David Gandy graces another cover this month, Agusut Man Magazine. This time the British model is captured by the fashion and portrait photographer based in Paris Thomas Lavelle, during his attendance as special guest in the front row of Dolce & Gabbana show as part of Milan Fashion Week Womenswear A/W 2014/15 in February.
Dressed in Dolce & Gabbana for a b/w series of pictures which showscases his personal and distinctive style, he reveals the principal steps in his role in changing the male modelling industry.
David Gandy. His transformation from working man to fashion icon
The Essex gent on transforming the fashion industry’s male identity.
David Gandy has been involved with Dolce&Gabbana and the Light Blue campaign stars a new partner, Bianca Balti, posing on a boat out in the waters of Capri. It’s still as sexy as ever. On the difference between the campaigns over the years, Gandy says: ‘I got older’
He never planned to be a model, and yet the challenged tradition to rise to the top. Today, David Gandy is the most sought-after male model in the world.
From a topless chick strolling on 5th Ave exercising her freedom of expression to a sign that read, ‘Chinese Hispanic Grocery Store’, it’s safe to say that New Yorkers have seen it all. But in May of 2007. New Yorkers woke up to a 50-ft tall billboard with David Gandy spread eagle wearing nothing but a pair of white speedos in Times Square.
Shot by photographer Mario Testino, the now iconic and for Dolce&Gabbana’s Light Blue fragrance campaign featured then an unfamiliar, yet handsome new face. That image of the 1.91 metre tall Essex-born bloke didn’t just turn heads in New York: it went on to garner an estimated 11 million hits online. Gandy not only became unofficially know as ‘the white pants guy’ of one of Dolce&Gabbana’s most successful campaigns of all time, he became a global sensation.
Ironically, Gandy was initially considered an outcast in the modeling industry. His muscular build didn0t quite fall into the skinny body type that most fashion houses were after. Then again, Gandy never intended to be a model to begin with. If it weren’t for his friend who secretly signed him up for a modeling contest, he would otherwise have never been discovered. Today, the 34-year-old fashion icon commands a large following worldwide, appearing on some of the most prestigious publications and campaigns. In our recent telephone conversation with him, Gandy spoke candidly about his other passion, his take on the fashion world, and how he got to where he is today.
Was modeling ever on your mind when you are growing up?
No, not at all. Well, I followed fashion in the sense that I knew of the famous Levi’s and Cool Water ads, but it never occurred to me to be a model. I was in university when a housemate of mine sent in some pictures of me to a television competition, which I eventually won. I went into modelling immediately after university and just sort of observed it for a good five years.
What do you mean you observed the industry?
The industry was initially obsessed with Dior skinny guy or the androgynous look which didn’t appeal to me at all. I wanted to create an iconic campaign. So I observed how fashion worked and how the successful people got to where they were. The basis of my plan was to follow what the female supermodels did. They had a business structure, they had planning.
Did you have any preconceptions before modelling?
People seem to have a load of preconceptions and stereotypical views about fashion and modelling but I didn’t have any. I never judge anything until I actually experience it myself. I think it’s foolish to already have a preconception of something that you haven’t even experienced.
Did people say you were too big to be a model?
Everyone did. The fashion industry is very much like sheep, so when one fashion house goes with skinny guys, the whole of the fashion world follow suit. A lot of people suggested that I needed to get smaller, but I was not going to change. I knew the trend of skinny and androgynous models would change at some point, but it took the genius of Dolce&Gabbana and Mario Testino to see that. We pretty much changed the face of male modelling in many ways. After which, the likes of Calvin Klein and Armani and everyone else tried to follow what we had created.
How did your relationship with Dolce&Gabbana begin?
After doing the Dolce&Gabbana show for the 2006-2007 season, my agency called me when I was in Milan to say that they were negociating a deal with Dolce&Gabbana. That culminated in the Light Blue campaign. That’s how the relationship started and it just carried on from there. It’s a very respectful relationship. I adore the guys and we’ve created some iconic images and things that people have never done.
How did you feel when you first saw the giant billboard of yourself in Times Square?
