Ganni Responds To Criticism Of Its “Tone-Deaf” Copenhagen Fashion Week Show

Photo: Yuliya Christensen/Getty Images.
Update: Ganni has responded to criticism its fall 2019 fashion show was “tone-deaf” for displaying photos of women in underdeveloped countries by award-winning National Geographic photojournalist Ami Vitale as models walked the runway.
In a statement provided to Refinery29 by the brand, the Scandinavian label says:
“At Ganni it is always our mission to celebrate women around the world. For the GANNI FW19 show, we drew inspiration from the beauty of life on earth and wanted to portray the diversity and connectivity we share on this planet.”
The statement continues: “To illustrate this, we collaborated with photographer Ami Vitale on our set design. Ami has dedicated her life to documenting and amplifying stories of all forms of life. While well intentioned, we now understand the sensitivities we've broached by showing our collection within the context of these images.”
“We sincerely apologize for this, as it was never our intention. We will learn from this mistake and we promise to turn your invaluable insight into action so that we can do better in the future.”
This story was originally published on February 1, 2019.
Uh oh. Everyone's favorite Instagram influencer go to brand, Ganni is in hot water.
Since husband and wife Ditte Reffstrup (creative director) and Nicolaj Reffstrup (CEO) took over the label in 2009, the Scandinavian brand has steadily climbed to It girl status. Ganni is often considered the highlight of Copenhagen Fashion Week but its most recent show is getting a lot of criticism.
On Friday, Ganni presented its fall 2019 collection titled "Life On Earth," centering on sustainability and the global #GanniGirl. As models took to the runway, they wore bright knits and animal print midi skirts with leather gloves, dresses that resembled watercolor paintings, and glittering gowns. They sauntered past photos by award-winning National Geographic photojournalist Ami Vitale, who travels to and photographs developing countries, such as India and Sri Lanka. The images displayed were of women in each of those countries. And for the New York-based blogger behind Our Second Skin, Anaa Nadim Saber, the juxtaposition was jarring.
"I need to take a break from all this fashion week hype to talk about something that has made me feel extremely uncomfortable," Saber wrote on Instagram. She questioned how showing Brown women from underdeveloped countries is aligned with sustainability and how it benefitted them.
Advertisement
View this post on Instagram

I need to take a break from all this fashion week hype to talk about something that has made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Today, I attended The Ganni FW 19 show “LIFE ON EARTH” during Copenhagen Fashion Week, which was centered on “sustainability” and the “global Ganni girl”. Throughout the show, there was a slideshow of images taken by Ami Vitale in the background, depicting underprivileged women in developing countries, while models gallivanted across the runway. How were these pictures of poor brown women aligned with the theme of of sustainability? How did this show benefit these women? The brand fetishized these women and used them as props and marketing tools. This was not a platform for these marginalized women to get representation; they were not treated as humans with agency and with stories of their own to tell. Instead, they are shown through the ‘white’ gaze, reduced only to their aesthetic value. It looked “cool” in the background, right? It “gelled well” with the aesthetic of depicting the “human spirit”, right? Wrong. My people are not your aesthetic. It’s worrying how this got approved. From the photography to the set design, did this pass before any people of color? Did nobody in management realize how this would be perceived by non-white audience members? This is why building diverse teams is critical. The fashion industry likes to throw around buzzwords like “diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability”, without introspecting on how exactly they are promoting these causes. It is unlikely that the women in these photographs received any compensation for “participating” in this show, while the brand profits. This is not just meant to call out Ganni for being problematic. This is a larger pattern of exploitation in the fashion industry. It is exactly women like the ones in these pictures that are worst affected by our industry: poor wages and terrible working conditions in sweatshops that manufacture clothing for many western brands. This treatment of women of color is particularly painful given how “progressive” the fashion industry claims to be. Stop being tone deaf and blind to your own internalized colonial mentality. Do better.

A post shared by ANAA NADIM SABER (@oursecondskin) on

"The brand fetishized these women and used them as props and marketing tools. This was not a platform for these marginalized women to get representation; they were not treated as humans with agency and with stories of their own to tell," Saber continues. "Instead, they are shown through the ‘white’ gaze, reduced only to their aesthetic value. It looked 'cool' in the background, right? It 'gelled well' with the aesthetic of depicting the 'human spirit,' right? Wrong. My people are not your aesthetic."
In the same Instagram caption, Saber wonders how decisions like this even made it this far. "Did nobody in management realize how this would be perceived by non-white audience members? This is why building diverse teams is critical," she writes. Further, she says, "the fashion industry likes to throw around buzzwords like 'diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability,' without introspecting on how exactly they are promoting these causes. It is unlikely that the women in these photographs received any compensation for 'participating' in this show, while the brand profits."
She maintains that she isn't only calling out Ganni, but says this show is indicative of a much larger problem. "It is exactly women like the ones in these pictures that are worst affected by our industry: poor wages and terrible working conditions in sweatshops that manufacture clothing for many western brands," she continued. "This treatment of women of color is particularly painful given how 'progressive' the fashion industry claims to be. Stop being tone deaf and blind to your own internalized colonial mentality. Do better."
Advertisement
After posting her criticisms to her Instagram feed, story, and blog, Ganni reached out to Saber with a comment. "We sourced hundred[s] of Ami's acclaimed photographs to be a part of the show set design. The images were chosen were to reflect Ami's body of work and how she is always living the stories she tells with her images and conveying with a positive message," the brand wrote in a direct message to the blogger on Instagram. "Including her work on pandas and the last taken photograph of a white rhino. The images showcase all elements of nature from surreal beauty to the enduring power of the human spirit — capturing the energy of life in all forms."
We have reached out to Ganni for comment and will update this story if/when we hear back.
Advertisement

More from Fashion