Junk Kouture has grand designs to become a $1 billion business

Sustainable fashion competition born in Ireland targets global expansion with the ultimate aim of reaching over one billion children

Designers wear their couture creations made exclusively from discarded rubbish to launch Junk Kouture. After a very successful decade in Ireland, Junk Kouture, the world's biggest youth sustainability fashion event, is launching in the UK Picture: Getty

Junk Kouture, the sustainable fashion competition that showcases clothing made from recycled materials by second-level students, is raising a €5 million Series A round and planning to grow annual revenues to €10 million over the next 18 months.

The move comes as the platform is looking to reach over one billion children globally over the next ten years and achieve a similar figure in turnover, based on it becoming a cultural phenomenon across the world.

Described by founder Troy Armour as the "first global sport for creatives", Junk Kouture is forecasting strong growth in the coming years with a long list of internationally recognised brands lining up to be associated with it.

Founded in 2010, the organisation has just partnered with Rocket Sports, a sports management agency co-founded by musician Elton John. It also agreed a deal with the airline Etihad as part of a bigger partnership with the Abu Dhabi government that will see it holding its world final there for the next two years.

“The Abu Dhabi government spent $500 million getting Formula One there for ten years and $1 billion to get UFC for a similar period. We pointed out to them that these are male-dominated sports and said that, in contrast, Junk Kouture is 85 per cent female,” Armour said.

“It will be mothers, aunts and grannies going to support their family up on stage and [we said] that they should therefore back us. They’ve not given us the same sort of money but it is worth a lot to us and will likely increase if we grow the audience.”

With the competition free to enter and open to all students between the ages of 13 and 18, Armour is confident that he can significantly scale Junk Kouture.

“If you want to take part in a sport like Formula One you have to have a lot of money, but what we do is open to everyone. All you need is trash, which as we all know is, unfortunately, plentiful. If you are a kid growing up in say a slum in Mumbai, the idea of becoming the next Lewis Hamilton might seem impossible but could you win our competition? You totally could,” he said.

He believes that its popularity could open the possibility of selling media rights to broadcasters in the same way that sports do.

While Junk Kouture has held talks with authorities in several countries about tying the event to a particular city, Armour said he could also envisage it becoming like Formula One with rival cities bidding big sums to land the event.

Outside of a €1 million investment from three angel investors last year that valued the organisation at $12 million, Junk Kouture has largely fundraised on a piecemeal basis to date and by obtaining sponsorship. Armour said he had revised this strategy and now intended to target bigger organisations to back his growth plans.

"I belatedly realised that this was because it appeals to the kind of creative kids that aren't necessarily good at sports, and so don't have the kind of social capital that they get from that. I was that kid myself and realising this changed everything because it made me not only want to stick with it but to make it as big as it can get," he said.

The annual programme has led to over 5,000 designs being created, saving an estimated 40,000 kilos of waste from landfill.

More than 100,000 participants have taken part in the programme to date from over 1,000 schools in Ireland, Britain, the US, France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. Having already expanded from Ireland to New York, London, Paris, Milan and Abu Dhabi, plans are afoot to launch in a number of other cities shortly, including Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town, Mumbai, São Paulo, Singapore and Los Angeles.

Armour said that the €5 million it is currently seeking will last until the end of next year when he will look to raise a further €20 million. The entrepreneur said that in addition to giving a creative outlet to young people and teaching them about sustainability, Junk Kouture can also fuel innovation.

“For young children, the word ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist until they are taught it. At that age you’ll put a towel around your neck and believe you are Superman. With Junk Kouture we’re trying to reawaken that wonder so that young people can believe that anything is possible. From there, so many good things can come,” he said.