VIENNA, Austria — An historic agreement has been reached at the Climate Conference in Paris to keep the temperature rise below two Degrees Celsius, enforced recycling being among the planned actions.
The starting point for the Climate Conference was the adoption of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The goal of the COP (Conference of Parties) is to review the implementation of the framework for stabilising greenhouse gas emissions.
Recycling was a major topic of this year’s Climate Conference – not only were recycled products used but also several parties stressed the crucial impact of recycling on the reduction of emissions. According to the “Environmental Benefits of Recycling” report of 2008, 500 million tonnes of CO2 emission savings can be achieved only through recycling.
In light of this landmark, let us introduce you to auferstanden, an upcycling design initiative in Vienna, and its founder Veronika Stocker.
Interview with Veronika Stocker
What is “auferstanden” and what triggered your decision to found a business in the field of upcycled designs?
The German word “auferstanden” means revived and stands for our mission to give a second life to materials that have already been used before. We strive to feature creative designs made from waste and residual material. Furthermore, our vision is to become a platform for young and innovative Austrian artists and designers.
“Auferstanden” also reflects how I changed my mind set. I left the jet set life, flying around the world and buying a lot of unnecessary things. It all started with a three week business trip to Australia which ended up lasting for three months.
I had always been obsessed with taking as many things as I could with me. When I returned, I was baffled by my huge closet and donated a lot of my clothes – it was a big relief. I went to Cameroon with my late business partner and was inspired by the local kids making new and very creative things with very little resources out of waste. In December 2013, we opened our store offering a tailoring service to transform old pieces into stylish new things combined with a big range of design products.
Who are your suppliers?
I have a very close collaboration with an Austrian carpenter, who is extremely creative when it comes to developing new upcycled products. Furthermore, I have a fixed pool of designers which I mix with new designers to keep it interesting for the customers. Moreover, we have regular projects with social initiatives in Vienna.
How do you think “Auferstanden” differentiates itself within the (online) retail market and the sustainable business market? How would you describe your brand’s identity?
We have a big portfolio of products in contrast to our competitors, who often focus on one product type (e.g. bags or furniture). Furthermore, we address men and women across all age groups and constantly strive to be innovative and offer new products.
I think that a growing number of people do care about where their food, apparel and furniture come from. That is why we branded auferstanden as local, sustainable and social. 95 per cent of the products are of Austrian origin, the remaining 5 per cent are products from social initiatives from Kenia or Cambodia, for example.
Furthermore, we ensure that all the products are hand-made, using upcycled waste materials. We make sure that the working conditions meet our criteria and where possible, we focus on partnerships with social projects. Our slogan “one of a kind loves purpose” emphasises the clear purpose of our products.
Which challenges do you identify in the field of sustainable design and upcycling?
Perception is a big issue: upcycled products are very often considered as green only and not as stylish. “Auferstanden” aims to prove that sustainable products can look stylish and appealing. Moreover, there is a big lack of awareness about the need for sustainability.
Organic products are very popular because people care about the direct affect. However, despite a big movement in fashion after the Rana Plaza scandal, the average person on the street does not care who produced their apparel with which methods and chemicals.
Furthermore, a lot of sustainable products are niche products because of their premium price. In addition, it is very difficult to determine if the supply chain is completely ethical and sustainable — we see that not only cheap but even luxury brands exploit people and the environment.
What is your plan to take your upcycling approach further?
We are currently building up our online business and using additional distribution channels, such as museum shops and pop-up stores. Therefore, our products will be made available to a broader customer base. Concerning our suppliers and partnerships, I want to keep the local approach for the time being. I never want to manufacture in countries where I cannot ensure that our standards are met.
Needless to say, “auferstanden” is paving the way to contribute to achieving the climate targets in a fashionable way. Share with us, in the commentary section, similar projects that are happening in your home town!