Thursday, February 6, 2020

From Karaoke To Cult Dresses, The Secret To Ganni’s Stratospheric Success

At the riotous Ganni house party following the brand’s autumn/winter 2020 show at Copenhagen Fashion Week, Nicolaj Reffstrup is glued to the mic on the makeshift karaoke podium. His wife, Ditte, is dancing around the velvet-curtained space with the wild abandon reminiscent of the night they first met, after Nicolaj enquired who the uninhibited woman owning a particular club night was. The evening prior to the AW20 presentation, the husband-and-wife duo at the helm of the Scandi favourite hosted a dinner for fashion press in their family home. The soirée ended with the 30-strong guest list shimmying around the dining table, and then moving on to belt out Shania Twain hits at the local dive bar, Sam’s. The celebratory mood suggested things were going swimmingly at Ganni.

“The more success you have, the more afraid you are of losing it,” Ditte tells British Vogue at Ganni HQ – a Danish townhouse with tasty morsels stuffed in excellent glassware on expansive tables. “From the outside everything is good, but in my mind it’s getting harder. I put pressure on myself to be better.” Help for the creative director, who unveiled her 10th anniversary collection for spring/summer 2020, has come via the financial backing of LVMH-linked private equity firm, L Catterton – which acquired a 51 per cent stake in Ganni in 2017 – and new recruits for Ditte’s design team. “Two years ago, there were just four of us in the studio, because we were afraid of inviting new people on board,” she shares. “It’s crazy how much hiring new talent has lifted us up. The best idea always wins, whether it comes from an intern or an art director.”

In the early days, Ganni collections were driven by Ditte’s personal style inclinations. “There was a period when I always wore dresses,” she shrugs. Indeed, we all remember 2017’s Dalton wrap dress with its posy-dappled print that seemed to suit every one of the #GanniGirls – the label’s cult social following. And 2019’s neon seersucker summer dress that took the Vogue office, and street-style set, by storm. Ditte, a former buyer, has a knack for commercial fashion hits. At the moment, the self-professed tomboy, who is living in jeans and prairie-style shirting, has a particularly good feeling about tailoring, although she can’t put her finger on the precise reason why.

Whimsy only goes so far when there’s a major investor in the picture, and numbers now play a vital role in plotting out the collections. “It’s important that people are actually wearing the clothes,” continues Ditte. “If our commercial partners tell us customers are asking for a particular product, I always rework it.” That viral seersucker dress? She’s back next season in a quieter shade than the neon original.

Nicolaj’s background as an eco-aware tech entrepreneur has also steered his wife’s creativity towards a greener outlook, which customers are increasingly interested in. “When we met 15 years ago, Nicolaj was talking about organic food, global warming, climate change…” Ditte reminisces. “I was 25 and thought he was such a downer! I’d think, ‘here we go again’ every time he started speaking about our negative impact. Now we’re talking about it every day.” At first, she admits she found working with certified suppliers and materials limiting, but says she’s has come to enjoy the creative challenges of the brand’s eco-friendly framework. LVMH’s support has also given Ganni a turbo boost up the ladder of quality suppliers, which Ditte believes customers will notice in the feel of the latest collections.

“We don’t talk about sustainability, but responsibility,” Nicolaj interjects. “We began looking for alternative solutions because of the moral obligation we have to behave responsibly.” After Ganni got called out by bloggers for not publicising details of the brand’s supply chain, the Reffstrups committed to being transparent. Copenhagen Fashion Week’s accelerated sustainability efforts have Ganni to thank for being an early green cheerleader – albeit behind the scenes, due to the couple’s sensitivity. “We would make a lot more money if we weren’t so conscious,” Nicolaj laughs.

If humblebrags aren’t part of Ganni’s nature – the brand now has a four-strong sustainability team, one member dedicated to traceability, another mapping out the company’s sustainability journey via the Higg Index – Ditte and Nicolaj are passionate about creative collaboration. Over the course of 2020, 20 females from the fields of art, photography, design and music will come together to upcycle Ganni exclusives, find future solutions, and simply share a “spirit of togetherness in the wild times we live in,” says Ditte. 

Chances are you might not know that the fancy coloured tumblers currently on sale in the Ganni Kiosk are made from recycled plastic by glass designer Nina Nørgaard. Or that a portion of the profits will go to I:CO, the partner for Ganni’s in-store take-back schemes. Ditte merely hopes the expanded Ganni-verse will receive a positive reaction because, “Fashion can be so closed, it’s much more interesting to share.” This holistic approach to branding – from design, to social media (check out for its insider route around Copenhagen) and dancing on the tables with press – is why Ganni is an original success story. Time will tell whether the Reffstrup’s core principles and personality will hold true as it continues its ambitious expansion plan.

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