Out of Garbage – Fashion Project

This blog will continue to be updated after the project has ended, e.g. with news around the presentation of the collection in Austria and further statements and information around the project.


Statement Xiane Kangela

Xiane KangelaAbout the project Out of Garbage – Waste to Dress

The one world foundation runs the “Bogenvillya”, an Ayurveda resort where guests are lovingly pampered. What is special about the Bogenvillya is that it is a place of encounters. Our guests meet artists, writers and volunteers who teach in the school. The mostly young volunteers report regularly from the school and are like ambassadors of the one world foundation college in the guest house. Bettina, Steffen and Marija – the Waste to Dress team – were also ambassadors on several levels. Through their daily work with the teachers and women in the school, they brought issues such as pollution, the throwaway society and design to the Bogenvillya. Those of our guests who wanted to could participate in the fashion show or just be a spectator.

The blue trailing dress made of ghost nets, which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of marine animals every year, especially turtles and fish, as they die from the plastic in the nets, looked like a memorial at the beginning of the show. It was spectacular to see how beautifully harmonious dresses made of natural materials such as leaves, branches and wickerwork were presented by the wearers.

The project Out of Garbage – Waste to Dress was important in many ways and a great enrichment for the one world foundation.

Xiane Kangela, one world foundation


Note of thanks by Bettina Reichl

Bettina ReichlNote of thanks

Since 20 years I have been organizing intercultural projects between designers around the globe, but the experience I had with “Out of Garbage / Waste to Dress” was indeed very special for me. I came for the first time in a position to “teach” and share my design experience with women who were actually educated in tailoring. My interest was to show them a way to go beyond that and to help them to develop their skills and self confidence in designing clothes. It was a challenge for me, despite the problem of speaking different languages, to find a way to connect with the women and motivate them to explore their own creativity. It was not so easy to work with a material that is garbage from our throw-away culture and ends up on the beaches of a culture that still works with many natural material and a traditional attitude to multiuse objects.

First of all, I would like to thank Kathrin Messner most warmly for welcoming this project in her institution, which is really an open place for creativity and the coming together of people with different roots and life worlds. It is not only a school project with meanwhile 1300 pupils and students, completely funded by a small Ayurveda Resort and private sponsors, but also a place of learning and experience for cultural exchange for everybody who just shares time and place at the one world foundation. And many things work here, because it is a place of trust, and carefullness.

The more I get into the center of such projects, the more I realise how important it is for the global development of humanity to understand each other, learn from each other and find solutions to overcome historical patterns and develop towards a respectful encounter at eye-level between all cultures. In this context, I would like to thank the teachers Sureka Perera, Porawagoda Nishanti De Silva and Wanigamuni Anoma Malkanthi Mendis for their sincere interest in this cooperation and their enormous creative input. I would like to thank the women’s group for embarking on the adventure of engaging in this collaborative process and opening up more and more to my thoughts. They can be really proud of their work and I hope they will find their way to use their creativity for a successful future.

I would like to thank Mr. Prabath Wijesekara, the principal of the one world foundation college, his assistants Sachini Nilashika and Sampath Wijerathna and many other helping hands in the teaching team for their contribution and patience at a time when they had to organise a big event after a break of three years due to Corona.

I would like to thank Irma Denk, who brought me into contact with the one world foundation through a holiday and started the workshop project in 2020 with me. Without the collaboration with Steffen Pirkl and his enormous artistic handicraft knowledge the costumes would not have the quality they have achieved. Marija Kanižaj is a great photographer and it was an honour for me that she was interested in accompanying me on this journey and doing a reportage. Through her camera eye, she gave us all the opportunity to experience the encounter and make it unforgettable.

I would like to thank Xiane Kangela and Kaspar Mühlemann Hartl from the one world foundation for their support of the project and for spreading the information via social media and the blog. I would also like to mention Sasindu Pramuditha, teacher of the photography class, who did a photo shoot with us in 2020 and Methuli, the daughter of Mr. Wijesekara, who was our model back then. I would like to thank Mrs Raji de Silva, the manager of the Bogenvillya and her crew, who always supported us when we needed them, and also Mukadanwasam Prasantha, our tuc-tuc driver who took us to the best shops and places in the area. Traudi Messini from the circle of guests at the Bogenvillya I would like to thank for her support in developing a choreography for the show and for her contribution to the blog. Many thanks also to Elisabeth Menasse, Birgid Uccia, Peter Klein and Susanna Maslankowski who were guests on site during the workshops and also contributed wonderful statements. I would like to thank Susanna’s family, Rainer Käse and son Matteo for helping me to bring the collection home so that I can also present it in Graz.

