copenhagen invasion

Out to Lunch With the Women of Ganni

Team Ganni. From left, Ditte Reffstrup, Louise du Toit, Shila Gaonkar, Brooke Huseby, Imani Randolph, Katy Russ, and Jess Green. Photo: David Williams for New York Magazine

When the dictionary catches up to the Ganni girls, a group of them will be a charm (like finches), or maybe a flamboyance (like flamingos). When they stalk the streets of Soho, heads turn. They are leopard spotted, tiger striped, and flower dappled, often all at once. As they head for lunch, a charm of seven, people stop to stare. A family speaking Spanish takes a picture, though they don’t seem sure of what or why. Do they know Ditte, Shila, Louise, Katy, Jess, Imani, and Brooke? No. They just know they can’t stop looking.

Ganni is a Danish invasion in Technicolor, and these women, the emissaries of its good word. They represent the Copenhagen-based design team, and the fledgling U.S. operations of the Danish fashion label, familiar from pink-jumpsuited Instagram posts, that has grown precipitously over the last few years. Ganni was founded in the year 2000 by Frans Truelsen, a Copenhagen gallerist, but it confined itself to a few cashmere pieces here and there. Truelsen was “a bit away with the fairies,” says Ditte Reffstrup, the creative director, who now runs the business with her husband, Nicolaj. Ditte, a former retailer, brought in the brights, the prints, the fashion, the menswear-ish utility pieces, and the temerity to mix them all together. “You describe me as my mom would describe me when I was a kid,” she says. “‘You’re always mixing things! Why can’t you wear what I put on your bed? Why do you change everything!’”

Its wares are more affordable than much of what goes by the name of “contemporary fashion” (pieces start around $125 for a cotton top or georgette miniskirt, and climb up to $900 or so for coats), more responsible than fast fashion (sustainability is key, and the brand is piloting a rental program in Denmark), and more fun than much of what lines the racks of boutiques.

That is a potent combination. In 2017, L Catterton, the LVMH- and Groupe Arnault–affiliated private-equity firm, acquired a 51 percent stake in the company, and Ganni is growing. In North America, now its largest market, more than 200 shops carry the brand, and sales have nearly doubled in the past year. “Frankly, I haven’t seen anything like it in my career,” says Louise du Toit, who helped grow Ganni’s New York office last year. Ganni got a foothold in boutiques, eventually added department stores — at Saks, which picked up the brand two years ago, the progression has gone from “Who’s Ganni?” to what fashion director Roopal Patel called a surprise and an “incredible hit” — and this month, Ganni will open two stores of its own in the States, one in Soho and one in Los Angeles. “Isn’t that nice?” du Toit says. “They’re only six hours apart by plane.” A third will open in Miami in December.

The team overseeing these twin launches is small, dedicated, and, unusually, nearly all female. The camaraderie among the women of Ganni gives every outing the feel of an event. A working lunch — vegan tacos with the guacamole regrettably in single-use plastic, but what can you do? — is an afternoon out. A national store-launch strategy is a cross-country road trip: Each member will take a turn behind the (hybrid) wheel, dragging a kiosk of Ganni goods and stopping off at sights and supportive shops along the way. (All except Ditte, that is, who doesn’t drive.) It’s hard to imagine a French fashion house packing up the Winnebago and visiting Dollywood, I say to Shila Gaonkar, the associate creative director, whose previous job was at Balenciaga. “Never,” she replies.

So when the show goes on the road, heads will inevitably turn from New York to Nashville to Pigeon Forge to Austin and all the way to the West. It’s easy to imagine the attention they generate as a magnetic pull, the looks following them across the country on a leopard-printed breeze. Women, in particular, respond to it; these are not clothes made for the attentions of men. “I would rather dress up for a woman than for a man,” Ditte says. “For me, it’s about dressing up for yourself, that’s the first one. And then maybe more for your girlfriends. But never dress up for men.” Who knows what they like, anyway, I say. “Yeah, exactly,” Ditte says. “And such bad taste.”

*A version of this article appears in the October 14, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Out to Lunch With the Women of Ganni