They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And with a lot of creativity and love for repurposing, that same trash was turned into eco couture designs fit for a walk on the runway.

Two years ago, Amira Ajlouni, a graduate student from the School of Architecture at Florida International University, prepared her master’s class thesis project. Instead of designing a building, she took an alternative route where the focus of her project would center on sustainability. She created a fashion show with design pieces that only incorporated recycled materials. Now, the event is in its third year.

First place winner Laura De La Vega struts down the runway with model Danyealah Green-Lemons at the third annual Eco Couture Recycling Fashion Show at FIU's School of Architecture on March 31.

Source: Vintage Wedding Dresses

“Sustainability is one of those topics that needs more awareness,” Ajlouni said. “And it’s a topic that still needs to reach people, so a fashion show is an entertaining and visual way for people to understand sustainability and recycling.”

Eco Couture is hosted in the style of competition in which FIU students from all majors submit their designs and compete with peers for scholarship prizes. The first place winner received $1,000, second place $500 and third $250. There is also a $200 people’s choice award that grants a special prize for the design favored by the audience.

This year’s event had eight judges and included fashion designers, artists and city officials looking for multiple features in the design, such as the amount of repurposed materials used, creativity in design and the aesthetics behind the appearance of the ensemble.

Jennifer Luis, Ajlouni’s business partner and an architect major graduating next month, said highlighting sustainability and recycling is essential to both of them.

“It is so important because it is a topic of today,” Luis said. “We need to be concerned with what we are throwing away. There're so many things that we can reuse, and it just gives you perspective on how much we use and how much we need. There are so many things we just away because they are excess, and it’s easier to do than to recycle.”

All of the designs featured on the catwalk were anything but trash.

Materials ranged from Panther Coffee cup sweaters to eggshells and broken CDs. One design made strictly from Aquafina bottles took a futuristic approach to the look. First prize went to a design team of three young women who incorporated trash bags, wires and 3-D printing filament scraps.

Laura De La Vega, 28, Andrea Canaves and Sharit Ben Asher, both 22, won first place. It took them three 14-hour days to complete the look. Women in architecture inspired the design. It was also the first time they all worked with recycled materials.

Instead of creating Backless Wedding Dresses, the trio chose a striking two-piece suit. The black pants resembled a harem design brought in at the ankles and the white bustier top tied at the neck with a layering effect. Topping it off was flowing cape resembling the wings of an insect and separate cuff details on the wrists.

“Our goal was to reinvent the 21st-century architecture woman,” Canaves said. “That’s why you see the top part looks very feminine and accentuates the chest; we melted the plastic over a mannequin, so it follows a feminine look.”

De La Vega was shocked they won, but was even more surprised at how participating in this project opened her eyes to the importance of reusing and repurposing trash.

“It never came to my mind that you could make a dress out of trash bags,” De La Vega said. “It also pushed my creativity because it was really hard to do. It’s unbelievable. We were trying to use only strictly recycled materials. There’s a different way of making something very elegant and very beautiful with stuff that has been used before.”