There is more than one David Gandy. There’s the one you know, the one with the blue-eyed stare, the torso and the tailoring. And there’s another, one who operates away from the flash bulbs, the man behind the supermodel.
On set today, both Gandys are present. The concept of this exclusive photoshoot for FashionBeans, devised by the man himself – or selves – is to show how one suit can have multiple personalities. So while one buttoned-up Gandy wears a dinner suit in a classic manner, with a shirt and bow tie, the other Gandy – not quite “evil”, but louche enough to be propping up the bar at London’s Corinthia Hotel at 10.30am on a Wednesday morning – dresses it down with a disreputably unzipped hoodie.
This is not just any dinner suit, mind – this is an M&S dinner suit. And this is not just David Gandy the model, it’s David Gandy the tailor. He has designed his own formalwear collection for Marks & Spencer, the high street institution for whom he serves as tailoring ambassador. Given the man’s propensity for looking debonairly suited and booted on front rows and Instagram feeds, it’s surprising that the Billericay beefcake turned style icon hasn’t had his own tailoring line before now.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” says the 38-year-old, who has enjoyed huge success with his loungewear and swimwear for M&S. “There are so many people now with lines, brands and collaborations. I felt like I needed to start at the very beginning and understand more about design, production, manufacturing, sales. It’s a whole different ball game. But it’s been fun.”
The DG DJ is part of a capsule collection alongside a Prince of Wales check three-piece suit and a broad-collared navy overcoat. The narrow focus, suitably cautious for a first foray into designing, serves to make a wider point. “We’re not saying you have to buy 50 items,” explains Gandy: rather, you should buy a couple of great pieces that you can wear in many ways, and for many years. In that way, the collection is a different riff on sustainability to, say, making garments out of old plastic bottles or hemp. (Although the overcoat’s fabric is Responsible Wool Standard-certified, meaning it can be traced back to a high-welfare farm.)
Disposable fast fashion isn’t just ruinous for your wallet: ten per cent of global carbon emissions are caused by the apparel industry, while 85 per cent of textiles – 21 billion tons a year – end up in a landfill. As Gandy observes, the aversion to being seen wearing the same thing more than once has spread from celebrities to social media influencers and beyond.
“At Men’s Fashion Week, there were guys changing ten times a day,” he says. “That’s where social media is giving a false impression of how men dress.”
“I’m Not Fashion”
Certainly, it’s not how Gandy dresses. Indeed, his tailored style has remained largely unchanged since he entered the public consciousness in that iconic ad campaign for Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue fragrance in 2007. “Makes me sound very boring,” he says wryly. But despite being exposed to the bleeding-edge trends, he cleaves steadfastly to his tried-and-tested formula of suits and off-duty double denim.
“People go, ‘What’s on trend?’ I’ll be like, ‘No idea,'” he says. “I don’t always follow trends, I tend to buy investment pieces that last. There was a question the other day: ‘When did you know you’d become fashion royalty?’’ I went: ‘I’m not fashion.’”
On the surface, it’s a strange admission for a top male model. But then Gandy is in good company within the industry in that regard: many menswear doyens conspicuously don’t practise what they preach with their collections. “Tom Ford told me, ‘I have my one suit that I love, my shirt, my tie, and I’ve got ten of them in the wardrobe’,” says Gandy. Ralph Lauren has his tuxedos and double denim, which he occasionally intermingles; Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have their plain T-shirts and cropped trousers. “They don’t change,” says Gandy. “And I’m kind of the same.”
His own style icons are Steve McQueen and Paul Newman; whether restoring old cars – currently a Jaguar XK120 – or houses by reinstating original features and filling them with vintage furniture, he’s all about the classics.
That doesn’t mean Reeboks, either. Gandy knows what suits him, which is suits, not trainers: wearing the latter only serves to freak out his hairdresser on set. “He says I look like when you put some socks on a dog and it can’t walk properly,” grimaces Gandy, who owns three pairs of Edward Green suede loafers in different colours. The only exceptions to his no-trainer dress code are working out and doing the Muddy Dog Challenge, a Tough Mudder for canines and owners, with Dora, a mongrel that he adopted last year from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (he became the shelter’s first ambassador in 2012).
Menswear’s Forever Man
“I sometimes will follow a trend, but I realised I’d rather set one,” says Gandy, who since 2012 has also been an ambassador for London Fashion Week Men’s, as it’s now known – another reason why his claim to be “not in fashion” is counterintuitive. Although the traditional Savile Row tailoring has since all but vanished from the schedule, he’s adamant that the biannual showcase remains a great and much-needed platform for fledgeling brands emerging from the capital’s world-leading fashion colleges – one that he will continue to support, even if it rarely speaks to his own sense of style.
