It’s part of the brand’s target to phase out virgin leather completely by the end of 2023.
When Ganni set its ambitious target to eliminate its use of virgin leather by the end of 2023, the cult Scandi brand knew it would be a tough challenge. “People still feel that leather is luxury,” creative director Ditte Reffstrup tells Vogue.
Ganni decided to phase out virgin leather completely after discovering that it was its single biggest polluter, despite only making up seven per cent of its collections. “For us, it’s just a matter of bringing down our carbon footprint,” founder Nicolaj Reffstrup explains. The brand has a target of reducing absolute emissions by 50 per cent by 2027, without the help of the murky practice of carbon offsetting. “You just need to look at the means you have to achieve that target, and phasing out leather is an obvious one,” he adds.
That’s why Ganni has been shifting towards leather alternatives such as Mylo, made from mycelium, or mushroom roots, and Vegea, created using grape waste, over the past two years. Now, it is introducing a new vegan leather into the mix: Ohoskin. Made using orange and cacti waste from the food and beauty industries, combined with recycled plastics, the lower-impact material is being used to create the brand’s new hero product, the Bou bag, named after the Reffstrups’s daughter, Betty Lou.
“It was really important that we had a material that had a luxury leather feeling,” Ditte says of the appeal of Ohoskin. “Our sourcing team actually did a test on us, and it was very difficult to see [it wasn’t] real leather—many people can’t tell the difference.” Durability was another big factor: the team did a wear test with Ohoskin and found that it performed just as well, and in some cases better, than conventional leather.
Still, betting on vegan alternatives is undoubtedly a risk for Ganni. The Bou bag (also available in recycled leather) in Ohoskin is priced at £425, making it the most expensive piece in the category. Meanwhile, many of the brand’s bestsellers, such as its signature cleated stompers (which will be released in Ohoskin in a limited run in April) and cowboy boots, are currently made from leather.
Ganni hopes that producing its hero products in new leather alternatives will help consumers get on board with its mission to cut fashion’s environmental impact. “It’s partly educational—trying to teach the customer that there’s no difference [between the leather and non-leather pieces] and seeing how they react,” Nicolaj says.
While there’s controversy over the use of synthetics in vegan leather, the fact that Ohoskin—which is produced in a closed loop system—contains recycled, rather than virgin, plastics makes it a better choice than many of the other plant-based alternatives on the market. Despite not being a silver-bullet solution, Ganni argues that the new-gen leather alternatives will only get better. “From a tech perspective, this is an industry that has a track record of less than 10 years,” the founder continues.
By partnering with the likes of Ohoskin, Mylo and Vegea, Ganni hopes it can play its part in accelerating innovation in the space. “[The idea is] help to self-help,” Nicolaj concludes. “Quite early on we figured out that if we didn’t partner with start-ups, and test their products and market them, then it would be a slower process. Everybody’s waiting for everybody else to come up with a material that solves everything—it’s holding a lot of progress back.”
This article was originally published in British Vogue.