Blog 1709 Meet Victoria Kadernoschka The Girl Who Turns Trash Into Value 4

Learn more about gabarage, one of Vienna's most sustainable brands

From old to new – the Viennese upcycling design label gabarage conjures up sofas out of decommissioned escalators and turns soccer balls into glamorous Life Ball costumes.

The focus is not on the envi­ron­ment but on peo­ple. Vic­to­ria Kadernosch­ka explains how gabarage has been unit­ing dif­fer­ent life cycles for 14 years and how upcy­cling can be eas­i­ly com­bined with couture.

You upcy­cle old prod­ucts and design new beau­ti­ful things. Recy­cling and upcy­cling — what is the dif­fer­ence?
That is easy to explain. For recy­cling, take an old glass bot­tle. You return it to the super­mar­ket where you pur­chased it and the same glass bot­tle becomes a new glass bot­tle. That means, the prod­uct remains one and the same, made from the same mate­r­i­al. With upcy­cling, the point is to re-use old mate­ri­als. Mean­ing can­vas or in this case old books or var­i­ous prod­ucts which have been decom­mis­sioned and are now being val­ued up. There is a new inter­pre­ta­tion of the prod­uct, of the mate­r­i­al and it becomes a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, new prod­uct. Stay­ing with books for a sec­ond: we make lamps or stools out of books or Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions made of old book pages. The clas­sic every­one knows: Bags made from truck can­vas. We also com­bine can­vas and fab­ric. This is about an upval­u­a­tion and the cre­ation of a new high-qual­i­ty prod­uct to increase the life cycle of the material.

The major­i­ty of the new prod­ucts is made out of old prod­ucts, and yet you also use new mate­ri­als?
In one instance, we used old uni­forms from the armed forces. Old mate­ri­als which are still of great qual­i­ty but the zip­per was bro­ken in many cas­es. This item would nor­mal­ly be thrown out while we still reuse it. Fab­ric man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­vide us with dis­card­ed rolls of fab­ric which can no longer be sold because the col­or will not cor­re­spond to the lat­est fash­ion trends in the fol­low­ing sea­son. And we then reprocess these mate­ri­als. We real­ly do try and only use dis­card­ed mate­ri­als. What we then pur­chase new is a zip­per because using the old one would reduce the qual­i­ty of the prod­uct. We try to ensure a very high degree of qual­i­ty and that can sim­ply not be done with an old but­ton or zipper.

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What is behind the name gabarage”?
What is behind the name? We are not sim­ply an upcy­cling com­pa­ny but fol­low the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of giv­ing every­one and every­thing a sec­ond chance. By giv­ing every­one a sec­ond chance”, we mean that we have also hired peo­ple in our work­shops and some­times in sales as well who have a his­to­ry of addic­tion. For many of these peo­ple, it is dif­fi­cult to re-enter the pro­fes­sion­al world after a suc­cess­ful ther­a­py. We pro­vide them with a chance to grad­u­al­ly enter the work­ing world again, lim­it­ed to a peri­od of one year.

Is that what you under­stand peo­ple at the cen­ter of all actions” to be?
For us, peo­ple are always the focal point and we always com­mu­ni­cate the fact that there is a per­son behind each prod­uct we sell. A per­son who cre­at­ed this prod­uct from start to fin­ish with his or her own hands. There actu­al­ly is crafts­man­ship behind the prod­uct, cre­at­ed by a per­son, in the mid­dle of Vienna.

Why do you think it is rare for peo­ple with less stream­lined” résumés to be giv­en with anoth­er chance?
Nobody should be accused of the fact that she or he would rather employ some­body with a tra­di­tion­al résumé. Our mod­el is sim­ply to give peo­ple a chance who may have made a mis­take or two in the past, some­one who did not fin­ish a pro­fes­sion­al train­ing because she or he was suf­fer­ing from a chron­ic addic­tion. It hap­pens. It can also hap­pen that some­body does not fin­ish school because it cur­rent­ly does not real­ly fit into my world view”. But this life can still very much turn into some­thing. With less stream­lined”, we mean that every life can be dealt a blow. Or per­haps some­one who comes from a fam­i­ly that was not able to pro­vide the lov­ing home we would want every­one to have. Those things will always affect your career.