Such a project would be much more difficult to realise without the support of sponsors. At this point I would like to thank the fashion company Akris Switzerland, the embassies of Austria and Sri Lanka, the Austrian Fashion Association, the Austrian Ministry of Art, Culture, Public Service and Sports and the City of Graz / Department Unesco City of Design.

Explore its philosophy and visit the one world foundation in Sri Lanka! It is still one of the cleanest beaches I know. Certainly, it is also the beauty of this place and the heartbreaking kindness of the people there that make me want to contribute more and more to the protection of planet Earth.

Bettina Reichl, designer and workshop leader


Voices of the Women's Cooperation

The 29th of December last year was a most remarkable day for all of us. The Waste to Dress fashion show held that day gave us lots of experience and fun. We must appreciate the kindness, unity and support from the fashion designers Ms. Bettina Reichl, Ms. Marija Kanižaj, Mr. Steffen Pirkl, the one world foundation directors and the principal, the college staff and our sisters. On that day we felt so happy! We are truly grateful for having had such a precious experience in our lives.
W. Shani Dilhari De Silva, H. Dilukshi, from the students of Knitting Class of the Women’s Cooperation

The Waste to Dress fashion show, which took place on 29 December 2022, was the greatest experience of my life. The foreign fashion designers taught us how to use waste materials and create new fashion from them. It was very fortunate that I was able to participate in this event as a teacher. I would like to thank all the designers, the one world foundation directors, our principal, all the staff members and all the beloved students who supported me to gain such a great experience that enriches my life.
Mrs. Nishanthi De Silva, Instructor of the Knitting Unit of the Women’s Cooperation

The fashion show held at one world foundation on 29 December last year using waste materials was a new experience for me. I really appreciate all the new fashion designs and I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this event from the bottom of my heart. I wish we could experience more events like this again and again.
K. Mala Priyanthi De Silva from the Knitting Class of the Women’s Cooperation

The 29th of December last year was an unforgettable, memorable and funny experience for me. I would like to thank Mrs Bettina Reichl, Mrs Marija Kanižaj, Mr Steffen Pirkl, who came to create the fashion show with us, our principal for giving permission and the teachers who contributed a lot to the success of the event.
R. Chathurangi Shashikala from the Sewing Class of the Women’s Cooperation

The fashion show which was held on 29th December 2022 was a very special, fun experience for me. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to our principal for allowing us to have this event. I would also like to thank the foreign fashion designers who shared their knowledge with us and all the teachers and sisters who participated.
Kasuni Nisansala from the Sewing Class of the Women’s Cooperation


Statement Susanna Maslankowski

Susanna MaslankowskiStatement on the fashion show

We arrived at the Bogenvilla towards the end of the creative process. Just in time for the ‘climax’ of the fashion show, so to say.

We set off that day without much expectations, intrigued more by the social commitment than a high profile fashion show. But as soon as I saw the first dresses displayed by the models involved, I knew that Bettina and her team had created some really great work.

What was on show there on stage deserves all my respect. It must have been an strenuous process to achieve such enchanting creations. One could tell the permeation of a remarkably consistent design approach throughout. In their own way, the garments are marvellously imperfect and yet perfect at the same time. So you don’t just see a simple train, but a train that can hardly be improved.

I found it quite significant when some people I showed my favourite clothes asked me if one could buy them because they looked so wearable. The astonishment was great when I then told them that they were all made from plastic waste with cable ties.

I trust the women involved gained a lot from working with Bettina and her team and that the inspiration will encourage them on their own creative path.

