Copenhagen fashion is currently having a moment. In fact, it’s been having a moment for quite some time now, thanks in large part to Ganni. Credited with reinventing Scandi style, the Copenhagen-based label was founded in 2000 with a focus on cashmere. But it wasn’t until Ditte Reffstrup and her husband Nicolaj Reffstrup stepped in—as creative director and CEO, respectively—that it was reimagined into the playful, feminine brand worthy of cult status that it is today. By 2015, they could already count scores of It girls among their fans, and when #Gannigirl launched (after Kate Bosworth and Helena Christensen showed up to a lunch date wearing the same Ganni jacket) it became the hashtag heard around the world. But there’s more to the label’s story than street style success—namely the talent of a designer who doesn’t chase trends, instead designing instinctually to capture the not-quite-traditionally-Scandinavian style that she and her friends have always embraced. With her latest collection having just made its runway debut (and available to shop now on Moda), we met up with Ditte to bring you the story you likely haven’t heard, that of the woman behind the buzzy name.
Rachel Hodin: I read the following on Vogue: “When Ditte Reffstrup was growing up in the Danish countryside, she and her friends would listen to Nirvana and smoke inside the barracks dotting a nearby beach.” Can you describe your upbringing, and how it informed your sense of style?
Ditte Reffstrup: I’m from a small town in Jutland called Hirtshals, a fishing village close to the sea. I’ve always loved expressing myself, standing out and dressing up. As a child, I looked pretty out-there in the school yard; when other girls were wearing pretty dresses, I was a dressed flamboyantly like Bananarama. Fashion has always been a way to express myself.
R.H.: Before becoming Ganni’s Creative Director, you were a buyer. What lessons did you learn from that experience that you use today?
D.R.: I learned a lot about what sells and what doesn’t. It comes down to making women feel confident.
R.H.: The brand has been celebrated for mastering the magic “got to have it” formula; in other words: Ganni creates pieces women intuitively want to wear. How are you consistently tapping into that sense of desire?
D.R.: I’m always driven and guided by a gut feeling. You’ve got to stay true to who you are. If you overthink it, it makes you stumble. I feel like I’m creating the pieces I want to wear myself—if I have no desire to wear it, then I start again.
R.H.: Tell me about your design process.
D.R.: It all starts with a feeling, and I guess our only rule is to make sure contrast is constant. In every design, we always add something a little bit eclectic and unexpected to make you stop and think and really keep things interesting. I’ve got such an amazing team.
R.H.: Where do you tend to look for or find inspiration? Who or what is consistently on your moodboard?
D.R.: I’m constantly traveling and forever inspired by what I see on the streets of different cities around the world. I am so drawn to attitude. Sometimes I’ll see a woman on the street and just feel captivated by her energy.
R.H.: The brand feels very rooted in Copenhagen. What does the city mean to you? How does it differ from your relationship(s) to other places?
D.R.: Copenhagen is integral to Ganni—I get so much of my inspiration from the city and just people watching. I love traveling the world, but coming home to Copenhagen always makes me feel at ease; it’s such a calm city. The lifestyle is so easy and balanced. I feel very fortunate in that way.
R.H.: The phrase “Scandinavian 2.0” is used in Ganni’s bio line. Scandinavian style has been mythologized into something incredibly clean and minimal, yet Ganni spotlights bright color and lots of prints. How do you interpret the term “Scandi style”?
D.R.: I wanted to create my own version of Scandi style—that’s where Scandi style 2.0 came from. I remember feeling there was something missing on the fashion scene. I just wanted to make something that reflected the way my friends and I dress. Back when we started out, there were two predominant views of Scandinavian style: boho chic and Scandinavian minimalism. I just couldn’t relate any of that to my own style, or the way my friends dressed. So we decided to create Ganni, full of contrasts and personality.
R.H.: What about Scandinavian style do you think is currently resonating so strongly with the fashion community across the world?
D.R.: I really feel like it’s an effortless, relaxed approach to fashion that people can relate to. But I also think it relates to a broader aspect. Our society is very comfortable and secure—the system takes care of you. Our kids are raised equally across gender, which in turn helps support Danish women by giving them a certain confidence and ease in life.
R.H.: What do you think differentiates Copenhagen Fashion Week from others around the world? Has it changed much over last 10 years?
D.R.: The Copenhagen fashion scene is a celebration of our hometown, and our talented friends. I think international press see it as a fun Fashion Week, because it’s fairly open and quite chill. It feels like a really special time for Danish culture in general. Paris and Milan are so glamorous but there’s just something more laidback and effortless about Copenhagen fashion.
R.H.: #Gannigirls has over 25k Instagram posts. What does it mean to be a “Ganni girl”?
D.R.: Ganni girls is the whole inspiration for the upcoming collection. She’s not one single polished persona—it’s plural. The GANNI girl is more a state of mind or an attitude than a look. It hit me when I was in Paris last year. We were walking past this little bar where there were 10, maybe 15, women in traditional West African dress dancing. They were partying hard and it totally reminded me of the kitchen parties we have at home. I remember thinking: these women are so Ganni. The Ganni lifestyle is so much more than Copenhagen girls on bikes wearing sneakers with floral dresses. The world has infinite ways of showing its beauty, whether that is raw nature or urban life. This [Fall / Winter ‘19] collection is in many ways inspired by that modern woman, the global GANNI girl, who could be from anywhere.
R.H.: What role would you say influencers have played in the brand's success?
D.R.: In all honesty, it just happened so organically—we’ve been lucky. It’s not like we had a master plan—we never even had a social media manager—so when the girls started wearing the pieces, it just kept going from there. But we are so grateful for all the support we have had.
R.H.: What are your key trends or themes for the Fall / Winter ’19 collection?
D.R.: Trends aren’t really something I consider. The collection, Life On Earth, is inspired by a coming together of cultures from all over the world, so there’s a lot of print. It’s also inspired by the Ganni girl state of mind and attitude, that modern woman, the global Ganni girl. Thinking about that her makes me think about what connects us all: our planet. I get into a major apocalyptic depression thinking about the future and global warming. But for the past few years, we’ve been working really hard to make Ganni more sustainable. To support that idea we approached Ami Vitale, the insanely talented National Geographic photojournalist, to co-create this season’s set design. She has this approach to photography where, instead of depressing people with a cynical outlook, she inspires them to take action by showing them the beauty of the world. It’s an approach I can really relate to when designing.
R.H.: Is there any significance to the silhouettes, colors or the fabrics you've used?
D.R.: We’ve played with volume and proportions to create a feminine silhouette throughout with cocooning and ruched shapes and unexpected cutouts to give an edge. The five runway pieces exclusive to Moda are super sophisticated, and our design team sourced new high-quality fabrics and really experimented with cuts and techniques. We also incorporated colors and prints into the collection that pay homage to the nature and wildlife shown in Vitale’s photography.
R.H.: If we only buy one piece, what should it be?
D.R.: I love it all but my favorite piece is the black ruched dress with contrast white stitching—it’s such a great shape and it’s made from recycled polyester. That piece is the perfect example of how sustainable fashion doesn’t need to be a compromise.
Shop Ganni's Fall/Winter '19 Collection