Kindred spirits: GANNI
With a shared commitment to breaking with convention, Polestar teamed up with Danish fashion brand GANNI for Copenhagen Fashion Week. We spoke with GANNI Founder Nicolaj Reffstrup about moral obligations, innovative low-carbon solutions and coming out as not sustainable.
How did GANNI start out?
We took over GANNI back in 2009 from a good friend of ours, who ran an art gallery and originally set it up in 2000 as a cashmere knits side hustle. It was rather a hobby project back then and frankly; I ended up in it pretty randomly. My only precondition was that we would insist on creating an international brand with Copenhagen as the starting point.
Tell me about your brand DNA?
GANNI is a mindset rather than a certain sense of style. It’s full of contrast and personality. It’s always been a case of the girl wearing the brand and not the other way around. We are often described as smart luxury because we play in the field of contemporary fashion with a high-quality product at an honest price point. That way of operating is rooted in our Copenhagen heritage and infused with a tech and responsibility approach.
You believe it’s a moral obligation to do better every day. How is this mindset put into practice?
We’ve never identified as a sustainable brand because we recognise that being a fashion brand driven by consumption is an inherent contradiction to the concept of sustainability. But we see it as our moral obligation to go to work every day and do a bit better and call that effort responsibility at GANNI. Our ultimate dream goal is to someday create a climate-neutral collection that does no harm to the environment, ultimately creating a positive impact via consumption.
Can you tell me about your “Responsibility Gameplan”?
Our Responsibility Gameplan keeps us on track for our 50% absolute carbon reduction by 2027. It’s an ambitious goal that involves the entire company, so we need a holistic framework to guide us. We report on our progress every year in our annual Responsibility Report to keep ourselves accountable.
What is the biggest obstacle to sustainable innovation in the fashion industry today?
Organic cotton won’t save the world. We need innovative low-carbon solutions to reach our reduction goals. I have a background in tech, where you would rely on internal research and development teams to solve your issues. We don’t have a tradition for that in fashion, which means we’re desperately lacking innovative solutions to carbon-intensive materials and production processes. Luckily, we see that a lot is changing, with many fabric innovators approaching the market. At GANNI, we’re committed to investing and scaling innovation through our ‘Fabrics of the Future’ initiative, which has seen us launch everything from mycelium leather to textiles made of banana waste.
How do you raise awareness regarding the importance of circularity and transparency to your customers?
We try to make responsibility the heart of everything we do, from choosing the interior in our stores to our brand collabs. In that sense, it’s a very organic part of our modus operandi and transcends to our communication too. It’s a massive obligation for brands and the press to talk about the issues at hand and the ways forward, to ensure that we are collectively educating consumers to make better choices. We have a dedicated responsibility hub called Ganni.lab on Instagram, where we share all the details with those who want to know the full story.
What is the most challenging aspect of achieving transparency in the fashion industry right now? And what are some of the opportunities that have arisen during the process of becoming more transparent?
Fashion supply chains are immensely complex with up to 10 suppliers per product. We must gain traceability in order to drive true change within our industry. Traceability is a very labour-intensive task, we currently have a responsibility team of 6 that focus on CSR and transparency and in that team we have a dedicated team member whose sole purpose is our traceability work. Brands have to be prepared to make that kind of investment. At GANNI, we open-source our Tier 1 and 2 suppliers with the Open Supplier Hub to drive collaboration and transparency within our industry.
What makes you want to collaborate with a brand like Polestar?
Polestar has always been interesting to me because of your goal of creating the first truly climate-neutral car by 2030, which is very much in line with our vision to create a fashion collection that does no harm to the environment. I applaud all companies small or big who take a serious swing at taking responsibility. The situation is so dire, that we just need to get started and do something better every day. I love seeing like-minded brands across industries making change happen.
When in Rovaniemi
Do as the locals do. Words of wisdom that any seasoned traveller is familiar with. They don’t just govern behavior, however. They speak to the importance of having an open mind, embracing new customs, and adapting to one’s surroundings. There are equivalents in all languages. In English, one is told that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. It counts for the Italian capital, just as it counts for northern Finland. Which is exactly where we headed this winter.