Junk Kouture: Teaching the MYP Design Course during Social Distancing
Stephine Corso

Junk Kouture: Teaching the MYP Design Course during Social Distancing

At the International School of Paris (ISP) middle school, design is a core course offering. According to the International Baccalaureate Organisation, this course focuses on “applying practical and creative skills to solve design problems”. During the course students learn to safely operate equipment (sewing machines, woodworking tools, laser cutters, 3D printers, etc.) and to use technical software like Photoshop or CAD tools in order to design and test their own products. Collaboration and feedback are key to product development and improvement. 

During social distancing students no longer have access to the equipment and software necessary to carry out their design projects. They also have to brainstorm and give feedback virtually. So how can collaboration and design still happen at a distance?Junk Kouture may be the answer!

What is Junk Kouture?

Junk Kouture challenges students to combine elements of design, engineering and sustainability to create a piece of wearable fashion. For the past ten years the Junk Kouture movement has inspired young people to take risks, collaborate and participate in an over-the-top fashion show, which is often a way for students to move out of their comfort zones and express themselves differently. 

One major rule applies for groups wishing to enter the fashion show: the wearable fashion must be made from 100 percent recycled material!

How did we launch our very own Junk Kouture fashion show at ISP?

The Design Department at ISP decided to end the school year with a Junk Kouture unit and a virtual fashion show. Here is how they structured the unit, including tips, tricks and resources!

1.     Working in groups via Zoom, students examined literature about Junk Kouture and learned about well-known artists that use recycled materials to create fashion. They also learned that their objective would be to create a piece that someone in their family could wear; they couldn’t design for an anonymous and unknown model!

Try the following resources with your students in the discovery stage of the project:

2.     Groups then discussed the questions below in an initial brainstorming session. They recorded their answers in a shared document. 

  • What recyclable material do you have at home?
  • What equipment do you have at home?
  • What or who inspires you?

3.     Their inspirations became the object of a shared mood board, which they could create using a Google document, Adobe Spark or Padlet

4.     Each student in the group then created a manufacturing plan for an individual design and began building their sustainable wearable fashion. As the plans came together, students met in Zoom breakout rooms with their groups to get feedback on their anticipated construction process. As the projects moved from the planning stage to the building stage, students continued to collaborate in their breakout groups; they spoke about and justified any necessary changes to their manufacturing plans that would alter their final productions. 

5.     Lastly, students tested their products to prove wear-ability of at least two minutes. As a rule, the target customer (a family member) had to be involved in the test. The test results informed product improvement suggestions. The following rubric was used for assessment, along with student reflections on process modifications and product improvement:






constructs a plan that contains some production details, resulting in peers having difficulty following the plan

constructs a logical plan, which considers time and resources, sufficient for peers to be able to follow to create the solution


constructs a detailed and logical plan, which describes the efficient use of time and resources, sufficient for peers to be able to follow to create the solution

demonstrates minimal technical skills when making the solution

demonstrates satisfactory technical skills when making the solution

demonstrates competent technical skills when making the solution

demonstrates excellent technical skills when making the solution


creates the solution, which functions poorly and is presented in an incomplete form


creates the solution, which partially functions and is adequately presented

creates the solution, which functions as intended and is presented appropriately


follows the plan to create the solution, which functions as intended and is presented appropriately


outlines changes made to the chosen design and plan when making the solution

describes changes made to the chosen design and plan when making the solution

fully justifies changes made to the chosen design and plan when making the solution

From classroom project to virtual fashion show: how can schools celebrate student work?

It’s easy to encourage involvement in your own classroom project if it aligns with school values, is accessible and easy to follow or join. The Design Department chose Junk Kouture because of this organisation’s focus on sustainability, a subject that has been at the center of discussions at ISP for many years; ISP’s environmental conference (ISPEC), researching food waste, the student-led up-cycling club, participation in the Paris climate demonstrations or attending the ChangeNow conference all attest to the importance of the environment to the ISP community. Additionally, the well-documented and resourced unit plan, published in Google, clearly mapped the route to success for any other teachers (or families trapped in COVID-19 confinement) who wished to participate. The Design Department also made sure to insist on using recycled materials and tools that could be found at home, so that no participants would be limited by a lack of access to resources. 

Close collaboration with the ISP Communications Department made the virtual fashion show a reality; they created both a web page and Instagram carrousels to showcase student creations. You can visit the fashion show here or on Instagram @internationalschoolofparis. Using digital showcases ensured that the students’ hard work during confinement won’t soon be forgotten!

  • design
  • MYP
  • pedagogy
  • student experience
  • sustainability