It's apt that while I'm waiting to meet with Ditte Reffstrup, the Creative Director of the Danish based brand Ganni, I'm trying to capture the beautiful show setting I find myself in for Instagram. Namely, some huge colourful mesh panels that the NYC based artist Ana Kraš has erected in the vast industrial space the show is to be held in, on the outskirts of Copenhagen city. With the light streaming through the old windows causing a myriad of shadows to appear and the space yet to be filled with show goers it's perfect Instabait, much like the brand itself.
Although it started out in 2000, as a cashmere brand, it was only nine years later when Ditte and her husband Nikolai (now CEO) took control, that Ganni started trending as the duo steadily turned it into one of biggest players on the Scandinavian fashion map. Now with four collections per year and prices starting from £45, its cult appeal includes ruffled floral dresses, graphic printed tees, knitwear and trophy jackets that nail that tricky category of 'cool contemporary' dressing.
Search for the hashtag #GanniGirls on Instagram and you'll find over 9,000 posts ranging from influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers captured on a street style blog to random changing room mirrors posts where the selfie taker is proudly showing off their first Ganni purchase. Although they might be dubbed 'girls' the Ganni wearer is in no way juvenile, instead its appeal lies in the fact that its pieces are apt for whatever the dress code requires. From first dates to wedding invites, Ganni is the brand that cool women who know what they like and what they want turn to.
Here Ditte talks style, social media and why no Ganni girl is in fact, perfect...
There are lots of interesting prints in this collection, tell me about the inspiration?
'We've called the theme "Global Citizen." It’s very simple. It’s just how I want to see the world, all the good things and all the different cultures. So you will see inspiration from all over the world, like old kimono prints from Asia and then also more sporty looks which reference the underground Russian fashion scene and street wear. I loved those old images of the guys with short fringes in sports wear.'
So did you visit these places?
'We usually always travel for each collection but this time I was pregnant and not allowed to. So I travelled in my mind and then we split the design team up and sent them off in different directions. That week they were gone, I was watching lots of old films and I had a lot of time, for reading and listening to music. I was really afraid when I wasn’t able to travel but it was actually even better to travel in my mind. And that’s why it ended up as this big mix of everything.'
The artist/ photographer Ana Kraš has done the set design for the show and shot your campaign images. How did you come across her work?
'I just stumbled upon it a few year ago and loved her stuff. She is from Serbia and live in New York City and I was really excited when she yes to working with us. We talked about the inspiration and how I want to see the world and how we can all live together. At the moment the world is so fucked up and I can get really nervous about it. For me fashion should be fun but it's still nice to have a space where we can play with ideas and portray a message. Last season, our show was entitled 'The Lost Society,' and we had big walls installed. I'm not a political person but it's a natural thing when you travel to notice these things.'
This space feels very democratic with everyone sitting front row...
'I love this space and what Ana has created. For me it's important that you can sit and just watch the show and enjoy it. You don't have to think about who is next to you or in front of you. Sometimes the shows can become too much about who sits where and who gets the best shot on their phone.'
The model line-up is also really diverse...
'That is really important to me. Sometimes it can be hard to get in Copenhagen. We have a lot of beautiful Danish girls but I often think beauty can be lots of other things, It’s also personality. You can have the most beautiful girl in the world but she can disappear if she doesn’t have something else about her too.'
This collection also includes your first denim collaboration with Bengt Thornefors and Christopher Svensson from Magniberg...
'They are super cool, and friends of friends. We wanted to do denim for a longtime but I would never do anything that doesn’t feel right and I would never do it just to do it. But I feel the time for us to start to do some new denim is now. So we did this collaboration and it’s just a sneak peek of how I see the new denim. We’re known for our colour and prints and I can’t reveal too much but this is a taste of what we have planned for the future. It’s very me.'
What strikes me most about Ganni, is that it's not your stereotypical Scandi look which is often thought of black, minimal with oversized shapes...
'That's why we started Ganni. There was no brand in Denmark representing what I looked like and what my friends looked like. Everyone would say "Oh you’re Scandinavian, it’s so boho or it's so minimal" and I would be like "NO we're not!" So I really felt there was this new Scandi girl and she was missing and wasn't being represented.'
I love your styling of really pretty dresses with vintage or proper functional trainers...
