Mayfair Times January 2014 Cover
David Gandy, the world’s most successful male supermodel, is the epitome of Englishness – known for his trademark dapper, English-gent style – so it’s fitting that we meet in Brown’s, the most quintessential of English hotels.
“Brown’s is my favourite hotel – I love the history of the palce,“ he says. “I love Mayfair – It has such a lovely atmosphere, I absolutely adore the arcades and all those unique little shops where I get to know people. The shoe shiner in the Burlington Arcade is a friend of mine as is Danny (Pizzigoni) from Watch Club in the Royal Arcade. He’s always tempting me with watches.”
Dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt that shows off this perfectly proportioned physique (the result of vigorous training if you want to know), David looks more casual than usual but every bit as stylish, and more youthful than his 33 years. With his chiseled features and piercing blue eyes, he is jaw-droppingly handsome.
David is probably most famous for becoming the muse of designers Dolce & Gabbana back in 2006. He became an overnight sensation when he graced a 50ft billboard in Times Square in New York, wearing nothing but a pair of white pants, as the face of the brand’s Light Blue fragrance. It was the defining moment in his career – one that catapulted him into the global fashion world and onto the walls of many a girl’s bedroom.
Did he ever imagine the impact that particular shoot would have? “No, but I wanted to create an iconic image,“ he says. “We knew we’d produced something special for the day, but it wasn’t me who thought of that – It took Dolce & Gabbana and (photographer) Mario Testino to take the chance of completely going against what everyone else was doing at the time. You had these skinny guys in the Dios suits and then suddenly there was this Mediterranean-looking, muscular guy – but it worked, and still to this day people are trying to copy that ad.
“Obviously when I saw it, I was like, wow – that’s a lot of crotch there. I sent it to my mum and said, ‘Mum this is the ad.’ She didn’t say anything negative about it – she just went, ‘David, this is going to be huge – I absolutely love it.’ I thought: okay. But no – no one had anything negative to say about it. It literally took off. It went out, and the phone calls started coming the next day.”
Today, we’re here to talk about David’s role as ambassador for London Collection: Men, alongside UK rapper Tinie Tempah, TV and radio presenter Dermot O’Leary and radio presenter Nick Grimshaw.
“London Collections: Men is all about promoting Britishness, and I’m a huge advocate for everything British – everything I do is about constantly trying to push British brands, “ says David, who has been on the committee – chaired by GQ editor Dylan Jones –since it was set up by the British Fashion Council in 2012.
“The rest of the world seems to want everything British. The definition of British for them is class and luxury, but we seem to forget that,” he says. “I’m not saying we don’t appreciate it – I just don’t think we are very good at shouting about what we do.”
David has collaborated with the likes of Jaguar, is currently working with Marks & Spencer and was the only male to represent his country and the fashion segment at the Olympic Closing Ceremony in 2012, so he has the right credentials for the job. Over the three days of the collections (January 6-8), David will be seen at over 50 shows and presentations, not to mention the lunches, dinners, meetings and interviews that go with his ambassadorial role.
“London Collections: Men has gone from success to success, and is getting bigger and better – you’ve got names like Tom Ford, Pringle, Burberry and Hackett. I think one day It will be the number one men’s show and I don’t think It’s really far off,” he says.
Along with promoting al things British, David is on a mission to make fashion for men more accessible.
“When I’ve always tried to do – and I think it’s important for brands – is to make fashion attainable and tangible for men. I wish we could all go out and afford Tom Ford suits, Dolce & Gabbana or Armani, but most men can´t – so it’s nice to say, ‘Well, actually, this is what you can do with M&S or Reiss or Topman’. Instead of suits for £5000, it’s £300. And I think men are slowly getting that.”
David, who grew up in Billericay in Essex and lives in Fulham, says he wasn’t always into fashion.
“At university and before that, I was very much into sport, and as student you don’t think about dressing that well – and you can’t afford it,” he says. “I was always very utilitarian, dressed for going to the gym or going for a practice.”
These days, David feels most comfortable wearing a suit. “I’ve always loved suits,” he says. “I find them very easy – I can go to a cupboard in ten minutes and get something out, put a suit and tie on.
“I don’t wear that much casual stuff any more, but when I do it is literally jeans, T-shirt, Belstaff leather jacket and a few accessories. It’s very simple. Someone said to me the other day, ‘I think you were born in the wrong era’.”
David counts all the old favourites – Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, James Dean, Cary Grant – as his role models. “It’s amazing we are still using those guys as icons to this day,” he says. “What I did like about the old school is that they never went out to be stylish – they just made it stylish, whereas nowadays a lot of people look like they’ve clearly been styled. I pretty much style myself. There are a few other people who do it – Jude Law mixes traditional and contemporary styles very well. There are a lot of guys around at the moment. Ryan Gosling dresses very well.”
