohesion, demonstrating her thorough approach to every aspect of the design. This innovative use of blinds material created a dynamic and visually captivating piece that the judges clearly loved!

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Tabitha was filmed by BBC Points West about her dress

Accessory Artistry: A Flair for Detail

For Cerulean, Tabitha crafted a necklace and earrings from the connective beading in the blinds, achieving a “faux pearl vibe.” This attention to detail extended to her footwear. She upcycled an old pair of heels, adding strips of blinds and beading with a staple gun, ensuring every aspect of her outfit was meticulously crafted from recycled materials.

The ensemble was completed with a dramatic hat, made from a wire hanger and an old headband, featuring a “feather” crafted from uncoiled spiral wire from a broken sketchbook. Tabitha’s creative use of everyday items transformed into high fashion pieces demonstrated her innovative spirit and deep understanding of couture. “I was aiming for a really polished, wearable, high-end look. Haute couture is my ultimate career aspiration, and one thing that I strongly believe in is that couture can be created from any material if you see the potential in it.”

Empowering Sustainability

Ribston Hall is a school that proudly champions sustainability and creativity. Dedicated to nurturing talent and encouraging individual expression, this can be seen demonstrated through our 6th form’s flexible business-casual dress code that allows students to showcase their unique styles. This school environment fosters creativity, giving students like Tabitha the freedom to explore and express their passions.

Fashion is evolving towards greater sustainability, and Ribston Hall is proud to support this movement. From Tabitha's outstanding achievements in Junk Kouture to the eco-committee's clothes swap and the school's sustainable fashion show, Ribston encourages and applauds efforts to increase sustainability. Tabitha’s Cerulean, made from materials found within the school, carries a strong message about the importance of creative subjects in education.

Tabitha said, “As we get older a lot of us feel pressured to leave creativity behind or only keep it as just a hobby, but as someone who is stubbornly determined to do this for the rest of my life, I am lucky to be in a school like Ribston, which encourages and pushes me to reach my full potential.”

Future Aspirations

Tabitha extended her thanks to Miss Finch, her textiles teacher, whose support was crucial throughout this challenging project. “Miss Finch is the best textiles teacher anyone could wish for. She pushed me to do this competition, and I am so grateful she did.”

Tabitha's journey with Cerulean is far from over as she now progresses to the world Junk Kouture Final, and she invites everyone to follow her progress on social media (@cerulean.jk.2024 on Instagram and @tabbyjunkkouture on TikTok).

Ribston Hall is proud to be a nurturing environment for talented students like Tabitha, providing them with the resources and support to achieve their dreams. Tabitha Riley's victory in the London City Final of Junk Kouture is not just a personal achievement but a beacon of inspiration for the entire Ribston community. Her innovative spirit and dedication to sustainable fashion promise a bright future in haute couture.