Volkswagen Magazine


reimagining rubbish.

Old furniture, shoes, toys: Volkswagen designers create little works of art out of things that have outlived their original purpose – an up!Cycling action in the spirit of Think Blue.

Text Ina Brzoska
Photos Christian Efkemann

Finding products and solutions that make it easier for people to live sustainably – that’s the fundamental idea behind Think Blue. In the context of this campaign, Volkswagen caught wind of an environmentally conscious trend: upcycling, the process of transforming used objects into new, smart items. Volkswagen designers had their upcycling potential tested in a Berlin workshop. From boxes full of used objects, they created a hat rack, a key park and a soapbox for kids. While they drilled, screwed and glued, we spoke with fashion designer Carina Bischof about what makes the new sustainability trend so exciting.


Ms Bischof, how would you define the term upcycling?

Upcycling means taking an existing thing – a material or an object – and turning it into a more valuable product. By using it in another context, it obtains a new value. The used look is the special design feature.

Since when has it been a trend?

The sustainability impulse has been around since the 1980s. In recent years, the trend has become increasingly widespread with debates about recycling and the second-hand idea.


How did you personally become involved with the concept?

I worked with the London designer Orsola de Castro. She’s a pioneer in the field of upcycling and works with industrial scraps from Italian weaving and knitting mills. I really liked her products; they’re not at all hippie-ish or frumpy.


What do you use for upcycling?

From cuts of fabric that retailers use to present colours or materials. These cuts of fabric are just disposed of, although they’re 40 by 60 metres in size. I buy them and make shirts and blouses out of them.


In upcycling, designers imagine a new use for a used product.


Where do your ideas come from?

We fall in love with materials and think up a new context for them. A colleague of mine, for instance, wanted the work clothing of car mechanics or painters because the quality of the material is so high. He uses it to create bespoke suits. From originals he takes apart trousers and jackets and fashions them into new pieces. The suits look very refined, but also have a great used look.

» We fall in love with materials and think up a new context for them. «

Carina Bischof, designer

Parking space for your keys

What else do upcycling designers like to create?

Wallets and jewellery, for example from old car tyres. Lamps are also very popular. A colleague of ours fell in love with the material and shape of watering cans. To one of them he connected tubes with light bulbs hanging out of them. It looks like the watering can is dispensing light. Chandeliers made of coat hangers are also very chic in my opinion. Or think of musical instruments – they’re also great for turning into lamps. It’s a very charming look in an apartment.


Are these products actually cheaper?

Not necessarily. With articles of clothing, we have to tailor each individual item. But then you have a product that was handmade.-. It’s custom work, not mass produced.

Who buys upcycling products?

People for whom sustainability is important. Architects and creative types with an understanding of design. People who consciously buy organic food.

Do you have any tips for people who would like to try upcycling for themselves?

The important thing is to look at the material and set it in a new context. One simple example is a used can that functions as a pen container. Or a bottle that looks good as a flower vase. On the internet there are countless tutorials that give instructions on how to make nice furniture out of used materials.

Interested in having a go yourself?

Designers from Volkswagen built a soapbox, a hat stand and a key park, among other objects. The creative process was recorded and is available – along with other instructions and gift ideas – at
Carina Bischof’s works can be seen in The Upcycling Fashion Store, Anklamer Strasse 17, 10115 Berlin.