Through ‘Fabrics of the Future,’ Ganni hopes to collaborate with five new low-emission fibre innovators per year. This year’s line-up includes: Stem, Mylo, Circulose among others
It has become increasingly common for fashion brands to launch collections in collaboration with eco start-ups. Most often these are attempts at marketing for sustainability or outright greenwashing. Amidst this slew of partnerships, Copenhagen-based brand, Ganni releases its own capsules with vetted fabric innovators – Stem, Mylo and Circulose. However, Ganni substantiates its latest collaborations through a larger brand initiative, dubbed, ‘Fabrics of the Future’ as part of its Responsibility Game Plan.
This scheme, launched in 2020 is broken down into forty four goals across people, planet, product and prosperity shared with an annual Responsibility Report. In the 2021 report, Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder at Ganni, stated that the brand had crossed thirty milestones ahead of schedule and hoped to reach the total goal by 2022 instead of 2023.
Fabrics of the Future
«Through ‘Fabrics of the Future’ we are committed to supporting start-ups in scaling their innovations. This will play a crucial role in making fashion more circular as well as creating lower impact materials, but for that to happen brands need to place bets and take risks» shared Reffstrup.
In early June, at the Global Fashion Agenda’s summit, Ganni showcased the first of three collaborations, with mycelium-derived vegan leather, Mylo by Bolt Threads. A limited edition wallet and a single saddle bag were displayed at the brand’s pop-up.
The second fabric partnership with Stem, a Copenhagen-based start-up, produced a three-piece circular collection using their novel zero-waste method, available to purchase at select stores. The third collaboration is anticipated in Ganni’s pre-fall collection with Renewcell’s natural material, Circulose. It will be used in two pants, created using a combination of viscose and Circulose.
Reffstrup’s mission for Fabrics of the Future is straightforward, «We refuse to accept the industry status quo and with this initiative, we have created a solid framework where research, innovation and cross industry knowledge sharing can live together».
In the Responsibility report of 2021 he explains that Ganni’s in-house lab was able to «create shoes out of grapes» and confirmed future usage of INFINNA, a breakthrough regenerated fibre from textile waste. He concluded that as part of the initiative, five Fabrics of the Future will be launched per year from 2022 onwards.
Scale, impact and the actual future
Ganni does not shy away from admitting that small-scale capsules and prototypes are low-impact solutions. While they are unable to overhaul a substantial carbon footprint, the initial goal is focused on supporting the partnering start-ups to scale their fabric innovations for future launches; given that many planet-friendly natural materials are still at a nascent stage.
Reffstrup believes that silk, leather and wool are highly responsible for carbon emissions – through the Fabrics of the Future program, these can be replaced over the long-term. In August 2021, the brand also announced ambitions of a fifty per cent absolute carbon reduction (greenhouse gases) by the year 2027. To that end, Ganni took a pledge to stop using virgin animal leather by the year 2023, for which the brand was given the PETA Progress Award, last December.
Ganni x Mylo, mushroom leather accessories
Mylo is popularly accepted by the term ‘mushroom leather’ – an alternative leather material made from mycelium, the underground root-like system of fungi. It is made by reproducing what happens under the forest floor in a controlled indoor environment. The process begins with mycelium cells – they are grown on beds of renewable, organic matter including saw dust, while maintaining levels of humidity and temperature among other variables.
Billions of cells grow and form an interconnected 3D network that looks like a foamy layer. This is harvested and processed into sheets that are tanned and dyed to become the Mylo material. The fine branching network of fibers that mimic collagen, make it ideal for use in high quality leather-alternate accessories and apparel.
Ganni has previously experienced difficulties finding alternatives to conventional leathers due to quality concerns as well as high levels of plastic in available materials. However the collaboration with Mylo resulted in a certified bio-based and 100 per cent animal free product. Reffstrup said in a statement: «We have set a drastic goal of phasing out virgin leather by 2023 and seeing innovative materials like Mylo transform into high quality, high design products only makes me more ambitious on GANNI’s behalf».
The Ganni x Mylo first drop is an affordable wallet commercially available in-store and a saddle bag, available to win in a lottery draw, at the brand’s flagship outlet in Copenhagen. The on-going collaboration is aimed at making a larger number and variety of products available in 2023. According to Dan Widmaier, founder of Bolt Threads: «Typically new material adoption can take over forty years, but this move demonstrates that a future without ubiquitous leather is possible on a much shorter timeline».
