As a social institution in the Ruhr metropolis, Diakoniewerk Duisburg operates social department stores to integrate job and asylum seekers into a regular daily routine and offer them support measures. The most recent project is the expansion of this commitment to include an upcycling initiative. Style and the gang took a closer look.


In an open-plan workshop, used clothing and textiles as well as leftover leather, waste paper, plastic and packaging waste find a second life. The materials are recycled by hand. Job and asylum seekers sew, glue and make new bags, key rings, envelopes and much more from the materials. There are no limits for their creativity. In the truest sense: Participants are expressly invited to contribute their own ideas and suggestions for designs.

According to Gabriele Schmiedchen, Upcyling Project Manager at Diakoniewerk Duisburg, the initiative has been very well received by everyone involved, both by the participants and by the buyers and initiators. The manufactured products are offered in a separate corner in the social department stores.

Schmiedchen comments: “The participants in our upcycling project are very committed and also skilled in craftsmanship. It’s very nice to be able to offer them a meaningful task. You have the opportunity to get involved independently and be creative. And language is not a barrier here. The participants sometimes come from different countries and do not always have basic knowledge of German. As part of the upcycling project, an exchange without big words is also possible.”

Buyers, in turn, value the sustainable, environmentally friendly idea behind the initiative in addition to the social and integrative support. Especially in times of climate change, topics related to waste avoidance play an important role. And the trend towards ‚Do it yourself‘ itself already makes upcycling creations attractive products.


Doing it yourself gives people self-confidence and promotes community. DIY products provide a basis for a lively exchange of ideas and tricks. “We have already received many requests for DIY workshops from our customers. We think it is definitely a great option to form further networks at this level, promote community and further develop our social approaches,” explains Schmiedchen.


We cooperate! This article was written in cooperation with the international platform for ethical fashion Whether from Tokyo, Kilifi, Barcelona or Bali – on their website the editors Tays Jennifer Köper-Kelemen and Nina Elyas present unusual, socially committed and ethical fashion brands with cross-cultural concepts from all over the world. Curated designers tell their stories of craftsmanship, and what it means to create fashion with added value.