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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 Sep 2017 · neubau eyewear
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