“It has, I suppose, evolved into something that I can’t really relate to any more. I love style, and tend to buy things that will last a long time,” he says. “And if I can’t relate to it, then I think how do men outside of London, outside of our fashion bubble, relate to it? I don’t think they really do.”
Men beyond the fashion bubble do seem to relate to the non-fashion Gandy, who is a mainstay of the street style photographs taken outside the shows. Designer Oliver Spencer, whose shows are always a highlight of LFWM, named a two-tone brown suede bomber jacket after Gandy because he’d seen him wearing one like it: a tribute to the model’s clout.
Gandy, in turn, praises Spencer’s casting of a broad spectrum of sizes, shapes, shades and ages to model his wears, which perhaps speaks to a wider demographic. “But you still have these brands who are using very young, skinny boys,” Gandy adds. “And I think it’s just not relatable.”
Bucking that trend was what enabled Gandy, who used to get sent home from castings for being too big (he couldn’t get his legs in the trousers at a Dior fitting), to make such a splash. In Domenico Dolce’s articulation, Gandy embodied “a universal ideal of masculine beauty between Michelangelo’s David and those chiselled Greek and Roman sculptures of the classic era”.
Eleven years later, Gandy is still repping Light Blue, which remains Dolce & Gabbana’s bestselling fragrance. That kind of consistency is pretty remarkable in an industry of constantly changing faces. But then that’s the thing about not-fashion classics: they don’t go out of it.
The ‘Other’ David Gandy
Perhaps because of that exotic ad campaign, his personal style or his penchant for racing fast cars and power boats, Gandy, a risk-taker, is perceived by some as a sort of real-life James Bond. The truth is, these days, that’s just the alter ego. In reality, he’s more likely to be walking the dog than trotting the globe. He only flies 20 or 25 times a year: still a lot by some people’s standards, but not compared to the 80 or 90 times a year that he did at points in his 16-year career.
“I honestly do miss travelling,” he says. “I’m not really a routine person, so I’ve had to get used to that.” By force of habit, his washbag is still permanently packed and ready to go.
While he misses travelling though, he doesn’t mourn it. “It was great in my twenties and early thirties, but things have changed,” he says. He’s become more grounded, for one. “And there are things I love about it. I love getting up in the morning, taking the dog for a walk; getting home, taking the dog for a walk: having a bit more routine. I can actually go to things, and I can actually say to people, ‘Yeah, I will be around.’”
Having Dora for two years though is arguably the next best thing to a parenthood exam. “She’s still alive and very well, and enjoying life, spoilt brat that she is,” laughs Gandy. “I’m not comparing dogs to children, but it’s a really good test within your relationship, if you can dedicate your life to that dog. I don’t think Dora’s ever been on her own for more than three hours.”
Thinker, Tailor, Model …Shy?
Gandy admits to feeling like a spare part for now while mum does the hard work (although he has painted the nursery, and cooks), or worrying about what kind of dad he’ll be. “There’s always doubts in the back of your head, whether you’re going to be a good parent or not,” he says. Aside from his own parents, he’s taken copious notes from his grandparents and his sister, who has five children and is expecting her sixth.
In turn, he hopes that his offspring will take after its mother. “My girlfriend is so much more outgoing than me,” he says. “I hope the baby has my girlfriend’s personality, and confidence, and charisma, and intelligence. I’m not sure what I hope to bring…”
It’s an even stranger admission for a top male model, but Gandy is not confident, at least not in the chest-out peacock way you might expect. “I’m actually a very shy person,” he says. “I still panic every time I go on a red carpet. I want the car to drive off with me in it.” Modelling would seem an odd choice of career, but then of course he didn’t really choose it: famously, he was entered into a modelling competition on ITV’s This Morning by his flatmate, which he promptly won.
He’s never shaken the imposter syndrome: “After every campaign, I think, ‘Well, that was lovely, it’s going to be my last one, that’s it.’” He’s very happy to be behind the camera more, directing short films for watch brand Breitling about the RAF’s centenary earlier this year.
Gandy didn’t emerge from the womb a marble-sculpted Adonis: he was teased at school for being chubby and well-spoken, the latter something his dad insisted on, seeking refuge in the library. (Because of that, he’s an ambassador for educational charity Achievement For All.) Self-consciousness about his physique drove him into the gym. He doesn’t lift as heavy weights as he used to, partly because of wear and tear to his rotator cuff and back, and partly because he doesn’t want to anymore. Instead, he stays in shape with lighter weights, supersets and, yes, dog walking.