I never ever got to see the Times Square billboards, which was a bit of a shame. I did see the one that was on the IMAX theatre in South London. You never dream you’re going to be on a 15-metre billboard in Times Square or in London so it was a great feeling. But I looked at it from a different point of view. I was very critical of myself and critical of my image. That was also because it was a very different image to anything that anyone had seen at that time.
When you started changing the standard look of models, were people receptive to that or did it take a while to get used to?
It definitely took time. But the industry was seeing something successful in the Light Blue campaign. People naturally tried to emulate it so as to have the same success. I’m not saying that the skinny guys don’t work now, I just think there’s a better mix. There’s a lot more diversity in the industry.
Fashion is always constantly evolving and with that, models as well. Do you ever see it going in a different direction?
A lot of companies and brands don’t even use models now. They use celebrities and sportsmen. So it has changed an awful lot in that regard. I’m not up against the biggest movie stars and sports stars of the world, I think that’ll probably change again and I think someone will create another campaign with a model that people don’t know about. So I think it will go full circle and models will be a lot more in fashion again.
People say that being a model is all about just looking good in front of the camera. Can you tell me more about what else it takes to be a model?
I’ve learn a lot from Christy Turlington who is very quiet and respectful of everyone. I’ve taken the same route. I am very respectful of people I work with. It’s why the relationship with Dolce&Gabbana has hasted so long. I think Cindy Crawford once said that it’s not a one-night stand but a marriage when you work for a brand. When I go into a company, I’m not talking about one season, I’m talking about the years ahead that we can build the brand and something substantial together.
I think it’s about having integrity, it’s about having a lot of respect for yourself, the people around you and the industry.
What has changed between the first Light Blue campaign and the latest one?
I got older. (laughs) We’ve definitely changed. The first ad was an inconic one. Now we have Bianca Balti in it, who is much more of a dominant force. I was the dominant man with the girl before, but Bianca is much more in the forefront whit me this time so we have changed it in that respect. It’s slowly changing. It’s really evolved more than anything I think.
This is the latest of several Dolce&Gabbana campaigns that you have worken on. How does it feel to work with the designers and brand again?
To me, Domenico and Stefano are the epitome of hard work, creativity and passion and that is something so evident in everything they do – from catwalk shows to campaigns, they lead the way in the fashion industry. All Light Blue shoots were wonderful, especially the latest one. They capture the designers’ love of the Mediterranean, the ocean and incredible scenery as well as the laid-back attitude. Capri was the perfect location and it was great to be in a location they such a strong connection with.
After becoming successful and famous, dis you feel additional pressure to act or look a certain way that people wanted you to?
I think there’s always going to be expectations when there are accolades like ‘supermodels’ or ‘best-looking man’ being thrown around. Sometimes I feel like I let people down when they meet me because their expectations are so broad. I’ve sort of created what I wanted to be famous or to be recognized that much, but that’s what’s happened so I’ve just adapted to that in many ways.
What are some sacrifices that you had to make in order to get to where you are now?
I guess one sacrifice is that I’m travelling most times. I haven’t had a holiday in two years. I’ve missed more holidays and more friends’ birthdays, weddings and funerals that I care to remember. That’s the way it goes.
What is David Gandy like off camera, when he’s just by himself?
I’m still the person I was 13 years ago. I spend time with my family and friends when I can. I also spend time driving as well as doing stuff with charity. It’s a very normal life at the end of the day away from fashion. People will comment that I’m down to earth but that’s the way I’ve been brought up by my parents. They wouldn’t accept it any other way.
Why did you decide to branch out to start your own production company?
The production company was started after the success of the first application (David Gandy Style guide). My other sole trader company just focused solely on the modelling activities. Through the production side, I helped create a few of the short fashion films I’m in and the fitness app. I also invested in British Film.
Did you ever feel that you lacked control over the final creative, what with the directors, brand identities and photographers that you have to keep in mind?
In many ways yes, but you have to earn respect and experience within the industry before being able to have a say with the creative. For me, it’s not about having a say in the final creative, it’s putting a creative team together. It’s about trusting these people and their talents to create something that will not only surprise the audience but also myself.
Lastly, did you buy that friend who entered you in the television competition a pint?
She is a girls so I really don’t think she’s appreciate a pint.