NICOLAJ & DITTE REFFSTRUP
We caught up with Nicolaj and Ditte Reffstrup, the power couple behind Danish cult-brand Ganni, moments before their show at Copenhagen Fashion Week. Amidst the pre-show jitters and bustle backstage, the dynamic duo explained how they’re lighting up Scandinavia with their fresh approach to fashion.
You’ve seen the hashtag “GanniGirl” on your instagram feed. The girls pairing flowy dresses with sneakers, wearing sequins in broad daylight and lipstick to run errands. This is Ganni’s carefree, happy-go-lucky style that quickly conquered Danish fashion and the world. It’s the vision-gone-viral and brainchild of creative director Ditte Reffstrup and her husband, CEO, Nicolaj Reffstrup – respectively the heart and brain of the successful brand. Ahead of showing their AW19 collection they shared their thoughts on Ganni’s vision, balancing work and family life and why their clothes celebrate ‘Life on earth’.
Sarah Osei: We are moments before your show starts. I have to ask: do you feel anxious?
Ditte Reffstrup: I don’t know what to compare it with. Maybe if you’re about to down the aisle, moments from getting married. I think it’s the same feeling. I get so nervous when I think about it that I have to go outside for a few seconds.
Nicolaj Reffstrup: No matter how well you prepare yourself, there are so many bits and pieces that go into the overall perception of the show that you never know how it comes out until you see it.
SO: Would you say you’re prefectionists?
NR: We are insecure overachievers – never really certain that things are good enough.
DR: Exactly, but that’s also a drive for us, that we always think we can do better.
SO: That’s surprising to hear, because Ganni is such a heavyweight in Danish and Scandinavian fashion. What would you say makes your style so attractive and successful?
DR: I just do what feels right for me and our team. It’s something that comes from the heart, so I don’t really have a recipe as to how or why it works. Ganni is a tribute to women and girls. I think people can recognise themselves in what we do and see that it’s more a state of mind than just pieces of clothing.
SO: Where did your inspiration for Ganni come about?
NR: When Ditte set out to do what she’s doing today, there were two predominant ways of dressing in Scandinavia. It was either ‘androgynous-cool’ or ‘bohemian-chic’, and Ditte felt that there was a third way, a ‘Scandi-cool’ that was more colourful and playful, but also held a kind of ironic distance to everything. I think the brand still encapsulates this.
DR: True, that was the starting point, and that is still the DNA. I just felt like something was missing out of Copenhagen, and that the world hadn’t seen what we were all about. The girl that I saw on the street that inspired me, my friends, or even the way I dressed myself – it was not out there. I wanted show the world that there was another style of Scandinavian design. It works because we have such an amazing team. We let the best ideas win, everyone is here together. We don’t have a hierarchy, it’s like a playground for creativity. And for me, fashion is still about having fun.
SO: What’s the story behind “Life on Earth”?
DR: I was in Paris with my colleagues. We were walking through the streets and we passed these African women dressed in beautiful colours and prints. They were having a party in the middle of the day. It inspired me. We talked about how we wanted to show the world that it’s all in the mix, we’re living among each other and we’re all alike, but the beauty is that we are different. The idea for “Life on Earth” came to life with Ami Vitale – she’s the photographer behind all the pictures. She took pictures of all different kinds of women, people and places. She wanted to celebrate our differences and show that in the end we’re all alike. I think that’s beautiful, that instead of us pointing a finger, we’re saying “Look how beautiful our world is!”
SO: Yeah, it’s not a critique.
DR: Exactly, but we need to do something. When I met Nicolaj fifteen years ago, he was talking about global warming and climate change, and I was like, “Oops, I don’t even know what that is. Where’s the next party?” I’m super positive about making a change because we’ve come so far, there are so many people like me who are now aware of what is happening and want to do something about it.
SO: Now there is a huge discussion in fashion about sustainability, how are you approaching this?
NR: I think what’s important is not launching a capsule collection that’s sustainable, it’s about addressing profound issues. For instance, in 2016 we started mapping our CO2 footprint. In this way we found out that 85% of our CO2 is derived from the supply chain which is completely outsourced. Effectively, it’s something outside our control. It’s very difficult for a small company like ours to drive innovation through the supply chain. Instead we decided to compensate for our CO2 footprint. We subsidise UN-certified projects in Nepal, where we purchase cooking stoves for women, taking over their reduction in CO2. We also have a lot of projects that target awareness. Whether it’s vegetarian lunch in our canteen or working with our partners, agencies and sub-suppliers to compensate their CO2. We’re supporting three pledges: we’ll be reducing our plastic consumption, reducing our carbon footprint and enforce a water transport policy. It’s a lot, but the thing is making one change isn’t enough, you need to attack the problem from all sides.
SO: It’s good to show other ways of doing sustainability. A lot of brands focus on one aspect, working with recycled textiles, for instance, when the supply chain is still very much wasteful. It’s a new way of thinking. But how do you approach the design process. Do you think in terms of trends or is it a natural process?
DR: It’s 100% natural. You have to stick to your gut-feeling, your heart, because the minute you start think “What is everyone else doing? What is the trend?” you lose your heart.
SO: Your brand has been growing so much in the past years and a lot of it has to do with the incredible reach you have through social media, especially instagram. Can you describe the #GanniGirl?
NR: It’s actually not something we came up with. Kate Bosworth was hanging out with her best friend, Helena Christensen, the supermodel, and they were wearing the same teddy coat. Kate posted a photo and she hashtagged it #GanniGirls. It just took off from there.
SO: Ditte, are you a Ganni Girl? Is this your wardrobe?
DR: Yes, definitely. I only design stuff that I want to wear myself.
SO: And how is it for you running Ganni as a married couple?
DR: It’s natural. It is everything – it’s difficult, it’s beautiful. It’s a bumpy ride sometimes, but it’s like our second family, something we built together. It is like our fourth baby.
NR: It helps that we do very different things. Ditte’s is the creative part, and I have a background in tech, so I have a very different approach to a lot of things. Our roles don’t overlap on a day-to-day basis, but it obviously takes up a lot of mental space between us. We try to not talk about it too late at night.
SO: What do you have planned next for Ganni?
NR: It sounds a little boring, but it’s very much business as usual. We’re not going to launch kids or mens or anything like that. We’ll be opening stores on a global scale – until now we had stores in Scandinavia only. We’ll have stores in Stockholm, London and New York, and we’re looking at potential locations. It’s very much about building the store globally.
DR: For the design team, it’s just about sticking to who we are and doing what we like the most, and to keep appreciating the work that we have.