All’s Well With David Gandy

The world’s best-known male model celebrates 20 years in the industry with the release of a debut eponymous label.

By Richard Clune 28/10/2021

The thing about David Gandy, well, he’s not as you’d expect.

That’s not to dent any assumptions about his physicality—he’s an attractive chap. But what’s a surprise, and what sets Gandy apart from nearly everyone in his orbit, is an incredibly genuine sense of normality. He’s down to earth. He’s approachable and self-deprecating. He is, despite being the most successful male model ever (yes, forget Schenkenberg, Vanderloo, O’Pry, Beckford et al), engaging, intelligent and candid. He’ll sit and dissect the cricket—eager to rub some salt when it comes to the recent Ashes series—and won’t shy from a second bottle over dinner.

And it’s this, his sense of ease and regularity, that is central to his maintained dominance of an industry he fell into.

Fashion is fickle, says the man who clearly peddles the bloody obvious. It’s set on a rigorous circle of re-creation like no other. It is a beast that must be fed on all that is new—its appetite extreme; what appeases it today, won’t tomorrow.

In this mix, models are as disposable as the sartorial elements presented. That fresh-faced kid who for two seasons is suddenly the face or body covering magazines, billboards and more, is nearly always replaced and oft-forgotten.

And yet David Gandy this year celebrates two decades in the pit. Twenty years. It’s quite an achievement. One to be celebrated and explored, because just how did this lanky kid from Essex, UK, who knew nothing of this world come to own it?

Again, we point to those earlier words— he’s genuine. But lift the lid a little more and you’ll also find a proper grafter. He has a work ethic like few others, which comes framed by a want to not just take what comes, but to climb to the next level. And once there, it’s harness back on as he climbs some more.

“I guess it comes from my parents,” Gandy says. “They instilled hard work, that you don’t get anything for free.”

He catches himself and smiles at these words. “Funny isn’t it, ironic really, because I now get anything for free—but you have to work for it and that’s been it. I’ve been fortunate, sure, but I’m also always changing strategy and working hard and moving—there’s always a five- and ten-year plan.”

Gandy stumbled into the industry care of a 2001 daytime-TV model search—think Sunrise does fashion. He won that and then plodded along, questioned things, struggled to find work at a time when men were lithe and obscure. And then came a 2007 fragrance campaign for D&G Light Blue. Cue Italy, Mario Testino, a Times Square billboard and a rather memorable pair of white budgie smugglers.

It launched Gandy and, more broadly, a throwback sense of masculinity—one aligned to a dapper sense of Britishness and rugged, petrol-soaked adventure; a new-found and better-looking Bond.

Still, Gandy never rested.

“I got Light Blue and I could have been, ‘Yeah, I don’t need to do anything now. But it was a stepping stone to get to what I want to do, to challenge myself to see what boundaries I can push.”

What he’s always wanted to do is why we’re talking today—discussing his first fully fledged and eponymous brand. To this point, there have been various collaborations and signature lines hung on his name, not least a well-known run with British department-store chain Marks & Spencer, that drew a claimed £75 million (approx. $140 million) in revenue in just five years.

But this time it’s all Gandy. His name above the door, or, as he puts it, “my balls on the line.”

Taking what he’s learnt from M&S and beyond, Gandy is an unsurprisingly eager spruiker for David Gandy Wellwear.

Wellwear? Yes, wellwear—a new label that harnesses Gandy’s insights with a sector first: clothing that brings wellbeing and apparel together in a fusing of fashion, function and feeling.

What this actually means is a heightened collection of loungewear, sleepwear and utilitarian offerings—a 20-piece debut that covers tees, sweats, outerwear,
joggers, polos and more. “No one was doing loungewear when I started with M&S, we almost made it that utilitarian that everyone was wearing it, and then everyone got on the bandwagon, and then came along lockdown, and then everyone’s doing it.

“For us it’s about that point of difference. You’ve got this technology from the sports side of things, you know, in regards to anti-bacterial and anti-odour and anti-inflammatory, but no one’s done that for loungewear or utilitarian day-to-day wear.”

It’s as impressive as it is enticing. Gandy wants people to be comfortable and feel good in what’s being offered—made easier via the fit, function and ultimately comfort, the latter led by the use of fabrics including pima cotton, Lyocell and modal.

“Our products are made from natural materials and we encourage people to wash their clothes less—it’s not only better for the environment, as we know, but also means things last longer and aren’t disposable. It’s that thing—buy quality, look after it and it lasts for years.”

The colour palette here is simple and aligned to the central ethos of reuse and wearability—the eight core categories being available in black, white, navy, grey marl and khaki. “You’ve got a stylised suit for the office, but that’s something different from when you get home and are relaxing and lounging and also this stuff you can wear out too … Clothing shouldn’t just make you look good, it should make you feel good too.”

Interestingly, Australia is earmarked as a target market for the label.

“We are a global brand from day one—available across the world. And Germany, Spain and Australia are big markets for me. The Aussie market is one I’ve longed to do something in, it fascinates me. I love it down there and this is really exciting for me.”

Ask David Gandy, the world’s dominant international male model, where he’d likely be if his mates hadn’t surreptitiously entered him into the aforementioned TV model search and he doesn’t have to search long for an answer.

“It would have been the complete opposite direction, mate. Maybe I’d have been looking after a big estate, walking about in a Barbour and some wellies, surrounded by animals and in complete solitude. Yeah, that’d do nicely … ”

David Gandy Wellwear launches in October. Sign up at davidgandywellwear.com or follow @davidgandywellwear on Instagram to be first to shop the debut collection.

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