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How do you estab­lish con­tact with these peo­ple?
We have an offer with a very low thresh­old. And we have been around for 14 years. We are well-known in this social are­na. Peo­ple about to com­plete their addic­tion ther­a­py are of course look­ing to pre­pare them­selves for the life after”. They are sup­port­ed by ther­a­pists and social work­ers and some­times, our name comes up. Peo­ple then sim­ply call us, apply over the tele­phone. And once spaces open up again, a nor­mal appli­ca­tion process is ini­ti­at­ed as we all know from our own experiences.

Every­thing start­ed 14 years ago — how did it exact­ly start?
Our chair­la­dy is a trained social work­er and worked in a low-thresh­old envi­ron­ment with peo­ple who were addict­ed to ille­gal drugs. It became clear dur­ing her work: there are ther­a­py options but what hap­pens after that? There was not much of an offer in that direc­tion. Back then, there was a EU ini­tia­tive which was also imple­ment­ed in Aus­tria. It was called drug addicts at work” and it was dur­ing the course of this cam­paign that our chair­la­dy wrote the con­cept for gabarage. This was about re-inte­grat­ing peo­ple with an addic­tion his­to­ry into the work­place. Nat­u­ral­ly, every­thing start­ed very small. Now we are more than 30 peo­ple. Back then, we were approx­i­mate­ly five. So it grad­u­al­ly grew. The need was there, as was gen­er­al inter­est. What was dif­fi­cult at the begin­ning was to place peo­ple with a his­to­ry of addic­tion at the cen­ter because it is not a sexy” top­ic. Peo­ple have been stereo­typed and marked but that is exact­ly what we are work­ing against. We try to reduce stig­ma­ta. And upcy­cling was not as hip back then as it is now. Now it is prac­ti­cal­ly part of good man­ners. Back then, we had to explain quite a bit and were some­times laughed at for what we did. But: Stay­ing with it, pur­su­ing the issue and invest­ing ener­gy has real­ly paid off.

Upcy­cling Cou­ture is one of your lines. Is there no inher­ent con­tra­dic­tion between old prod­ucts and glam­our?
Not in the least. You can see on our web page that we made cos­tumes for the Life Ball 2013 and 2014, for exam­ple. Life Ball cos­tumes are well-known. They are beau­ti­ful and they sparkle. They are sup­posed to express joie de vivre. And there is no con­tra­dic­tion when they are made of resid­ual mate­ri­als because they can be eas­i­ly pimped. The out­fits for 2015, which we made for the dis­trict leader of the sixth dis­trict, Markus Hum­mel and his hus­band, were made of old soc­cer balls and a sur­plus of man­u­fac­tured plas­tic cut­lery which had been dis­card­ed. Over­all, they were very beau­ti­ful, total­ly awe­some, gold­en cos­tumes. We made a total of six cos­tumes for the ball and all of them were among the top hun­dred select­ed on the large stage. So no, there is absolute­ly no con­tra­dic­tion at all.

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How did the coop­er­a­tion between your brand and the Life Ball start?
Well, HIV and Aids which are the cen­tral top­ics addressed by the Life Ball, are also reflect­ed in our work. For exam­ple, it is pos­si­ble to become infect­ed with HIV by using dirty syringes when con­sum­ing ille­gal drugs. That may not be the pret­ty, glam­orous side but this ill­ness is every­thing but glam­orous and pret­ty. Which why it is great that there are ini­tia­tives like the Life Ball. It fits per­fect­ly. We will try to par­tic­i­pate again next year, and I am assum­ing that it will take place next year again. How­ev­er, this is all based on our own ini­tia­tive. For balls specif­i­cal­ly, we have a dif­fer­ent coop­er­a­tion part­ner, the Diver­si­ty Ball. This ball deals with the top­ic of diver­si­ty on a wider and larg­er scale, and we have been coop­er­at­ing quite well for two years now. In times like these where soci­ety is threat­en­ing to com­plete­ly divide, we may have to take it to a high­er lev­el when it comes to diversity.

