Ganni is growing a new fashion empire based on responsible values. But the Danish co-founders still suffer from climate guilt

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Characteristic · fashion

They are growing a new fashion empire based on responsible values. But Ganni’s co-founders still suffer from climate guilt

Danish brand managers open up about the complexities of being climate-conscious in the fashion industry, sharing that they are working to achieve B Corp certification as part of the brand’s future efforts .

When asked how they made Ganni the formidable fashion brand it is today, co-founders Nicolaj and Ditte Reffstrup’s modest response hinted at a kind of serendipity. “There was never a grand strategy,” Nicolaj told CNN on Zoom ahead of the brand’s showcase at Copenhagen Fashion Week in August. “It was kind of organic and random.”

But in the 2000s, before Ganni’s sporting offering of poplin-collared dresses and high-top Chelsea boots became an unofficial uniform for Western women in their twenties and beyond, the company didn’t only sold cashmere. Owned at the time by a friend of the Reffstrups, the duo took over in 2009 and expanded the attributions of the brand with the help of only a few employees. As of 2020, they averaged 112 full-time employees and had become one of the top-selling brands on luxury e-commerce site Net-a-Porter. Today, Ganni claims more net sales in the United States, Canada and Europe than in the Nordic countries themselves, with its first stores soon to open in China.

“In general, we’re a bit shy about being in the fashion industry, or at least I am. So I go to work every day with a bit of a bad conscience.”

“It’s pretty Ganni-ish,” Ditte, who also serves as creative director at Ganni, said of the brand’s spontaneous debut. “We stumbled upon it.” Much of the so-called “Ganni-verse” can be described this way, with an air of simplicity infused into the brand’s DNA: candidly styled marketing campaigns at the couple’s own home, nestled in a leafy suburb of the old town of Copenhagen. .

The SS23 show was dedicated to the cycling culture of the city. Credit: Simon Birk

On the eve of the Ganni Spring/Summer 2023 show, a number of writers, editors, models and influencers were welcomed to the Reffstrup property. The 1950s-inspired checkerboard dining room floor—beautifully incongruous against the teal wall panels—along with the miscellaneous chairs and mismatched tableware were a masterclass in “happy accident” elegance: as if the handle eclectic beautiful plates, wine glasses and water glasses were put down at the last minute.

During the golden hour, models shone in outfits constructed from ultra-shiny metallic materials.

During the golden hour, models shone in outfits constructed from ultra-shiny metallic materials. Credit: goldie williams

The runway looks have been organized by colorway.

The runway looks have been organized by colorway. Credit: goldie williams

The brand’s Spring/Summer 2023 show had a similar feel. Inspired by Copenhagen’s famous cycling culture, the outdoor track began with a BMX performance by Danish world champion Malene Kejlstrup, who raced through the ramps while a remix of “Out of Space” by The Prodigy echoed through the speakers. Scribbled on the pier floor were giant pastel-colored chalk letters that spelled out the collection’s title: “Joyride.”

Looks featured were take-out festival outfits, like cowboy boots tucked into tracksuit bottoms and a raincoat exposing a triangle bikini bra. It’s commercial rather than couture, of course, but watching the sunset parade of monochromatic models wearing orange, lilac and aqua ensembles was all the more gratifying knowing that these pieces could find their way into your wardrobe, rather than just on a magazine cover. The festivities, which were attended by Gen Z YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain and model Mia Regan, were also open to the public in a welcome gesture rarely seen at fashion weeks.

Model and non-binary activist Richie Shazam walked the runway in an all-denim look.

Model and non-binary activist Richie Shazam walked the runway in an all-denim look. Credit: Simon Birk

The collection was filled with festival-ready looks.

The collection was filled with festival-ready looks. Credit: Simon Birk

Ganni will receive word on his B-Corp status in September.

