Abu Dhabi teen recycles for fashion

Firdous Farooq, a Grade 9 pupil, uses everyday rubbish to create beauty.

Firdous Farooq has cleverly created ways to use various recycle materials, including making a dress. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // When Firdous Farooq looks at old newspapers, used paper cups and discared plastic, she does not see rubbish. Instead, she sees all the materials she needs for fashion design.

Collecting waste from her family’s home in Khalidiya, the Indian pupil, who is in Grade 9, has been creating dresses and other items for the past five years. Her latest product was her most ambitious.

“Basically I made mannequins with two bridal dresses on them,” said Firdous, 13. “For the mannequin I used an old pillow cover, a water-bottle hanger and an old broomstick as a base.

“For the dress I used my old study material, and I made flowers out of tissue rolls.” She also used old necklaces and an egg tray. The latter became a lapel.

She used folded newspapers and other paper waste to mimic the flow of cloth on the other dress.

“I wanted to convey the message of recycling,” she said. “Nowadays people don’t concentrate on recycling. Whenever there are birthdays they just buy things as gifts.”

Firdous said making a present was more personal than buying one. The gift also had the added meaning of showing the recipient that reusing products makes old things precious.

“If you recycle gifts, the person feels more touched,” she said. “Like when I gave my grandparents their presents.”

Firdous has been making her creations since Grade 5, when she visited her grandparents in India for the summer holiday.

“This was when I was younger, but even now I give them presents,” she said. “Back then they would give me feedback on whatever I created so they encouraged me and I continued.”

Her mother, Asma Farooq, encourages her in her work, saying it shows an awareness beyond her years. Perhaps the hobby could turn into a career.

“It’s up to her to choose her career; we cannot force her,” Mrs Farooq said. “She is more inclined to fashion and we said ‘go ahead, just make something useful of it’.

“Four to five years ago she started doing these things. I feel like she is getting very creative. Before, I used to get angry because she’s always storing these things, almost like an old lady, but now I am happy for her.”

Firdous said although fashion design was a hobby, she thinks it can be a platform to set an example of conservation for her classmates.

“Every day we are using things and producing more waste, but we can make something out of it,” she said. “So I show them if they use these products, the cardboard and cups to recycle, we are conserving the environment and creating more fruitful things.”

Mrs Farooq said Ryan Private School, where Firdous is a pupil, was integral to her daughter’s developing a responsibility to recycle. A lot if it, she said, was due to her daughter’s reading of the Quran.

“Going through the Quran, and the meaning, she read that whatever Allah created on this Earth, give it value and use it, God has given it to be used fruitfully.”