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To promote eco-awareness and to tap into creativity they didn’t realise they even have, PINOY TALENT FESTIVAL 2012′s She’s My Girl Goddess finalists designed and modeled their own “recycled gowns” – with stunning results. By IRENE CURTIS

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The Best in Recycled Gown award went to nurse Mary Anne de Vera, whose “coco couture” represented Mother Earth. As a nurse working shifts, she used her spare time trying to fashion an eco-friendly gown using recycled cardboard boxes hand-painted with gold paint, and actual coconut tree bark cut into different shapes and sizes. She chose these materials to show that it’s possible to create something out of nothing while protecting the environments and saving Mother Earth. Photo: Beyond Photography Productions/Ojie Ramos

WHEN Pinoy Talent Festival 2012′s She’s My Girl Goddess finalists found out on audition day that they have to create a recycled gown – using recyclable materials – to parade in at the Grand Finals, some blanched and almost backed out of the competition.

“I honestly choked,” confessed Bernadette Manabat, a nurse who had to contend with a shifting work schedule, a 10pm dorm curfew, and her initial lack of confidence in her creativity. “I was really at a loss. But along the competition, I was inspired to simply use what was readily available to me.”

« Nurse Bernadette Manabat earned nods with her sewn 100% black trash bag gown, primped with silver spray-painted dried leaf patterns. Photo: BPP/Ojie Ramos

In contrast, Arlene de Vera and Jenny Fajardo were thrilled with the eco-friendly challenge.

“When I heard that SMG will have a recycled gown competition, I didn’t think twice about joining,” said Arlene, whose skin-hugging gown was made of thinly rolled magazine pages interwoven and varnished to slinky perfection.

Ditto for Jenny, who went the extra mile with a headdress, earrings and shoe accessories made from recycled materials. Her gown was also made of magazines stylishly patterned and accented with mirror shards.

“When I was a kid, we used to get new clothes only during Christmas. That’s why I learned to make ‘new’ clothes from other people’s hand-me-downs using my bare hands,” she recalled, proudly showing off the product of her “sleepless nights”.

« Arlene De Vera in her slinky, self-made woven paper number and Jenny Fajardo in her head-to-toe recycled creation. Photos: BPP/Ojie Ramos

Some of the girls worked on their gowns with friends, some with their employers.

“I’m very blessed to be working for a family that practices recycling at home, so my gown – made of chip bags and sewn by hand – was an actual joint effort between me and my employers, the Francq family,” said finalist Desire Ponclara.

Meantime, childhood memories of home inspired quite a handful.

« Kid scavengers back in the Philippines inspired Jho Salac’s trash bag gown. Meantime, Ruth Advincula’s banig-and-kulambo (sleeping mat and mosquito net) ensemble reminded her of her simple origins Photo: Michael Ozaki (Jho) & BPP/Ojie Ramos (Jho).

“I chose to make a trash bag gown because it reminds me of street children from my hometown who carry this kind of bag while collecting good stuff from the rubbish bins to sell to the junk shop,” shared Jho Salac.

Ruth Advincula’s kulambo (mosquito net) and banig (sleeping mat) creation was a reminder of her old life in the Philippines.

“I used to sleep on a banig, covered by a mosquito net because we didn’t have electricity then so there was no electric fan to blow away mosquitos and keep me safe from dengue,” she reminisced, adding that she made the gown in three weeks’ time.

Extra effort went to some gowns like Fe Alambra’s floral design. It was accessorised by flowers she created from cutting flower cloth patterns and soaking them in boiling water mixed with flour, before hanging them to dry in the sun. Fe aimed to give away her gown’s flower accessories to other finalists as pretty ornaments to make sure they will be fashionably recycled.

Meanwhile, Lorena Villarubia found use for all the leftover duct tape used in packing boxes after they moved homes – her vividly coloured Duct Tape Gown, which she strived to finish in two and a half weeks.

Scene-stealing creations included Jessica Carnate’s Christmas Ball Gown, consisting of a corset top, and a full skirt made of Christmas tree needles complete with Christmas balls and ribbons, hemmed by live Christmas lights.

“My inspiration comes from the Christmas tree angel topper instead of a star. Since I was a teen, I’ve enjoyed decorating our own tree back home, which is a symbol of family unity for me.”

» SMG 1st runner-up Jessica Carnate’s Christmas Angel ball gown lit up the stage. Photo: Ace Kindred Cheong

On Pinoy Star’s December 2012-January 2013 cover, She’s My Girl Goddess winner Meredith George’s recycled gown is a creative take on the modern Filipiniana with a generous dash of Christmas inspiration.

Done with a friend’s help, the papier mâché base is covered with leftover gift wrappers from Christmas last year, as well as her earrings and bracelet. For the golden Filipiniana sleeves, Meredith explained that they used alambre (wire) to symbolise a woman’s flexibility which allows her to carry anything that falls on her shoulder with grace and strength.

«SMG Goddess winner Meredith George shone brightest in her Filipiniana “with a modern Christmas twist”. Photo: BPP/Ojie Ramos.

For the most part, the recycled gowns became products with sentimental value for the finalists. A perfect example is Lydia Murao’s ensemble.

Using her grandmother’s old dress as a base, Lydia sewed newspaper on the top half of this gown and stitched an NTUC plastic bag on its lower half.

Her gown was inspired by the memory of her lola (grandmother) making her a skirt and a pair of pants out of newspaper and plastic bags. Lydia only wished her grandmother were still alive to see her parade the recycled gown that she inspired. 

There will be a fashion show to exhibit SMG Goddesses’ recycled gowns soon in Singapore. Watch for more photos of SMG Recycled Gowns here!