Susanna Maslankowski, architect


Statement Traudi Messini

Traudi MessiniOut of Garbage: Waste to Dress

The dashing creative team arrived at the Bogenvillya in Ahungalla with an uncompromising concept: Bettina, the ambitious designer; Steffen, the most creative assistant ever; and Marija, the inspired photographer. All three immediately cast a spell over the few of us already at the resort since before Christmas. From then on, the happiest evenings together were all about refuse, trash littering the beaches and not knowing how to deal with it. The crucial point of the whole enterprise – as great as we thought the idea of making a collection for a fashion show out of all these things – was the cultural clash between Sri Lanka and Europe. What we Europeans thought awesome, the women of the One World Foundation’s Women’s Cooperation initially found to be most disconcerting. “Waste belongs in the bin and not in the wardrobe and certainly not on the catwalk.” Our creative team had three weeks to work with the women on the “Out of Garbage: Waste to Dress” concept. That meant: first collect the garbage and then design garments with it, all together. Even today, I still can’t explain how they managed to create more than thirty dresses and then even send them onto the catwalk by the women themselves.

There were tears and misunderstandings in abundance. At first the women didn’t even want to work with all this refuse. Then they didn’t want to wear the clothes and, furthermore, their dress codes also restricted them: naked shoulders, for example, was an absolute no-go. But, despite all the resistance, the fashion show was an enormous success. A little carried away by the international guests, perhaps, the young women and their garbage dresses were also rewarded with great applause from the local audience. Even we die-hards were excited about what our creative team had conjured up: a coconut sleeping mat turned into a great cape, a crown was made from a broken basket that we’d picked up somewhere. A metallic jacket, created out of aluminium mesh, was studded with flattened beverage cans. Colourful crown caps went into a festive minidress, plastic one way gloves convincingly adorned an evening dress with a long train, a fallen, already grey palm leaf functioned as adornment for a simple black dress. A crocheted overdress was made from coconut rope, a sweeping couture skirt was made from fallen bamboo bark, shimmering yellowish-brown mudilla tree leaves turned into a ruff. A frayed old fishing net became a mermaid dress including all the plastic fragments from the ocean still caught up in it. Pure sensuality from things found. Garbage can do so much more!

Traudi Messini, TV producer


„Combatting the insanity of the throw-away culture“, Anuradha Kodagoda, Sunday Observer


Statement Peter Klein

Peter KleinThe Out of Garbage Fashion Project
“Fashion is that,” Oscar Wilde once said, “whereby the fantastic becomes general for a moment.” The English eccentric would certainly have liked the Out of Garbage Fashion project. He loved it when things are taken to extremes, when phenomena gain contour and recognisability through exaggeration. We all know that our oceans – and not only these! – have become the world’s biggest rubbish dump. We know that millions of tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, decompose there and threaten flora and fauna. We know it ad nauseam, we have become accustomed to it.

The special feature of the Out of Garbage project by Bettina Reichl and her team is undoubtedly that it confronts the sad topic with wit and humour. Raised forefingers rarely have an effect. Successful artistic interventions, on the other hand, do. The idea of making rubbish fashionable is as sly as it is coolly calculated. The gain in insight arises from the interweaving of two areas that, on the surface, seem to be far apart: Here fashion, there rubbish. Here the beautiful appearance, there the filth of civilisation. The fact that beauty is inherent in ugliness only becomes apparent through the artist’s arrangements. Never before has rubbish been seen as beguiling, as extravagant as in the final fashion show of the Out of Garbage Fashion Project. “Fashion”, to quote Oscar Wilde once again, “is that brief period of time when the utterly insane can be considered normal”. A real pity that Mister Wilde could not be there. The models with their dresses made of crushed aluminium cans, crown corks knocked flat, disposable gloves and worn-out fishing nets would certainly have amused him.

Peter Klein, publicist


Blog 7 / 2022 - Fashion Show on the occasion of the school celebration event with certificate distribution

Our fashion show was part of a wonderful whole day event with theatre and dance presentations of all pre-school classes, music performances of the elder students as well as exhibitions of the tailoring, knitting, batik and photo-classes. Together with the chief guest Janaprith Fernando (Chief Commissioner of SLSA, Attorney-at-Law) and his wife Awanthi Fernando, Kathrin Messner and her family, Prabath Wijesekara and his team of assistants and teachers performed the opening ceremony. About 500 guests, families of the children and students as well as the one world foundation guests enjoyed a pleasant day together./div>


Blog 6 / 2022 - Photo-Shooting

Fabulous Marjia Kanižaj and the women of the workshop did the shooting alongside the way from the One World Foundation College to the beach of Ahungalla, which also was our daily way to work. Neighbours opened their houses and gardens, we used the old public school as background, moved along the nearby railway tracks and included the traffic of the Uruguru Street / Gaulle Road crossing in our scenery and thereby caused surprise, laughter and a little bit of chaos in the middle of daily Sri Lankan life.


