In Conversation With David Gandy
By: Rebecca Cope 7 January 2013
David Gandy is far more than just the most famous male model in the world. An ambassador for British fashion, he has launched a men's style app, spoken about the importance of men’s fashion at Oxford University twice, and has fronted campaigns for everyone from Dolce & Gabbana to M&S.
Bazaar caught up with the rather dapper 32-year-old in the midst of London Collections: Men and chatted about his stellar rise to fame, that Dolce ad, and his numerous projects for 2013.
Bazaar: You’re arguably the most famous male model in the world. How did that happen?
David Gandy: It was a process. I always saw what the girls were doing, the supermodels, and they were my inspiration. We were on the same campaigns, we were getting as much coverage, and menswear was getting bigger and bigger, but why was no one known? We would know the guys by what they did, the Light Blue guy, the Dior guy, but there was never a name – no Kate Moss, no Naomi Campbell.
Bazaar: There were no celebrity male models.
DG: Exactly. It was a process of exploring that and seeing if we could do it too.
Bazaar: When you first became famous the male models were very skinny and effeminate– did that make it more difficult?
DG: Yeah, I’ve kind of famously said before that when I came into the industry I wasn’t the norm. I always wanted to work with the best creatives and leave something, a legacy. I wanted to be like Nick Kamen and the Levis guys, who I grew up thinking were the coolest guys in the world. I wanted to do an iconic commercial like that. Then Light Blue came along [hisDolce & Gabbana fragrance campaign], and it changed the industry – we saw that that androgynous guy wasn’t appealing to many. There’s room for those guys too, of course, but a lot of guys aspire to men being men – and women like men to be men too!
Bazaar: What do you think of British men’s style?
DG: I think it’s very hard to take hold of Britain as a whole. If you take London, I think it’s superb. I think we’re very fashion-forward here. You’ve got the traditions of Mayfair and Savile Row, and then you’ve got the arty side in East London, you’ve got two completely different styles for men, and I like that. The Italians and the French of course have always done it very, very well. I always say that you know when an Italian plane has landed at an airport because the men look uber-stylish, they’ve got scarves on and suits.
Bazaar: Do you have anyone whose style you particularly admire?
DG: Growing up and still to this day I was influenced by the Steve McQueens and the Paul Newmans of the world. They didn’t aspire to be icons, they pretty much dressed in a utilitarian way. They were both mad about cars and bikes, and as I know [being a car afficionado] to do that you have to have driving jackets and gloves, and now those are staples men can copy.
Bazaar: What are the key items every man should have in his wardrobe?
DG: It really depends on what your style is. People always ask me what the trends are, but I’m not a believer in trends. Individuality is more important to me, to stand out and have the confidence to wear something you’re comfortable in - it just happens I’m comfortable wearing a suit! One of the key pieces is a great pair of shoes. Women say they always look at a man’s shoes, which is really strange! But it can ruin an outfit. Accessories are hugely important.
Bazaar: Like your watch!
DG: Yeah, I have an extensive watch collection. It’s really sad, I sort of match my watch straps to my shoes, to belts, to hankerchiefs!
Bazaar: Do you have any fashion faux pas you’d like to confess to?
DG: Oh, of course, absolutely. Everyone has I think. I think the worst one was when I was about 17 or 18, I wasn’t really into fashion yet. I’m actually colourblind, I have problems with greys, greens, and browns. I went out and my friend said ‘I’ve got to ask – why are you wearing green trousers?’ and I said ‘they’re not, they’re grey!’ They called me a leprechaun. The funny thing is that now vibrant trousers are in fashion, so I like to think I was very, very fashion-forward there!
Bazaar: You’re on the panel for London Collections: Men – what does your role involve?
DG: It basically involves getting as much coverage for London as we can, and as I’ve said, hopefully we’ll be number 1 one day. I try to go to as much as I can, and get photographed, get interviewed – that’s my part in it. I sit down with Dylan [Jones, editor of GQ and head of the panel] and talk about where we can go with it next. This season we’re launching a charity, the Blue Steel initiative, as well, so hopefully by the time we get to the next collections we’ll be able to raise money for a good cause.
Bazaar: Who are you most excited about seeing this season?
DG: Oh, so many! Belstaff was very good this morning. Then, Tom Ford, I’m always excited about seeing what he’s doing, and Hackett, to me, absolutely defines what Britain was about last year. I’m also just excited to see what the new designers are doing as well. They are sponsored by the BFC to be able to show what they can do, and that’s the best thing really. It’s fine to talk about Hackett and Tom Ford, but what are the new people doing, what are they producing? And on my side, if I go and shoot, can I incorporate some of their clothing? I’m very proud to be British and help push British brands and our guys coming up from our fashion schools.
Bazaar: And where do you like to buy your clothes from?
DG: Well, I’ve started getting stuff made now. The suit I’m wearing is a collaboration with Neil Fennell, and I’ve started designing a few suits myself. I also like Tom Sweeney, October House… But I don’t think there’s a huge need to spend that much money. Take M&S. I get to see all the clothes they’re producing and it’s amazing stuff. I wore an M&S suit last season to fashion week and no one would believe me that it was M&S!
Bazaar: You’ve become an ambassador for Johnnie Walker Blue Label – how did that come about? It’s so different to what you’ve done before!
DG: I’m a keen whiskey drinker, always have been! We had a few discussions and we came up with the campaign of ‘game changer’. Johnnie Walker and his son Alexander were game changers. In 1867 they went out to blend whiskey and were very forward-thinking – from the square bottle to the packaging to the blends we have today.
It was just about the time of the Olympics, they said ‘David, you fit into the scenario well – you are a game changer.’ It was a great fit for us both really. I’m very proud to be British, and it was very important to me that it was a British brand. I like to shout about Britain doing well!
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