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.

Blog 1709 Meet Victoria Kadernoschka The Girl Who Turns Trash Into Value 2

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.

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.

Blog 1709 Meet Victoria Kadernoschka The Girl Who Turns Trash Into Value 1 1

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 Sept. 2017 · NEUBAU EYEWEAR
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