Blog 5 / 2022

Making of Photoshooting – Marija Kanižaj at work


Blog 4 / 2022

We assembly five groups for natural materials, plastic, metal, ocean plastic and factory left overs. The women start the realization of individual dresses. They cook and iron banana leaves, put hundreds of bottle caps together, stomp aluminium cans, repair fisher nets and sew zippers one to the other.


Blog 3 / 2022

Impressions from the first week: Get to know each other, sorting materials, first experiments to create surfaces, investigating technical implementation, thinking bigger in dresses. drawing sketches.


Blog 2 / 2022

Together with the 20 women of the Women´s Cooperation and their teachers we looked for interesting materials at the Ahungalla beach.


Blog 1 / 2022

Out of Garbage workshop

Recycling fashion created from garbage, factory left-overs and plant residues. Thrown-away materials serve as a starting point for a fanciful collection.

“Out of Garbage / Waste to Dress” Volume 2 started on 7th of December in Ahungalla / Sri Lanka.

Sri-Lankan women, trained in the one world foundation tailoring school, produce their creative design models in cooperation with the Austrian designers Bettina Reichl, Steffen Pirkl and Xiane Kangela. The results of the workshop will be presented in a fashion show on 29th of December at the one world foundation college.

New this year is the use of factory left-overs donated by the Swiss fashion company Akris.

The photographer Marija Kanižaj will accompany us during this month for a reportage.


Statement Birgid Uccia

Waste has become one of the most pressing issues of our time, cutting across social strata, gender, and politics. Waste also transcends national borders, bringing us closer in view of this tremendous challenge of global extent. It is in this vein that the remarkable project ‘Out of Garbage’ / ‘Waste to Dress’ has been started at the Women’s Corporation of the one world foundation. It skilfully demonstrates how waste can be transformed into a valuable resource. Inserting a variety of discarded materials into the cycle of cultural production, the two designers have invited the Women’s Corporation to experiment with these materials, digging deep into the creativity and imagination of the women. It is an aesthetic delight to see the already completed dresses and accessories, each of them breathing the spirit of unbridled invention and versatility. The dresses couldn’t be more contemporary and fashionable. In fact, they are setting the trend. Redefining our ideal of beauty, the project reassigns value to something that would normally end its life on the garbage dump. Congratulations to all those who have been engaged in this project, it is paving the way to a new awareness that will shape our future!

Birgid Uccia, founder of ACFA Asian Contemporary Fine Arts Mumbai, curator of the project „Waste Land“,


Making-of photo shooting

Due to the corona crisis schools also closed in Sri Lanka and we had to interrupt our project. We thank a lot the photographer Sasindu Pramuditha and our model Methuli Thesara Wijesekara for their spontaneous availability for a photo shooting to document the first finished costumes made of leaves, plastic bags, cellulose and plastic nets, plastic bottles, aluminium cans and plastic straws. We want to continue our work as soon as possible. The works shall inspire our consciousness and ability to communicate. Working together with creativity can serve to design a better future. Every individual can contribute with his or her lifestyle, habits and attitudes to combat the insanity of our throw-away culture. Out of plastic and back to nature. And every individual can contribute to a more human society. Out of the ego and back to the unity of all mankind.


Photo shooting with the photography teacher of the one world college Sasindu Pramuditha and the model Methuli Thesara Wijesekara.


Impressions of the workshop

Turtle Sculpture
Turtle sculpture / garbage bin at the beach of Ahungalla

Found footage mannequin
Found footage mannequin


Since many years one world foundation has been laying a focus on environmental protection awareness, supported as a cross-cutting theme at various levels: waste separation, collection of waste from beaches, special exam and essay topics as well as other initiatives at our school. I am very happy about the wonderful fashion project “Out of Garbage” from Bettina Reichl and Irma Denk at our Women’s Cooperation. The project goes far beyond creating awareness by showing techniques to upcycle the garbage materials and to make creative use of them. one world foundation is much inspired by the concept of the Social Sculpture by the artist Joseph Beuys. The question of how we shape the world in which we live is one of the most relevant questions of our times. “Out of Garbage” shows one way of how we can make use of our creativity for positive change, and the project is also a strong contribution to the programmes of one world foundation which aim at female empowerment.

