The Gandyman CanDavid Gandy talks with THE RAKE Magazine October issue proving that he is also a superlative role model for celebrity philanthropy by using his fame for all the right reasons.
Forget your serious mugs of Mr. Gandy as of late all over Asia and Europe. Take a moment to breath in the fresh wintry air of a genuine heart for dogs. David Gandy talks with The Rake about his vision for caring for animals.
While you wonder if he has cold hands with such a warm heart, read on to review his loyalty to charities, love of dogs and dedication to his London roots.
Article by Rom Chamberlin.
In 1860, Mrs. Mary Tealby established The Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs, in a disused stable yard in Holloway. The need in Victorian London for institutions such as this was absolute. Believe it or not, it wasn’t so long before this time that the admission price to London Zoo was a dog or cat to feed the animals, some of which were strays gathered up on the way there. Demand for sanctuary was such that, only 11 years after trading commenced, the whole setup had to be moved to the site that is now Battersea Dogs Home. In fact it’s been Battersea Dogs & Cats Home ever since they started admitting cats in 1883.
It quickly became an institution; Queen Victoria bestowed her Royal patronage – the first patron of any kind – on them in 1895 and Charles Dickens was an ardent supporter of the Home and publicized it repeatedly in his newspaper All the Year Round. The figures back then seem as industrial as you might expect from today’s battery farms. They got through 32 tons of biscuits and 420 gallons of milk per annum at the turn of the century, which seems incomprehensible at a time when workhouse children were rationed three bottles of beer a day as it was cleaner than water. Nevertheless, Britain’s love of domestic animals – especially man’s best friend – makes facts like these understandable, and it’s pleasing to think of gluttonous hounds waddling around on a hot day being shaded by the pillars of nearby Battersea Power Station.
The more one reads about Battersea Dogs Home, the more impressed one becomes of the scale of it in the sum of its parts, as well as its societal contributions. In 1918, dogs from Battersea were the very first batch of war dogs to ‘enlist’ in the War Dog School, an institution that trained dogs to become runners, sentries and munitions carriers over the course of the conflict. The home continues to supply dogs to the armed forces and emergency services today. Nowadays, some 300 staff and 1000 volunteers work there at any one time across three sites – 258 dog kennels at the Battersea London site, 171 at Old Windsor and 51 at Brands Hatch – who keep it ticking along on a day-to-day basis. Something such as this needs funding, and as many of you will know, coming up with new attractive ideas for the purpose of new sources of moolah is an increasingly problematic task.
It wasn’t until 2011 that the home saw the advantages in nominating ambassadors – recognizable faces who can bring attention to a larger audience through the usual means of television, social and print media. It didn’t take long for them to nominate their first ambassador, David Gandy. Rather aptly, they began work with him by doing a photoshoot (video). “Social media and everything went absolutely wild, everyone loved it,” he says. His creative juices have since flowed forth as he progressed in his new role.
Despite the fact that he has a Mark & Spencer line out now, he makes sure there is time set aside in an undoubtedly busy schedule to touch base: “There are weekly communications between us all. It’s really about coming up with new ideas at the end of the day, and bringing people in to help.” It’s a task he has proficiently succeeded in doing. “ I came up with the celebrity dog walk last year, selling myself, Mollie King, Daisy Love and Jeremy Irons,” he says. “We all offered ourselves up for auction on eBay for people to have a dog walk with me. A woman came over from the States to have a walk with me. ” She may felt the dog was third-wheeling the date, but nevertheless this idea of his was a massive success and is a testament to his genuine concern and the get-up-and-go attitude that he brings to the table.
You will have no trouble in believing that he is bona fide dog lover. “They are my love – I’ve grown up with dogs; I would have loved to have been a vet.” Alas, it was not to be and instead he’s had to settle for being the most successful male model of all time. In doing so, Gandy did what Rudolf Nureyev managed to do with ballet, which is to enter a lady-centric profession and lever that gender playing fields (on the flip side, it is what Martha Argerich did for pianists), a coup of irrefutable validity and worthy of serious congratulations.
Despite this, Mr. Gandy seems to have no interest in behaving like any good model should. With his looks, he has a God-given right to pick up a bad drug habit, feature heavily in gossip columns and lead a life of well-rounded tackiness, but not a bit of it. In fact, he has a charitable soul that was nurtured from a young age. “My mum, my dad and my grandparents were all very caring people,” he says. “I worked at a dog sanctuary when I was 15. One of my aims was always that when people got to know me a little but more, I would use it for charity. I think it’s a very important thing that if you’re in the public eye, you find charities and put your name and time towards [helping] them.”
