Danish brand Ganni has made quite a name for itself in recent years thanks to its self-described "Scandi 2.0 sense of style full of personality and contrasts," but the brand is facing backlash for its latest Copenhagen Fashion Week show that took place on Thursday.
The brand's "Life on Earth" show featured models walking in front of imagery by award-winning photographer Ami Vitale. Vitale's photos of women and landscapes from developing nations played in the background while Ganni's models walked the runway in front of them.
As noted by Refinery29, the fashion show garnered extra attention when Anna Nadim Saber, the blogger behind Our Second Skin, shared her reaction to the show on Instagram. Saber felt the show was "tone deaf" and "problematic" for its depiction of the women in the photos.
"The brand fetishised these women and used them as props and marketing tools," Saber wrote in the caption. "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."
The show continued to garner backlash online, which led the brand to issue an apology. The brand provided the following statement to INSIDER:
"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. 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."
Vitale has now also apologized, telling INSIDER that her intention with the campaign was to raise money to help the people she has worked with.
"I agreed to take part in this project to raise money and awareness for the people and communities I work with," Vitale told INSIDER in an email. "I believe strongly in using my images for advocacy and have worked with organizations such as Friendship in Bangladesh, Brac, Oxfam and Conservation International."
Vitae explained that she always planned to donate 100% of the money she made from the Ganni collaboration to those communities.
"One-hundred percent of the money I made from this campaign is going right back into the communities I work in," Vitale told us. "Causing anyone discomfort is the last thing I ever intended and I am deeply sorry."
Here is the full text of Saber's Instagram caption:
"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."
Saber did not immediately respond to INSIDER's request for comment.
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