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GANNI on AI, Y2K Nostalgia, and How to Expertly Style the New Balance Colab


Danish tastemakers GANNI once again closed the curtain on Copenhagen Fashion Week in dramatic style this month. With a show revolving around the concept of making artificial intelligence ‘kinder and more thoughtful’, GANNI tapped artist Cecilie Waagner Falkenstrøm of ARTificial Mind to imagine a more optimistic future.

But for nostalgic sneakerheads still caught in the web of Y2K nostalgia, it was the humming bumblebee-inspired GANNI x New Balance 1906 that really had our brains buzzing. To celebrate the release of their latest collaboration (a collection that also includes the RC30), we connected with creative director Ditte Reffstrup to take a closer look at the thriving GANNI hive.

Tell us about your relationship to New Balance growing up.
Growing up, New Balance held a special place in my heart. The blend of style and functionality really spoke to me, as I was mixing sportswear with dressier items from a young age. I remember those iconic 80s infographic commercials that were so defining to the New Balance brand and how they really owned athletics as a category.

AI served as a central theme for the GANNI show at Copenhagen Fashion Week. Are you seeing AI infiltrate design processes in fashion?
Indeed, AI’s influence in fashion's design landscape is undeniable. The whole starting point of our SS23 collection was a conversation between my husband Nicolaj and I. He was telling me about the creative capabilities of ChatGPT and how it could generate collection inspiration and research points. And it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing this implemented in our own studio processes. However, while AI can inform and inspire, the human touch remains irreplaceable in translating data into true design innovation.

Can you break down the design of the 1906 and RC30 for us?
The design of the 1906 and RC30 models encapsulate a harmonious fusion of heritage and modernity. The 1906 pays homage to running styles of the 2000s, reimagined with a contemporary twist. The vibrant ‘Blazing Yellow’ colourway injects an optimistic spirit into the nostalgic silhouette. As for the RC30, it embodies classic elegance with a bumblebee-inspired black and yellow palette, featuring the timeless ripple sole that defines New Balance.

The yellow is so distinct on the 1906 and the packaging! Give us an idea of how this came together.
Yellow, a colour symbolising energy and positivity, perfectly encapsulated the dynamic collaboration between GANNI and New Balance. We wanted to infuse this optimism into both the sneakers and the packaging, creating a distinctive visual language that reflects the spirit of our partnership. I love how it pops!

Why do you think Y2K styles have surged again in fashion and sneakers?
I think there is a yearning for nostalgia and an appreciation of iconic aesthetics that defined that era. These styles carry a sense of familiarity while allowing for reinterpretation in the context of the present. It’s a fusion of the past and present that becomes its own form.

Tell us about working with New Yorker illustrator, Suerynn Lee. What ideas did you want to convey with the graphics?
Collaborating with Suerynn Lee was super fun! Her illustrations vividly brought our vision to life, capturing the playful spirit and essence of the GANNI x New Balance collaboration. We really wanted the campaign to play on humour and make people stop and smile. I love The New Yorker cartoonist reference.

Can you give us some styling options for the two models?
I always seek contrast in the way that I dress. So I would style them with feminine dresses and tailoring for a juxtaposed look.

Sustainability has always been hugely important for GANNI. Can you talk about what the industry needs to achieve in the coming years?
The hurdles that fashion and apparel have are astronomical, but I have always believed that we can’t do it alone. Collaboration is key. We need to work together and learn from each other. We have a mantra at GANNI that all the collaborations we do need to have responsible designs at its core. I think this project with New Balance is a great example as both styles are made with recycled materials.

What are GANNI’s plans for 2023 and beyond?
We are on a journey to become a truly global movement and our values are focused on creating the most responsible version of ourselves. That’s what keeps me ticking every day!

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