Ganni And The Rise Of The Sweet-Spot Scandi Super Brands
By Laura Antonia Jordan Posted on 9 Nov 2018
In the last couple of years the Danish capital has become a lightning rod for new trends, with the city’s style pack the new agenda-setters for what we’ll all want to be wearing next. And it’s not what you think.
The stereotype of muted Scandi minimalism has been ousted by something more playful, feminine and eclectic. If right now you’re hankering after hiking jackets and leopard-print dresses, hot pink boiler suits and two-tone cowboy boots (perhaps all together) – then, congrats, you’ve already got the memo.
No brand has done more to shape the current Danish fashion landscape than Ganni, the contemporary label run by husband-and-wife duo, creative director Ditte Reffstrup and CEO Nicolaj Reffstrup. They took over and completely rejuvenated the brand – then a niche cashmere label – in 2009.
‘Ganni is the Copenhagen girl that no one knew nine years ago – she’s a version of me, my friends, and the people I see on the street,’ explains Ditte. ‘She’s the girl you see on the street on her bike, wearing a dress with a pair of sneaks. It’s easy, effortless’.
It might sound like a throwaway comment, but Copenhagen’s cycling culture is central to shaping the city’s aesthetic. Tight skirts and high heels just won’t do when you get around everywhere by bike – so even the prettiest designs are always underpinned with practicality. Ditto the Danes’ enviable work/life balance – it makes sense that the happiest nation on earth would excel at creating happy clothes. ‘There is a recognisable link between the Danish mindset and the aesthetic that we’ve come to know of Danish brands,’ says Farfetch’s market editor, Celenie Seidel. ‘It’s that sense of happiness that I think customers have really identified within these brands and connected to.’
Scandi Style 2.0 is defined by juxtaposing elements that shouldn’t work together but somehow do: hiking boots with prairie dresses, cycling shorts with blazers. It’s an inherently confident way of dressing, built on attitude and comfort. ‘It’s all about the small surprising element that makes it fun,’ says Pernille Teisbaek, the super influencer and poster girl for Danish style. ‘What brands like Ganni are very good at is creating contrast, mixing something very feminine with something more masculine or sporty.’
Even if you’re more of an Uber-commuter, chances are the Danish look has resonated. Social media has propelled Ganni’s success, with the #GanniGirls (as the label’s fans proudly hashtag themselves) the brand’s best advert. Surprisingly, get a Beyoncé or Rihanna in your designs and while it’s undeniably a moment, it might not necessarily translate to sales. ‘People want to see real girls,’ says Nicolaj. Ganni’s coup has been to root cool in quotidian ease. Women-friendly cuts imbue even the most outlandish designs – neon dresses, pastel denim – with a wearability that can often be missing at other labels.
That relatability is down in part to Ditte’s instinctive approach to design (instinct has also served the couple well in their personal life – they married after just six months of dating – that was 14 years and three children ago). Ditte designs from her gut rather than by trying to second-guess trends or mimic success stories. ‘You can’t fool people, they can tell when you’re trying to be someone you’re not – it reflects in the clothes,’ she says.
Ganni might be quintessentially Danish, but it’s a global player. It boasted a turnover close to $50 million in 2017 and is one of Net-A-Porter’s top 20 best-selling brands (where sales are up by 50% compared to last year). It’s sold through 400 wholesalers worldwide, with 21 of its own stores in Scandinavia. Last year, L Catterton, the consumer-focused private equity firm whose shareholders include LVMH, acquired a 51% stake in the brand.
Despite the success, Ditte and Nicolaj are adamant that they won’t hike prices. An elevated contemporary brand, Ganni is located firmly in the sweet spot – prices range from £15 for a scrunchie and go up to north of £1,000 for a shearling coat, with dresses coming in around £300 – it’s aspirational but, crucially, attainable.
‘I don’t want to be the brand that suddenly speaks down to the customers who built us up,’ says Ditte. ‘Good taste is not about money, it’s about being yourself and knowing who you are.’ Instead they have chosen to foster exclusivity via limited runs (refusing to immediately remake something even if it’s been a sell-out success), and carefully chosen wholesale partners. ‘It’s a matter of being honest. Sometimes contemporary fashion is insanely expensive for what it is – and luxury is even crazier,’ says Nicolaj, who adds that the brand’s pricing represents a bigger cultural touchpoint. It’s a matter of national pride to make great design a right rather than a privilege, which would explain why the Danes are currently conquering the so-called mid-market. ‘Denmark has a tradition of democratic design, not just in fashion but in furniture and industrial design,’ says Nicolaj.
Ganni’s star has gone stellar, but retains the warmth and intimacy of a cult brand at its core. Take their post-show celebrations; not another soulless party, but fun house parties in Ditte and Nicolaj’s home. Just like the house parties we’ve all been to, except with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy on the decks and more great looking Danes milling about – and not one of them in head-to-toe black.
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