Kathrin Messner, founder and director of one world foundation

Sri Lanka has a magical attraction to me. I love its beautiful landscapes, spiritual people and manifold cultures. The intense power of nature learns you respect and leads easily to the recognition of unity with all beings. Many oceanic animals are harmed by thrown away plastics: Fish, turtles, sea birds and whales are entangled in bags or mistake small plastic items as food, but also animals on land, who eat straw ball nettings or plastics from garbage heaps. My work for “Out of Garbage / Waste to dress” is dedicated to my beloved cat, who died through a hormonal disease caused by substances coming out of plastics. We have to create a safer world for our animals. It is in our responsibility to protect the beauty of our Planet Earth and the wellbeing of all creatures!

Bettina Reichl, fashion and packaging designer and curator of “Out of Garbage / Waste to dress”

one world foundation has been offering educational programs and activities in Sri Lanka to strengthen the living standard through education over the past twenty four years. The Women’s Cooperation is a one of the most successful units, which provides training courses for the mothers of our pupils in order to develop their skills with the aim of supporting them finding work and being able to generate an income of their own.
The concept “Out of Garbage / Waste to dress” was introduced by Bettina Reichl and Irma Denk to the Women’s Cooperation of one world foundation with the objective to promote alternative, eco-sensitive fashion concepts. The packaging industry is experiencing a radical transformation as the global demographic growth, digitalization, the scarcity of resources and the accelerating climate change challenge the current business models to become more innovative and sustainable in order to create a safer world for all of us. I firmly believe that this will be a new trend and an important undertake for every society of this one world.

Prabath Wijesekara, principal of one world foundation

“Out of Garbage” addresses an absolutely serious topic and is at the same time a call for action. I like how creative and playful the approach of this project is. I worked as director of the Viennese Children’s Museum ZOOM for many years and in this job, I learned that things you do playfully and with joy go much deeper into your consciousness than things that are only explained to you by words. When we collect waste at the beach or near our own house, we start to think about why it is there, who throws these things away and how we can avoid this in the future. When we collect waste in order to produce dresses, we look much more carefully at the objects we find and analyse their material, qualities and possibilities. From these qualities and possibilities we can create beautiful, crazy, attractive, impossible costumes and dresses using only our phantasy and skills. I think phantasy is a strong power. We need this strong power to create a more sustainable world for us and our children. They have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment! Let us start now!

Elisabeth Menasse, project coordinator of one world foundation


In Sri Lanka’s daily life still a lot of beauiful natural packagings can be found. Many different net bags made of multi-used plastics are used for the transport of fruits and vegetables. At the catwalk we will show you dresses made out of these packaging-materials.


New beginning! A first look at the materials. Kathrin Messner, founder and director of the one world foundation together with Prabath Wijesekara, the principal of the one world foundation college and his team, Elisabeth Menasse, coordinator of the one world foundation as well as the women of the Women’s Cooperation tailoring workshop, Bettina Reichl and Irma Denk, the fashion designers from Austria.

Looking for accessory materials in the village Ambolangoda.


8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year.
1 million plastic bags are used globally every minute.
26% of the total plastics volume is used in packaging.
Only 14% of all plastic is being recycled.

„Be the change that you wish to see in the world.“ Gandhi


Out of Garbage / Waste to Dress, Fashion Project, One World Foundation, Ahungalla, Sri Lanka, 02 – 27-03-2020

Plastic bags, cups, straws, fast-food packaging, nets, aluminium cans, bottles and stoppers that have washed up on the beaches as well as leaves that have fallen from trees in the tropical rainforests and gardens replace conventional clothing materials. The theme of the project is the transience and immutability of materials as well as the need to return to a sustainable packaging and textile industry that protects resources. Along with some 40 women who were trained in the tailoring workshop of the one world foundation school, Bettina Reichl (fashion and packaging designer) and Irma Denk (founder of Slow Fashion and Feldenkrais Practicioner) produce styles in a 1-month workshop that will be presented in a final fashion show.

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