Like most alternative leathers, Mylo is not biodegradable. However, the process is designed to have minimal environmental impact – the mycelium used can be infinitely renewable. Previously, brands like Stella McCartney and Lululemon have showcased it in their collections, whereas, names like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger are partnering with New York based company, Ecovative which is also developing vegan mushroom leather.
Ganni x Circulose, recycling cotton into pulp-fiber
Circulose by Renewcell, is a lower-impact cotton material that doesn’t require cotton fields in order to be produced. Discarded textiles, production scraps and all types of cotton textile waste are recycled and dissolved into a pulp. As pulp, Circulose is reduced to a molecular stage, capable of generating longer, more consistent fibers for a higher quality product. Dissolving pulp is used commonly industry-wide to manufacture viscose, lyocell, and other types of man-made cellulosic fibers. Contrastingly, Circulose is made from textile waste instead of wood, through a renewable-energy-powered process at Renewcell’s Sweden-based plant.
Ganni x Circulose is introducing two pairs of trousers in a pre-fall collection, made of 100 percent viscose with fifteen percent Circulose. Patrik Lundström, Renewcell CEO shared: «Circulose changes fashion from the inside by liberating designers from the old constraints of textile-to-textile recycled materials.Working with progressive brands like Ganni is essential to our effort to make fashion circular at scale».
Although, fast fashion brand H&M was the first to introduce Circulose to the market in 2020 through a conscious collection and in December 2021, Levi’s also partnered with the eco-preneur.
Ganni x Stem, a zero-waste capsule
Stem is a Copenhagen-based initiative, ideated in 2019 – it tackles three major issues present in the fashion industry, «production waste, overproduction, and the disconnect between customer and product». This is achieved using a zero-waste weaving technique, where patterns are woven directly on the loom rather than cutting them out of pre-woven fabrics.
The placement of the pattern pieces on the loom is planned digitally and the loose-weave structure on the brand’s designs creates a signature fringing. According to the brand, the fringes are an aesthetic rem(a)inder of a transparent production. In this regard, Sarah Brunnhuber, founder of Stem shares «The technique creates garments and fabrics that tell a production story and gives beautiful visual information for the customer to learn more about craft and process».
Stem’s unique zero-waste weaving, cutting and sewing technique was initially a time-consuming process: «It took me a whole month to make a single garment, weaving them on a hand loom. From those first experiments, it took me 3 years to fully scale up to industrial looms. My development partner, Lottozero, introduced me to the textile district of Prato and the first mills that helped industrialize the technique by pushing their looms to their limit» shares Brunnhuber. She further elaborates that the challenges are continuous as Stem garments comes with a high development cost: «Each new design is an experiment, a new combination of fibres and weave structures, and we are still learning how the loom and fabric will react each time».
Ganni x Stem introduced a limited collection of a jacket, dress and trousers. The garments are completely biodegradable, made using 100% natural fibres, including recycled cotton, Tencel™ and Lyocell thread. The trimmings (zips, buttons) used in the designs are all second hand or from deadstock.
Responsibility Gamepan: carbon insetting, supply chain transparency
Ganni has always worked towards the goal of becoming a responsible brand as opposed to sustainable. Their website claims: «We don’t identify as a sustainable brand, because at its core fashion thrives off newness and consumption, which is a major contradiction to the concept of sustainability. That’s the honest truth. Instead, we’re focused on becoming the most responsible version of ourselves».
Measured steps in this direction have been taken over time, with the brand finally achieving 100 per cent traceability in its supply chain (from stages one to four). Furthermore, Ganni has re-strategized, opting for carbon insetting as opposed to outsourcing carbon offsetting initiatives, through credit-based sequestration. This is being done by using low emission materials, evaluating emission hotspots along the supply chain and working with production units in Europe to change their processes.
Not only does insetting approach climate change in a more holistic manner by addressing communities, farmers and all impacted parties – it also decarbonizes at the source rather than making positive changes elsewhere. Refstrupp committed: «Offsetting can never be an excuse to continue with business as usual. It’s a last resort on our way to carbon negativity. With offsetting, you are paying to reduce your emissions somewhere else. You need to acknowledge that you are creating an environmental footprint regardless of what you compensate for».
Based in Copenhagen and owned and run by husband-and-wife team Creative Director Ditte Reffstrup and Founder Nicolaj Reffstrup, GANNI has developed exponentially over recent years with its Scandi 2.0 sense of style full of personality and contrast. In 2020, the brand launched its Responsibility Game Plan, which comprises 44 Goals across People, Planet, Product and Prosperity to reach by 2023.