When Ditte Reffstrup was a young girl growing up in the rural Danish town of Hirtshals, it’s fair to say she stood out. ‘I remember my mum saying, “Why are you always picking the weird thing? Why can’t you wear what everyone else is wearing?”’ she recalls.
Fast-forward 30-odd years and it transpires that Ditte, 41, wasn’t such an outlier. Since 2009, she has been the creative force behind Copenhagen-based brand , working alongside her husband (and co-founder) Nikolaj, 43. With vibrant prints, silhouettes to live in and dresses made for dancing, Ganni celebrates those – like Ditte – who embrace their unique personal style. There are quite a lot of them, too. With sales figures of around £35 million in 2017, according to Nikolaj*, Ganni is now sold in 20 countries and is one of the top 20 bestselling brands across Net-A-Porter.
Ganni is that rare thing: an ‘it’ label with relatively accessible price points. A dress will set you back £150; a coat £290. But whether you own anything by the brand or not, you can be sure it has had an effect on your wardrobe. Wearing frilly dresses with trainers? A Ganni trick. Bright colour clashes and fluffy jumpers? Ganni again. There’s a homespun or crafty charm to its designs: bestsellers include the Julliard sweater, with its bell sleeve, the leopard-print wrap dress that works from 9am to 9pm, and cowboy boots that add the desired stomp to any outfit. The brand’s story began ten years ago, when the Reffstrups agreed to help a gallerist friend who had a cashmere sideline – Ganni – that had hit a wall. He asked the couple, then working in tech (Nikolaj) and buying (Ditte), to help out. ‘I did some products and suddenly they sold something,’ says Ditte with a shy grin.
The turning point came in 2015, thanks to a certain hashtag. Helena Christensen posted a picture of her and Kate Bosworth, both wearing Ganni, and captioned it #gannigirls. Four years later and there are now more than 28k posts using the same hashtag. The brand, like many others, gifts clothes to influencers and celebrities – they then sit back and watch what happens. ‘It wasn’t a big master plan. We have never done a paid partnership,’ says Ditte. ‘People respond to authenticity.’
There is now a squad of #gannigirls, ranging from influencers Susie Lau and Camille Charrière to buyer Tiffany Hsu, fashion director Lisa Aiken and artist Phoebe Collings-James, who all style their clothes their way. Ditte says the squad developed naturally – partly because the Reffstrups started at Ganni at the same time as the influencer phenomenon. ‘It was a relationship,’ she says. ‘They were calling us saying, “I’m going to this fashion week, can you help?” It was a natural fit.’
A smiley blonde with wild hair, a printed blouse, mismatched earrings, jeans and chunky sneakers – Ditte is the ultimate #gannigirl. She has a policy to never produce anything she wouldn’t wear herself. Everything has to pass the ‘life’ test – one that involves a 2O-minute bike ride to work, taking care of three children and a fondness for dancing.
Phoebe Collings-James, known for mixing tailoring with feminine touches, likes the all-day style Ganni provides: ‘I wore a diamanté- trimmed suit to the Fantastic Beasts premiere. It looked just as good there as it does walking round the city all day.’ The key is adaptability. As Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-A-Porter, puts it: ‘All the designs can be styled in different ways.’ Like many early fans, she found Ganni on Instagram and it’s been on the site since August 2O16, with the buy of the label up by 6OO per cent in that time.
Ditte is constantly inspired by her Copenhagen surroundings. ‘If you’re wearing a nice dress, you would always wear a pair of sneaks or a denim jacket,’ she says. Nikolaj, a long-haired dynamo who pops in and out of the room, has a theory this could be the effect of women growing up in a country that champions gender equality. ‘It’s them wearing the clothes, not the clothes wearing the girl,’ he says. Susie Lau believes it’s the Copenhagen-ness that provides Ganni with a point of difference. ‘It’s a Scandi brand that has eschewed clichés of Scandi minimalism – think lots of black, slightly sterile,’ she says. ‘Ditte and her team project a lot of surprising whimsicality (interesting prints, some streetwear aspects and cool fabrics), but in ways that are approachable.’
Ganni HQ, a discreet building in central Copenhagen, is where Ditte’s ideas gain shape. Stylish staff (mostly women) are wrapped up in bright sweatshirts. Frayed bootcut denim and artfully messy hair dominate. The showroom downstairs is packed with new dresses and relaunched bags, while Ditte’s light-filled studio features fabric swatches, elegant mid-century- style water bottles and cortados made by coffee enthusiast Nikolaj. The calm atmosphere conceals a full-steam-ahead brand in its prime. Following a rebrand and new logo in 2O18, current initiatives include two new stores, those relaunched bags, more denim, a collaboration with outdoorsy brand 66 North and plans to work with Continued Style, a resale site with a mission to help brands be more sustainable.
The environment was on Ditte’s mind for spring: ‘I was thinking about all the natural things we take for granted, such as butterflies.
Maybe they’re going to be a lost paradise.’ So she created clothing – leather coats, delicate slip dresses, striped knits and tie-dye separates – that was desirable, but also fed into the cultural conversation. ‘The collection is nostalgic and very pure in terms of prints. I then wanted to mix that with the new reality: the evil future when you will need big hiking boots, raincoats and technical fabrics. We only listened to Nirvana – that was what I played when I was a teenager.’
Ask Ditte what’s next for Ganni and she draws something of a blank. Don’t mistake this for ignorance, however. ‘I’m not a big planner,’ she says. ‘I am just [designing] the collections. I almost think it’s not important; I shouldn’t know. It will affect my clean way of thinking.’ And that instinct can’t be messed with – it is, after all, pure #gannigirl.
Ganni, available at and
This article appears in the April 2019 edition of LouisvuittonShop UK. to make sure you never miss an issue.