Ganni will receive word on his B-Corp status in September. Credit: James Kelly

This approach, coupled with a semi-affordable price tag (typically ranging from $175 for a bag to $235 for a dress), is likely why Ganni seems to have turned regular customers into devoted fans. With over a million Instagram followers, far surpassing its Scandinavian competitors and even international brands at the same price point, the brand has forged a cult following in which feverishly dedicated customers happily tag themselves “#Gannigirls” – a label with over 90,000 posts on the app and 3.7 million on TikTok.

“I’m very proud that very early on we decided it was also important for us to show real people,” Ditte said. The brand still regularly reposts selfies of customers modeling their new merchandise, helpfully showing off what each print, colorway or neckline looks like on a variety of body types and ethnicities. “If we found the right photo of a girl who had good energy and looked good on Ganni, we would post it. We weren’t afraid to show a girl who only had 400 followers.” A spot on the label’s grid is a valuable incentive for fans to keep posting, tagging and maybe even buying, which ultimately drives Ganni’s engagement higher and higher.

Emma Chamberlain, Gen Z YouTube influencer and Vogue's latest Met Gala host, was seen front row on the show.

Emma Chamberlain, Gen Z YouTube influencer and Vogue’s latest Met Gala host, was seen front row on the show. Credit: James Kelly

Model Mia Regan was also present.

Model Mia Regan was also present. Credit: James Kelly

“We never use the word sustainability”

But even with at least four years of exponential growth under its belt, the brand cannot take its success for granted. In an ever-changing fashion landscape, how can Ganni continue to fortify his empire?

Perhaps, doubling down on ethical best practices, something more and more consumers are increasingly keen to see.

In March 2020, the Reffstrups applied for B-Corp status: a rigorous certification process and ranking that assesses a company’s social and environmental impact, from wildlife to workers’ rights.

According to the brand, 97% of the SS23 collection is responsible for this.

According to the brand, 97% of the SS23 collection is responsible for this. Credit: goldie williams

“Joyride” unveiled three catwalk collaborations with Barbour, Levi’s and 66 North. Credit: goldie williams

“(The B-Corp certificate) levels the playing field and makes it transparent who is doing what,” Nicolaj said. “Only then can you drive unified progress, because right now many brands are waiting for other brands, and big companies are waiting for other big companies – no one wants to be the first to commit to it publicly.” Currently, only a small percentage of apparel companies have achieved B-Corp status, including Chloé – the first luxury brand to have its sustainability efforts audited – as well as Patagonia, Sézane and AllBirds.
To bolster its environmental efforts, the brand has hired Aude Vergne, an industry-leading sustainability manager.

To bolster its environmental efforts, the brand has hired Aude Vergne, an industry-leading sustainability manager. Credit: Simon Birk

According to Ganni, its Spring-Summer 2023 collection is “97% responsible”, using a mix of upcycled materials, recycled fibers and natural scraps or dyes. In the brand’s 2021 Responsibility Report, the Reffstrups said their label had achieved 30 of 44 planet-positive goals set by its own board of environmental advisers – a group led by former Chloe green chef , Aude Vergne. Ganni intended to complete his “responsibility game plan” by 2023, but proudly notes that it will be completed a year ahead of schedule. The team is also experimenting with a new fabric made from sequestered carbon or harmful excess CO2 captured from the atmosphere.

Ganni says it's okay

Ganni says he “will never use the word sustainability.” Credit: goldie williams

Yet despite all of this, Ganni is reluctant to call himself enduring. “We never use the word sustainability,” Nicolaj said. “We realize this because fashion basically lives off novelty, and consuming more doesn’t make sense from a planetary perspective. In general, we’re a bit embarrassed to be in the fashion industry. fashion, or at least I am. So I go to work every day with a bit of a bad conscience.”

Their ultimate goal is to produce successful collections while being “climate positive”. It’s a tough question, especially when a brand’s visual language and sartorial production is on-trend rather than timeless. But the couple see their mission as something bigger than Ganni.

“We’ve had these conversations a number of times, you know, ‘should we just stop what we’re doing?'” Ditte added. “But we’re at least trying to do it as responsibly as possible, and we’re trying to change the industry.”

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