Since that shoot, David has had what he calls a “great working relationship” with Dolce & Gabbana, subsequently appearing in underwear campaigns and, in 2011, becoming the first male model to be honoured with his own D&G coffee table book.
One of the photographers whose images are featured in the book was Mariano Vivanco. “I went on a shoot with him – we literally had a weekend together in New York, just him and me,” he says.
“We were going for lunches and walking around the streets of New York in the freezing cold and taking pictures – just having this very fly-on-the-walk kind of thing. You look at people like Steve McQueen who’ve had these kinds of backstage shots. They trust one photographer to take them, and they are all released slowly – and sometimes after they are dead.
“That’s pretty much what we wanted to recreate, and it was fun. It’s a different side that people see. You’re not in a shoot, you’re not switching on to your other side of modelling, which is one shot – bang, bang, bang, okay we’re done. Here, you’re having a joke with the waitress and I’m laughing and he’s taking pictures. It was nice, and the book did very well. People are still asking it it’s going to be reprinted to this day. Someone paid £1000 on Amazon for one – but the money all goes to charity.”
Last year, David launched his Blue Steel Appeal to raise money for Comic Relief. Its name is inspired by satirical fashion film Zoolander, which stars Ben Stiller as model Derek Zoolander. The first event was a fashion auction hosted on eBay, which raised over £250.000. “I feel very fortunate to be where I am and to make a living from it, and that’s why I work with charities – the idea is to give something back,” he says.
A keen animal lover, David is also an ambassador for Battersea Dogs and Cats. He recently helped to raise fund (around 15.000) to care for lost and abandoned animals by offering dog walks with a host of celebrities (including himself) in an online auction for the charity.
Another project he is involved with is Style for Soldiers, which provides injured soldiers with bespoke shirts and clothing from Emma Willis (based in Jemyn Street).
“Emmna and I will go along and she will measure all the guys for shirts, so when they go into civilian life and have interviews or start their businesses, they feel good about themselves,” he says.
“What’s lovely is receiving thank-you letters telling us about their stories, and about new jobs they’ve got. It you get one letter and you’ve made one person happy, it’s enough.”
David has used his successful modelling career as a stepping stone to other activities, such as his charity work and putting his name to various projects including being an ambassador for Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky and owning a stake in health-focused ice cream company Wheyhey. A guest blogger for Vogue.com, he’s also diversified into short films. “I did one with Jaguar and one with David Zwimmer over in America, and it’s a slightly different take on fashion,” he says.
“Modelling is my bread and butter and I enjoy it, of course, but after 13 years of something, you get a bit of tired of things and there’s not much of a challenge. So I’ve happily moved into these other areas.”
One of David’s greatest passions is cars (he’s the official car reviewer for GQ.com) and last year he completed the famous Mille Miglia race in Italy with fellow model Yasmin Le Bon.
He is a fan of Jaguar cars and drivers the new Jag F-Type. “I’ve always been absolutely in love with them and have driven them for many years now – we did a video this year together to show the heritage collection,” he says.
But his “little baby” at the moment is a 1960 190 SL Mercedes, which is being fully restored.
“I’ve always had a passion for design, whether it’s cars, houses or anything else,” he says. “Fashion covers so many boundaries – if you look at Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana or Armani, they don’t just stick to clothing – they’ve all got their home ranges, fragances, they’ve got a whole wide range.”
So what’s it really like being David Gandy? “It’s a question and a half that one,” he says. “What can I say? It’s very good. I’m doing everything now that I’ve always wanted to do. So yeah, it’s not a bad place to be at all.
“I adore what I’m doing. I don’t really look back. In the fashion industry, you are always working ahead and planning what to do next. Sometimes I actually forget to enjoy where I am at that time and at that moment.
“I think everyone has good and bad days, but I’m not going to moan about it. If I find a bad day because I’m completely knackered from three trips to LA I’ve had in three-and-a half-weeks, I just think I’ll have a nice sleep and I’ll feel better in the morning.”
The thing that strikes you about David is how approachable and down to earth he is. He can talk for England, but he assures me he’s a naturally shy person. “I’ve had to overcome that,” he says.
"I could be a lot more in the limelight, but choose not to. I say no to many things – TV shows and everything else –a nd I don’t send personal tweets or do Instagram. I keep my private life very private, which is very, very important. You keep part of yourself away from the persona that everyone else has of you – I think you havew to.”
In that case, I guess he’s not going to answer my next question then – does he have a girlfriend? And on that note, I’m told by his PR that my hour is up.
MY DREAM IS TO MEET LINDA EVANGELISTA