If Copenhagen is still on the second level of the global fashion week hierarchy, Ganni, which closed the three-day agenda in a starburst of yellow confetti on Thursday evening, is something like a cool older sister who’s maybe outgrown her childhood bedroom. Its international front row and its shoppers who tuned into a runway live stream, the so-called “Ganni Girls,” are not merely fans. They’re apostles following and spreading a colourful style gospel.
Take Addie Christianson, a digital fashion marketer based in Paris, who doesn’t just like the zany prints and eccentric yet wearable separates at Ganni. In her words, she’s obsessed. The infatuation began with a pleated polka dot dress she stumbled on at Bergdorf Goodman’s New York City flagship around six years ago. Her passion for Ganni’s cheerful patterned dresses and candy-coloured knitwear woven with shimmery fabric grew so strong, she was compelled to see exactly where each pattern was drawn: “I cringely even tracked down the Ganni headquarters in Copenhagen and the employees were quite confused,” she said in an email.
In Christianson’s defense, the Ganni mothership isn’t hard to find. It’s parked on top of Ganni’s main store in a busy Copenhagen shopping district. There, local shoppers and brand devotees from afar stroll in at a steady clip and walk away with lime green zebra print dresses, lug-sole boots with exaggerated platforms, and dandyish white blouses with oversized Peter Pan collars. It’s not cheap, but it’s not exorbitantly expensive, with prices landing in the $200–$500 range.
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“Ganni Girls,” as this collective of shoppers is unofficially known inside and outside the brand, have turned the Copenhagen-based label’s playful mish-mosh of technicolor sweaters and flouncy dresses into the city’s most recognizable exports. They propelled what was once a local cashmere brand into a reasonably-priced force sold at 600 retailers around the world, with over one million Instagram followers to boot. (That’s significantly more than the other designers on this season’s Copenhagen Fashion Week calendar.)
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A sizable chunk of Ganni Girls are also American girls; the U.S. is the brand’s biggest market. But the Ganni Girl isn’t a monolith. On Ganni’s Instagram, you’re as likely to see a septuagenarian styling one of the aforementioned Peter Pan blouses under a pair of overalls as you are to see a twenty-something piling on a plaid Ganni dress, a quilted Ganni coat in a juxtaposing shade, and topping it with a knit Ganni beret. And while the term is Ganni Girl, people of all genders work in its stores and wear the brand.
Being a Ganni Girl isn’t just a look, but an ethos: “It’s very much about including people,” founder Nicolaj Reffstrup said in an interview at Ganni’s Copenhagen HQ in early February. “Fashion brands can sometimes be kind of arrogant in a cool way,” he said, “And we’re the opposite, right?”
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Ganni is riding high in 2023. It’s moving into new stores, including a second in Miami and a fourth in New York City, in the West Village. It has a growing stable of collaborators, most recently the technical outerwear brand 66°North. But it’s ready to evolve. Fall isn’t usually a season associated with rebirth and metamorphosis, but Ganni, with a butterfly-inspired double G logo at the ready, unveiled a more workwear-forward collection than in the past during its closing Copenhagen Fashion Week slot on Thursday evening.
Eye-popping patterns and bulbous shapes were reduced to a supporting role. This Ganni is about finding ways to get creative with pieces more timeless than that aforementioned zebra fabric. A through-line of suiting—like a black blazer with curved shoulders over a mid-rise fluid pant, a three-piece gray checked suit with an asymmetrically cut waistcoat and taffeta lining along the pant legs, and a baggier black blazer over denim tucked into knee-high boots—said the Ganni girl is working when she’s not playing. (And perhaps, that potential Ganni Girls can do better than the minimalist wool waistcoats and single-pleat trousers other influencers have convinced them to wear from other brands.) Undulating baggy denim was tucked into knee-high pointed-toe boots and topped with a python printed coat or plain black blazer; the closing look applied the opening blazer’s curved sleeves to a soft, baby blue version with a precisely nipped waist and a coordinating power mini.
In another sign of Ganni’s shifting ambitions, the besuited models swung in their hands the brand’s first true attempt at creating an It-bag, the Bou. It’s a little top-handle purse made from a leatherlike cactus and orange-derived fiber, and had the same balance of whimsy and practicality that made Ganni so popular to begin with.
Ditte said the new look came as a result of she and Nicolaj doing some post-pandemic reflecting on Ganni’s first decade or so in business. They “wanted to take everything that has been really working for us, and try to evolve [those things] a little bit,” she said, “and then create a bit more innovative look.” Zooming out from Ganni’s canal-adjacent corner of the fashion world, there’s a broader aesthetic shift at play toward more understated, tailored designs, at fashion houses and on “fashion” TikToks. It’s also a pure business play: Back at Ganni, the more tailored pieces they already have are selling well, Ditte said.
Ditte and Nicolaj, a married team, still act somewhat surprised that the label has lasted long enough and grown rapidly enough to even warrant an aesthetic shift. Two days before Ganni’s runway show, Ditte reflected on the brand’s success with a dazed modesty—like if we discussed it for too long, it could evaporate. “I don’t think I even dared to dream that we [could have] a global, international brand,” she said of Ganni’s early years.
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And yet, Ditte looked around Copenhagen’s fashion scene as a fashion buyer more than a decade ago and noticed something missing. It was just before the financial crisis, when “gap in the market” referred to a real blank space, not another excuse to re-perfect the white T-shirt. Most of Scandi style was either too bohemian or too androgynous for the creative director; she wanted to find somewhere playful in the middle.
The poufy checked mini dresses and mohair striped sweaters Ditte and her eventual team designed at Ganni always seemed to pop on the rack next to other mid-sized contemporary brands. People couldn’t help but notice—they were that vivid. “Their prints and colors are loud, bright, and on trend every season,” Shopbop fashion director Caroline Maguire said. “Shopbop was actually one of the first retailers to bring Ganni to market, and since then, we have seen huge brand affinity and loyalty.” Maguire herself owns Ganni’s Chelsea boot and updates her collection with a new color each season.
“Many of their pieces look difficult to wear or style,” the Ganni fan Christianson told me, “but I’ve found that most of their clothes are incredibly wearable and versatile.” The wackier dresses can be gently toned down under a solid cardigan, maybe like Khaite’s. In the wild, Ganni’s most voluminous tops are brought back down to earth with a flat—maybe Chanel, maybe a Margiela Tabi—and denim.
It will be a few months before the shoppers that made Ganni a sensation can see its grown-up era in person. Rest assured, this sleeker, shinier Ganni Girl can still be the one with the outfit everyone else notices. The latest show’s gradual inclusion of a clingy red sequined dress with multiple knee-high slits and a denim sleeveless top and skirt set painted in a blue-gold glitter said so. As Ditte wrote in her show notes, “Ganni will never be a grey turtleneck.”
If Ganni is growing out of the vibrant palette that made it soar, could Ganni ever outgrow Copenhagen? Nicolaj admitted the idea comes up every few months, but Ganni can attract extra attention at the top of a smaller fashion week, he said. Sometimes, he wonders about abandoning the show format altogether.
Ditte had a more sentimental take. “For me, Copenhagen feels like home. But you can never say never.” Whatever happens, there will probably be Ganni Girls wherever the brand goes.