As It Happens

This Australian student made a gown out of 1,400 mango seeds to highlight food waste

Jessica Collins says she smells "like a walking mango" whenever she wears her new ballgown.

Jessica Collins says she always saw mango seed waste growing up on a farm

Jessica Collins shows off the fruits of her labour — a stunning ball gown made from 1,400 Calypso mango seeds. (Submitted by Jessica Collins)


Jessica Collins says she smells "like a walking mango" whenever she wears her new ballgown.

That's because she sewed the dress herself over the course of four months using 1,400 Calypso mango seeds from her family's farm in Dimbulah, Queensland, Australia. 

"It smells like dried mango, if anything, because we dried all the seeds out," Collins told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"It's got a kind of pearly iridescence colour to it, so when it goes out in the sunlight, it shines, actually. So it's quite beautiful."

The dress is Collins' final project for her Grade 12 design and technology class. She chose it, she says, to highlight the problem with food waste on farms.

She grew up on her family's farm, where she often pitched in, helping package mangos. But she has always been dismayed at how much perfectly edible fruit gets thrown out each year because it's not up to supermarket standards.

She told the BBC her family has to dump about 5,000 kilograms of mangoes every year.

"I've always seen all the waste from the mangoes, and I just wanted to utilize something like that, because it just gets thrown out and dumped on the farm and it's never seen again," she said.

"So if I can use something like that and make an alternate source of income for farmers that are struggling, it would be really good."

To make her mango dress, Collins had to clean and dry 1,400 seeds with help from her parents, halve them, and then sew them together shiny-side-out. (Submitted by Jessica Collins)

Making the dress was a painstaking labour of love.

She had to cut out each seed, then use her dad's pressure cleaner to dry them out and get rid of the mango flesh. She enlisted her parents' help for that part, she said. 

Then she halved each seed and sewed them together so the shiny insides are visible while the fibrous outsides remain hidden. 

"I think my mom and dad, they started to think I was crazy. Like, 'You want to build a mini-skirt or something like that?' I'm like, 'No, I want the full gown,'" she said.

Her teacher also told her it was a far-fetched idea. 

"It didn't stop me though," she said. 

Collins says her family is forced to throw out 5,000 kilograms of mangoes every year because they're not up to supermarket standards. (Submitted by Jessica Collins )

The lengthy manufacturing process means she won't be going into business making mango seed dresses any time soon. 

But she says she hopes the project has opened people's mind to the possibilities that exist to make use of excess fruit. For example, she says the seeds could be crushed down and turned into a fibre for clothes.

"It would be like cotton or silk or linen.... That would definitely be more suitable," she said.

"There's a lot of farms around here that would definitely love to be able to see those mangoes used in a way, instead of just dumping them on the farm. So I definitely think farmers would jump on that."

Collins has received plenty of praise for her mango dress from her friends, family and internet commenters. But she hasn't yet received her final grade. That's due later this month. 

"So we'll see how it goes," she said. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. 

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