“I still love a drink, still love cake, but everything in moderation, make sure you work it off and that’s pretty much it,” he says. “Everybody’s looking for this big secret and it doesn’t exist really.”
It does take Gandy a little longer now to get beachwear campaign-ready, although he’s hardly in imminent danger of a dad bod. But with fatherhood and 40 on the horizon, it begs the question of what form his midlife crisis will take. After all, he already owns several fast cars. “Yeah, I’ve got a lot of leather jackets too,” he says.
“I suppose if people have children a bit younger, they probably get to mid-life and then they feel they want to have things, and they can probably afford them. I’ve been very fortunate: I have my car collection, and I had and have an amazing time with renovating houses and doing everything I want. So I don’t think there’s – hopefully, touch wood – going to be a crisis…”
If anything, Gandy is slowing down as he approaches the hump. “I think the SVR is finally going,” he says. “Luckily Jaguar have just brought out an F-Pace SVR, so I’ll still get my 575bhp, but room to fit everything else in as well.” And while he “might” have to give up the powerboats (his girlfriend’s a lawyer, remember – good luck with that argument), he’s intent on entering the restored XK120 in the Mille Miglia in Italy next year, a 1,000-mile race on public roads and the only event that scared the merda out of Sir Stirling Moss.
So yes, there really are two David Gandys. There’s the one you don’t often see: the reserved, dog-walking family man who yawns at the skittishness of fast fashion. And there’s still the boy racer, the risk taker, the entrepreneur who lives and dresses on his own terms.
Is it just us or do you want to be both those guys?
5 Ways To Rethink Your Tailoring, Like David Gandy
In FashionBeans‘ photoshoot with David Gandy, he wears the tailoring pieces he designed for Marks & Spencer repeatedly. That’s deliberate. The aim was to show that a suit, even a dinner suit, doesn’t have to sit at the back of your wardrobe gathering dust until the next wedding or work event calls for it.
You can deconstruct it. You can wear it as separates and style it up or down. Be bold and you’ll find your suit pairs with more items than you thought. It’s also one of the most expensive things in your closet – so why not wear it more often? Here, with Gandy’s help, we explain how.
Reformulate Your Formalwear
“I mix a lot of things. And that’s something that I always say to men: you don’t need a whole expensive outfit. Yes, spend money on certain items: a great overcoat, or a suit. But you don’t need to spend money on the T-shirt or the accessories.” A suit is versatile: in our shoot, we styled the tailoring with a V-neck sweater, a track top, an overcoat, a roll neck, a T-shirt and a bare chest. Oh, and occasionally a shirt.
Dress It Up, Dress It Down
The three-piece suit is a mainstay of traditional British tailoring, but that’s not to say it’s an inflexible straitjacket. “It looks stunning with a shirt and tie, but I realise that men are not dressing up, or power dressing, in that way,” Gandy says. “It does look great for an occasion, but you’re not going to be wearing that every day. But it looks amazing with a roll-neck, and great with a T-shirt.”
Wear The Trousers (More Often)
Your suit trousers are among the costliest, best-fitting and most comfortable kecks you own. But most men rarely wear them as a separate in their own right, much less in a casual context. Gandy does: “I wear my Thom Sweeney trousers with side adjusters that belong to a suit with a T-shirt and shades. That’s kind of my summer staple.”
Remix Your Tux
The traditional dinner jacket was midnight blue, not black, and so is the one Gandy designed. His is also double-breasted. “That is something that’s been around in the fashion industry for a while, but I feel like it’s now going to the man on the street and it’s much more accessible,” he says. “And it’s just a wearable piece: you don’t have to wear it as a tuxedo.”
Respect The Waistcoat
There is a limit to all this experimentation, Gandy says. “I don’t think you can ever wear the waistcoat on its own. There’s something slightly odd about that. You can wear either the trousers and the jacket together, or the waistcoat and the trousers. Or you can wear the trousers or the jacket completely separately. But the waistcoat needs to be worn with one of the other pieces to put it in context.”
Shop David Gandy’s full tailoring range for Marks & Spencer here.
Talent: David Gandy @ Select Model Management
Photographer: Olivier Yoan
Art Director: Chris Lowe
Stylist: Richard Pierce
Hair stylist: Larry King @ Streeters
Stylist Assistant: Julia Lurie
Tailor: Josie Crowley-Roth
Hair Stylist Assistant: Katie Bailey
Interview: Jamie Millar
Videographers: Big Hair Films
Production: Ian Taylor, Luke Todd, Luke Sampson