'I always work with contrast so there is a balance. So you don’t feel overdressed but you still feel dressed up. I remember I went to a wedding and I had a very romantic dress and then I had high heels on too and I felt so uncomfortable. Everything felt too much. If I had had flat sandals or kicks on I would have had a nice party but I was standing there and it was too much. I didn’t feel like me.'
#GanniGirls has become a really popular hashtag on Instagram with both celebrities and bloggers using it. Does either have more of an impact on sales?
'It's very difficult to predict. Kendall Jenner and Alexa Chung have both been snapped in our brand but it’s not always something that converts to sales. Sometimes you can have a blogger with 4,000 followers in a region somewhere random, and she will drive more sales as she is so much more relevant to her audience. So it’s very interesting. We don't really differentiate between celebrities and bloggers. It's more if they resonate with the brand. Everything that has happened with us in terms of influencers and that hashtag has happened organically. It’s not been a strategy, it’s just worked out quite well. We were very lucky that early on we were friends with bloggers like Pernille Teisbaek and Veronika Heilbrunner and social media was just taking off to, so both went hand in hand.'
How would you sum up the Ganni girl?
'It’s very difficult for me to say who is the perfect Ganni girl. It’s more of a mood. I can just walk the streets and get inspired by a girl I see. I remember I took a picture of the first girl I saw randomly wearing Ganni out and about and was like eeek! I was so proud and excited. And it still feels like that, I never get tired of watching people.'
Tell me about where you grew up...
'It was a small fishing town, just outside Jutland. It’s a very special place, but not a beautiful place. It was quite rough, like a hard-working town. There was nothing to do but I really loved growing up there. My family were very middle class. When we went to school there were both the very poor people, like it would be their birthdays but they wouldn't have a party, alongside the very wealthy, because at that time there were no fishing quotas. So I'm really happy I grew up in-between and know how the world can be on both sides.'
Where do you think your creative side comes from?
'It’s so weird because I remember my mum saying: 'Where do you get this from, because we’re not like that?" And even though I was the youngest, I was always dressing up my mum and two sisters. It's just been a natural thing for me. And there were some years a while ago when I was a little bit embarrassed about just being a 'fashion person,' but I have never done anything else. When I was 14 years old I had my first job in a vintage clothes shop. Fashion is just what I know.'
What was your teenage style like?
'It’s always been a big mix, actually it’s always been like this (pointing to what she is wearing today, a t-shirt, skirt and trainers.) I remember my teacher saying to my parents: "Ditte is day-dreaming a lot and always listening to music but the good thing about her, is it’s always very exciting to see what she’s wearing."'
Have you kept anything from those days?
'Yes, I have my shoes from when I was 13 years-old. Like all my old Converse. I’ve always been wearing sneaks, like sportswear because of my football days. But I always wanted to dress it up too. Even though I was playing football I have a feminine side too. I've never felt you have to compromise. So this is very me today.'
So how did you go from that little village in Jutland to being Creative Director of a $60 million fashion business?
'I’m 100 per cent self-made, I never went to university or studied design. Instead, I started as a trainee at Bruuns Bazaar. They were just starting out so it was a very small company at that time so I got experience working in the store, at the shows, at the fairs, at sales meetings. It was amazing. And they have a shop in Paris so I ended up living and working there for while. When I was 21, I moved back to Copenhagen and worked as buyer in another small store. As I had lived in Paris I had seen Isabel Marant and all those kind of brands so I introduced them to Copenhagen and it exploded from there.'
And Ganni kind of came about by accident?
'A friend of ours who had a gallery started it. He did a line of cashmeres and then asked me to help him out. He said "Ditte, can you design a dress that would be your favourite?" So I did, and it sold out, and then I did some shoes and they sold out too, so he was like maybe you should join the company and I was like maybe. So that's how it started. It wasn't a big plan that it was going to be this huge business. It just all happened quite naturally.'
Your husband, Nikolaj, is also CEO of the brand. What's it like working together?
'Ganni is our passion and work is a big part of our life so it's great that we can share stuff. But it can also be really, really tough. So we have this rule that we are not allowed to speak about any work after 10pm because otherwise, we can’t sleep. Now if I wake in the night I have a little notebook on my desk. It's funny because sometimes I just awake with ideas or a theme.'
What's next for you?
'After the show, I'm heading to New York to start the next collection. I'll go there for a week. I think when you are creative, you are always working, always thinking. In my mind I never take a break. I think the day you take a break and think you are too cool for school you have lost it.'