Is there a per­son for whom you would love to design some­thing?
That ques­tion was too quick. Of course we would love to out­fit a famous per­son who does not sim­ply make an appear­ance as brand ambas­sador but as an idea ambas­sador as well. That is our wish, to be able to do that some­time. But there is nobody spe­cif­ic I am envi­sion­ing right now.

What is the prod­uct which tru­ly embod­ies gabarage?
Our line has devel­oped from rather trashy to more high-qual­i­ty design. 14 years, of course peo­ple and ideas devel­op, and that is good. One prod­uct we have always had is the shoul­der bags made from can­vas. One prod­uct with which we have been large­ly asso­ci­at­ed dur­ing the last two years, also because we often inte­grate it into events, is our esca­la­tor fur­ni­ture. For the book lamp, we received the MAK design award a few years ago. The traf­fic light glass­es are quite pop­u­lar as well. You notice that every­body loves them when peo­ple come into the shop. Prod­ucts at which peo­ple look and say: I would love one and I know that only you sell this” is the vase made out of a bowl­ing pin. That is an all-time clas­sic about which peo­ple often ask because they know only we sell it.

Con­sid­er­ing the fact that you deal with dis­card­ed prod­ucts on a dai­ly lev­el, how has your pri­vate approach to eco­log­i­cal issues changed?
It most def­i­nite­ly has changed. It is not like I start to do crafts at home and begin to design but I do go shop­ping with a dif­fer­ent focus. For exam­ple: I think it is great that paper bags are avail­able for fruit in the super­mar­ket. You can choose between plas­tic and paper. That is great. I also try to shop for del­i­catessen or cold cuts with my plas­tic bowl, as my moth­er did. I try to not have it pack­aged but put it into my bowl imme­di­ate­ly. It some­times goes so far that I will buy jel­ly in a jar because I can reuse the jars. For exam­ple to store Q-tips. There are plen­ty of ways and means. I think it is most­ly about a con­scious way of han­dling resources. I try to sort out my cloth­ing so that I end up shop­ping less. And with our design­ers, I will dis­cuss it: I have this out­fit and that out­fit — is there any way to com­bine them in a dif­fer­ent way?” Our way of think­ing has def­i­nite­ly changed immensely.

Blog 1709 Meet Victoria Kadernoschka The Girl Who Turns Trash Into Value

You also coop­er­ate with large com­pa­nies to expand their prod­uct cycles. What does this kind of coop­er­a­tion look like exact­ly?
There are dif­fer­ent degrees of coop­er­a­tion. For exam­ple, in the most recent past, we coop­er­at­ed with the Vien­nese City Hall. They have gigan­tic posters made of mesh can­vas and we reworked them as mer­chan­dis­ing prod­ucts. Mean­ing, they now sell it in their shop. Bags, small wal­lets, what­ev­er you may need for a con­cert. Oth­er com­pa­nies have too much can­vas and are look­ing for Christ­mas gifts for their staff. We then make small good­ies, such as keys, bags or cell phone sleeves. Anoth­er com­pa­ny man­u­fac­tur­ing paci­fiers had lots of sooth­ie strips left over. We then orga­nized a work­shop for mom­mies where we made Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions out of these mate­ri­als. We do quite a bit: from fixed prod­ucts to work­shops and team-build­ing events. And with neubau eye­wear, we are design­ing some­thing com­plete­ly new. I am so curi­ous myself to see what our design­ers will do.

Which gabarage prod­ucts do we find in your home?
To quote my sis­ter: Your apart­ment looks like the gabarage shop”. I basi­cal­ly live in a sec­ond show room. I wear a lot of jew­el­ry which we pro­duce. Not for pro­fes­sion­al rea­sons but because I real­ly like it. I have a lot, cell phone bag, lap­top sleeve, shoul­der bags quite a bit. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I have no fur­ni­ture yet but my apart­ment may be a bit small for that. Which is why I have office acces­sories and jew­el­ry — and plen­ty of it.


Pho­tog­ra­phy by Zara Pfeifer

01 Sep 2017 · neubau eyewear