David Gandy – The Original Catwalk King By Hannah Norman
Being the world’s only male supermodel with film star looks must surely make one just a little self-assured! However, when The Luxury Channel meets David Gandy, aboard the John Walker & Sons Voyager, he couldn’t have been more down to earth. He even laughs at my unfunny jokes (and trust me, that’s going way beyond the call of duty!).
We’re on board the Voyager yacht because Gandy’s role as an ambassador for Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky means he just so happens to be co-hosting a party to celebrate all that is good about the amber nectar. “Johnnie Walker is a very high-end brand and I’m quite an advocate for anything British,” he tells me, as we sit sipping Johnnie Walker cocktails, looking over the panorama of Tower Bridge. “We went to the Cardhu distillery, and then we went to the Diageo castle, which was a lot of fun, as you can imagine, so it was good. The lovely thing is, the master blender is called Jim Beveridge – I’m absolutely not making this up! When I met him, I was like, really? But when you learn all about the whisky, you have a different appreciation for it. You can suddenly taste it. They’ve got [the whisky] downstairs [on the Voyager], and they have all the different flavours and they go, what does this taste like? You go, I have no idea! But downstairs, there’s figs and dates and pineapple, and then suddenly you smell them and you can taste them in the whisky, and it makes you appreciate it so much more.”
Gandy may now be sitting pretty as the co-host of an exclusive celebrity party, but his rise to super stardom was probably a little less conventional than many people realise, after he was unknowingly entered into a nationwide modeling competition. Despite winning, his career didn’t take off overnight, but he freely admits that may have been a good thing. “For the first five years, even though I was doing a lot of commercial work, it was very observational for me,” he reflects. “It was probably a great learning curve.” Even the advert for which he is probably best known (yes ladies, that 2006 Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue ad), came about due to a bit of good old-fashioned blagging and orchestration on his part. “It hasn’t been easy,” he says of his career trajectory, “but it’s been an adventure. But anything that’s easy isn’t very exciting.” Although becoming successful has brought its own unexpected rewards. “Guys are always coming up to me and saying, how do you get to where you are and do you have any advice? It’s really, really nice,” he smiles. “But I never know where to start because it’s been a thirteen year progression, so there’s no magic formula!”
Today, Gandy is a firm favourite on the fashion circuit, and his place in history was cemented when he took part in the London Olympics closing ceremony as the only male model. “The Olympics were just phenomenal,” he enthuses. “Being typical Brits, we were all a bit skeptical about the Olympics and not very excited, but they turned out to be brilliant.”
As well as the day job, he writes and edits for various publications, and is an ambassador for several organisations, including, as you might expect, for London Collections: Menswear. As LC:M grows in stature and popularity, is image something men should be more aware of? “The British have never been the best,” he confesses. “If you look at Europe – the Italian men and the Parisian men – they’re very aware of their image, and they’re very high-end. British men have probably been a bit behind them. It’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong; I don’t think it’s great to take everything so seriously in fashion. I think that’s proved now with LC:M, it’s just getting more and more powerful. We have McQueen, we have Burberry, we have Tom Ford and it’s going from strength to strength. But you can see it in the street. There’s guys walking around in very colourful trousers and T-shirts, and there’s this individuality, which London always started off. I really think we’ll be the number one male fashion capital in the world in a few years.” He laughs and then adds, “Milan and Paris are getting a little bit worried!”
One of the other organisations Gandy is an ambassador for is Battersea Dogs And Cats Home. “I was there today,” he says. Interestingly, despite being a lover of dogs, Gandy isn’t a dog owner, so where then does his love of dogs come from? “I don’t know,” he admits. “I think you either have a love of dogs, or you don’t – you just have a love of animals. I got a kennel sponsored for me as a birthday present a few years ago. I walked into Battersea and said, can I help out in any other way? So I went on to become an ambassador. That’s why I was there today, because we have the Coats & Collars Ball in November so we were thinking of how to raise money.” The idea that looks like a winner may be familiar to those who keep a close eye on Gandy’s charity work. “Something we did for my charity, the Blue Steel Appeal, was a celebrity dog walk. We did one-off prizes and events, and Simon and Yasmin Le Bon very kindly did a dog walk in Richmond Park, which raised a hell of a lot of money. So I said to Battersea, why not do the same thing? So I think that’s the way we’re going to go with that, so you can have a dog walk with a very famous celebrity or a sportsman and their dog. So yeah, hugely involved with it. People think it’s strange I don’t have a dog, but what I’m trying to push is responsible ownership. I take ninety flights a year, and even when I’m in London I’m working, so I would not be a responsible dog owner.” So how about when he gives up the modeling? “Yeah, one day, of course, absolutely!” he smiles. “I’ll have five dogs, believe me, I really will!”
Philanthropy, it would seem, is something very close to Gandy’s heart. As well as the Blue Steel Appeal and his work for Battersea, he is also an ambassador for Style For Soldiers, a charity that supplies luxury goods to injured military personnel founded by Jermyn Street shirt-maker Emma Willis. “I think it’s a necessity,” he muses when I ask him about his charity work. “If you’re in the public eye and you can raise money in that way, then you should do it – it’s not an option. There’s people who don’t and that’s up to them, I suppose, but we try to encourage those people. But sometimes, you need a platform and then once you build that platform, people will join in.”
Flying all over the world to work with the biggest names in the fashion industry must surely have exposed him to some of the most extraordinary luxuries in the world, so I’m curious to know what his favourite luxury is. “My favourite luxury?” he considers, thinking. “Right okay, I’ll try not to disappoint. I don’t know what my favourite luxury is. This could be something stupid! I have two very expensive habits – watches and cars. I’m renovating a 1960s Mercedes Benz at the moment. That is a luxury. It’s a very expensive luxury that I’m regretting!” he laughs. “The only other thing is my watches – I’ve got quite a good watch selection.” I tell him I’ve had watches before when I’ve asked other people this question. “But not a Mercedes? Go with that one, then. I don’t want to disappoint with something unoriginal!” As the world’s only male supermodel, being unoriginal is surely something Gandy doesn’t need to worry about. His crown as undisputed king of the catwalk doesn’t show any sign of slipping just yet.