The concept of fitting celebrity faces to charities in order to raise the profile of the cause is not entirely new. Historically, championing on lending your name to a charity was the fiefdom of the royal family. Princess Anne, currently known as the hardest working royal, is involved with over 200 charities. But the need for mysticism with the House of Windsor means that there is a gap for a more focused and available person of note to take on the task. So with the television becoming the ubiquitous household item during the 1980s, wiling ‘schlebs’ began to increase in tally, and have continued to till today. And in this world of Twitter, Instagram and, of course, the Mail Online ‘Sidebar of Shame’ things can go viral fast, especially if they’re about animals. “It’s amazing, really – you can put something on my social media, it’ll go to a quarter of a million people within half a day,” says Gandy, “but if it’s something on dogs, it’ll go to a million people within a few hours.”
Quick exposure can cause problems, though. The HBO uber-geek series Game of Thrones realised and enormous increase in the sale of Huskies to live in London (despite the fact that the ‘direwolves’ in the series are in fact Northem Inuits and not Huskies – just sayin’), and keeping Huskies in a city is extremely irresponsible. David’s opinion on the matter is straightforward. “Huskies are bred to run a hundred miles a day. They shouldn’t be in London, they shouldn’t be bred for London – they shouldn’t be in any city really.” When you have to add arrows to your quiver of reasons to remain famous, charity is a safe bet, which is when things become slightly cynical and tainted. Counter to the spirit of it all, there are people who will grin a bear it just to raise their profile. The impressive thing about Mr. Gandy, though, is the plain fact that he takes total initiative in how he deals with his charities, and doesn’t care twopence for how it makes him look – the celebrity dog walk being a clear example.
By chance, I was present at Emma Willis’ Christmas party for her Style for Soldiers charity – another noble endeavor which clothes the wounded soldiers back from the heather of war and gives them a source of dignity where there bad hitherto been none. He was only meant to drop in for 10 minutes – understandably, as it was Christmas, and he is a busy man – but he ended up staying the entire night and even helped clear up. “I almost want to invite everyone in the fashion industry,” he says. “It puts everything into perspective when you meet these guys who are double-amputees, or they have a face badly injured or one limb, but they don’t moan or want sympathy. They want opportunities.”
He seems particularly keen to help out on home soil, in that he is involved with major charitable endeavours that are linked to the fashion world in which he yields the most clout. He holds a place on the British Fashion Council, which runs the biannual London Collections: Men, a vital date in the diary for The Rake and men’s fashion. As well as that, he launched the Blue Steel Appeal, a foundation that raises money for Comic Relief through one-off events/experiences – with support from the likes of Victoria Beckham, Valentino and One Direction. The Zoolander allusion is a nod of irreverence to an industry often accused (sometimes correctly) of taking itself too seriously as well as a flexing of this entrepreneurial muscles. It raised £300.000 in its first few initiatives, and has adopted the same universal appeal that Gandy has promoted at Battersea Dogs Home.
“We don’t have these big dinners where the people who have the money buy very expensive tables and pay all their money to one-offs which they can pretty much get to anyway,” he says. “I wanted to give people an opportunity outside of the fashion industry. So that’s why we collaborated with eBay.” The problem there is, the amount raised will often not be as substantial as tapping the high-net-worth individuals, but the concept has a purity to it, which makes the deficit worthwhile. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge craze confirmed the way in which charity needs and wants to become all inclusive: “Build it and they will come,” as Kevin Costner would say.
Further to that, he was part of the ‘Oxglam’ team that ran the London Marathon in 2011 with gayness Deyn and Henry Holland. More recently, he did a campaign for the Philippine retail giant SM Prime Holdings and donated his fee to the victims of the devastating Typhoon Yolanda of last November that killed 6340 people. We can’t say exactly what the fee amounts to, but what we can say is that the money is going on to help build 11 homes and they plan to name a street after him. With a characteristic touch of humility and class, he has asked that it be named after his late grandmother instead.
David Gandy leads by example. It is hard to fault his record or commitment to what he puts his name to. It is inspirational to watch the way he puts his ingenuity into gear to come up with fresh ideas and initiatives. He is hard act to follow – and we at The Rake salute him for it – but since there are so many charities out there in need of a person to put their hand up, I think we must all try.
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Source: David Gandy's Official Facebook