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We've partnered with Danish fashion brand GANNI for a collab on two occasions now with some really fabulous looking items as a result. We thought we’d dive a little deeper into the skyrocketing and now global brand, and have a chat with one of their founders – Nicolaj Reffstrup.

The uncommonly relaxed and down-to-earth Danish couple behind GANNI (Ditte & Nicolaj Reffstrup) has been the talk of the town in Copenhagen for some time now. But in the past couple of years, the cult around this unique and colourful brand has gained traction all across the globe.

The Danish fashion brand GANNI is famous for its eclectic style, relaxed vibe and generally great mood to go around. Credit: GANNI A/S

We had a chat with Nicolaj Reffstrup to hear more about the brand's direction towards its responsible identity and how they take on the fashion business a little differently than everyone else.

Agood: Nicolaj, a warm welcome to A Good Community! We've been partnering up on beautiful mobile cases, pens and notebooks for your GANNI Kiosk so we thought we'd ask you to join the #agoodcommunity and spill all the beans!

You have a background as a tech entrepreneur – do you think coming from a constantly changing and adapting industry has been a source for success when being at the helm of GANNI?

Nicolaj: Coming from a background in tech, I have always found it natural to raise capital in order to develop the company. We needed resources to grow to a size, where we could actually fund to revolutionise our own system.

Investing in more responsible solutions is going to cost you, so having a business model that creates margins, that allows you to do so, is integral. We have always taken a tech approach when it comes to our projects and hacking the fashion industry as we call it.

Nicolaj Reffstrup founded GANNI together with his wife Ditte, who is the brand's Creative Director. Credit: GANNI A/S

Bringing in responsible innovative solutions to the problems we face.

Through private equity backing by L Catteron in 2017, GANNI has been able to enter a global arena of big fashion brands such as the LVMH group, giving us more influence and responsibility.

“We have always taken a tech approach when it comes to our projects and hacking the fashion industry as we call it.”

Agood: Already a couple of years ago you began developing GANNI into a brand with a clear sustainability profile while still acknowledging the huge hurdles in that department which comes with being a fashion brand. How did you decide to steer GANNI in this direction?

Nicolaj: I’ve been involved in the climate change agenda for some 20 years, despite this inherent contradiction, I still own a fashion company. 

I’ve been over it a million times, but I’ve come to realize that staying in the industry and working to become more responsible is better than the alternative of opting out and doing nothing.

Fashion is not going away. We need to solve the issues we are facing through growth and innovation.

GANNI anchors its eclectic expression in the colourful street style of the inner city of Copenhagen. Credit: Annie Spratt

Agood: What is your vision for the future of the brand?

Nicolaj: The ambition has always been to one day become a truly sustainable fashion brand and the dream is still that ultimately this will not differentiate us from other fashion brands.

But until we get there, we identify ourselves as a responsible brand that isn’t sustainable yet. This is not meant as an excuse but as an ambition that drives us every day to become a better version of ourselves on our journey towards sustainability.

Appealing to a younger and more environmentally conscious generation, GANNI has explicitly said it is a 'Responsible' brand – but not yet 'Sustainable'. Credit: GANNI A/S

Agood: What challenge facing you and your team in the quest for creating a more sustainable brand spurs you on the most?

Nicolaj: We have a lot of work ahead of us with traceability, gaining further visibility on working conditions and salaries, throughout the entirety of our supply chain.

We currently have 87% traceability from Stage 1-4 of our supply chain. We are working on full visibility down to the raw material level by 2022, which I am very proud of.

“I’ve been over it a million times, but I’ve come to realize that staying in the industry and working to become more responsible is better than the alternative of opting out and doing nothing.

Fashion is not going away. We need to solve the issues we are facing through growth and innovation.”

For our 2020 Responsibility Report, we shared a map of all our Tier 1 contractual manufacturers to drive transparency and published all information in Open Apparel Registry, an open-source map and database of global apparel facilities.

We’ve also signed a code of conduct securing workers rights with all our Tier 1 manufacturers, but we still have a lot to do when it comes to understanding and potentially improving the social responsibility in the supply chain.

Nicolaj Reffstrup has made ample use of his background as a tech entrepreneur in his quest to 'hack the fashion industry'. Credit: GANNI A/S

Finding out how we can collaborate with our suppliers in a meaningful way to ensure we live up to our social responsibility is key.

Agood: One of the products included in our collaboration for GANNI Kiosk is a mobile case made from Swedish-grown ecological linseed (NB: the bi-product, not the food part!).

They are completely circular and can be grounded down and made into new cases. Circular economy has gone from being an opaque concept to being on everyone's lips – but how far away is it really from being anchored in the fashion industry?

Is it even doable and if so, what would it take, you think?

Nicolaj: Creating a 100% impact free collection is virtually impossible right now if it needs to be both price viable and scalable. Investments are a crucial aspect of driving structural change.

Instead of investing in Research & Development, we tend to blame the situation on a supply chain we can’t control because we’ve outsourced it.

This is why we’re committed to invest in a minimum of 3 innovative projects this year that support sustainable development in the fashion industry, and are trialling new and innovative fabrics like cactus leather through our ‘Fabrics of the Future initiative.

"Finding out how we can collaborate with our suppliers in a meaningful way to ensure we live up to our social responsibility is key."

The GANNI x A Good Company collab is available in GANNI's conceptual Kiosk – inspired by items you might find in a Danish corner-shop. Credit: GANNI A/S

Agood: Do you have a suggestion for someone you think we MUST interview for #agoodcommunity?

Nicolaj: We’ve recently appointed an external responsibility board to support us in becoming the most responsible version of ourselves, as we wanted to ensure independent perspectives are represented in our decision making.

All four members of the board are just brilliant, being such visionaries. You should for sure speak to Lindsay Peoples Wagner, editor in chief of Teen Vogue, as she’s such a leading voice on social justice and its intersection with sustainability, something we for sure need to draw more attention too.

Got it! Thank you for joining #agoodcommunity for a chat!

The GANNI x A Good Company collab items can be found here – enjoy!

And if you still can’t get enough of GANNI and Nicolaj Reffstrup, we highly recommend you to listen to Nicolaj and his wife Ditte’s (who is the Creative Director of GANNI) podcast: GANNI Talks. Why not start with this one where Ditte & Nicolaj have a chat with Clare Press, VOGUE’s first Sustainability Editor!

Clare Press, VOGUE’s first Sustainability Editor. Credit: GANNI A/S

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If you enjoyed this piece, why not share it with a friend? And if you have any ideas for future interviewees, feel to get in touch with Emilia Cullborg, editor and Head of Communication & Sustainability.