Covering the #24 issue of The Rake Magazine, while posing for the lense of Jake Walters in an indoor/outdoor studio in London. What David Gandy brings to this photoshoot is a relaxed, unforced attitude that brings to mind old Hollywood glamour and charm. This November issue includes an exclusive interview with David Gandy on how Dolce & Gabbana propelled his meteoric rise in the modeling industry.
Magazine (via Models.com) New!
Magazine (via Models.com) New!
THE BRITALIAN JOB
by Tom Stubbs
David Gandy drops me off at the No. 19 bus stop in Fulham, West London. I fumble through the door of hi Mercedes SLS Gullwing, making no small performance of stumbling onto the pavement. "White Pants Man" ( as he's known in sections of the British public) immediately gets clocked by a couple of teenage girls and their mother. He smiles graciously as all three giggling females articulate mischievous -- and not a little salacious -- declarations of appreciation. They're referring to Gandy's seminal work, Light Blue, the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance campaign the rocketed an ordinary Essex boy to globally - recognised, white-trunks wearing Adonis. The Mario Testino image that inspired a thousand torso fantasies/inferiority for men around the world also propelled a shift in perceptions of ideal male body shape, replacing the fashionable skinny-boy look with the bulkier paradigm still prevalent today. These days, David is used to recognition. It goes with territory of ‘global male supermodel’ – a moniker you’d struggle to apply to another guy since Nick Kamen took his jeans off in the launderette in that mid – ‘80s Levi’s ad. That’s big – but big Dave can take it.
Post The Rake interview, the increasingly metropolitan Gandy is off to advise Jaguar on how to improve band presence. He’s a motoring journalist, has just launched a fitness app and occasionally appears on television advertisements. Brand Gandy is a serious concern. Dressed in wide-leg pinstripe pants and vest, with pinstripe wide-lapel jacket, he’s an amalgam of male elegance – Clark Gable meets Count von Count cast as Jay Gatsby. The dashing Gandy wide-pants stance has delighted the front row at ‘London Collections: Men’ shows. He’s become an unofficial ambassador for British men’s style. The passionate style enthusiast talks earnestly about the positives of British High Street offerings, while criticising elements of men’s fashion editorial. “Work out how to get men to shop like women, and you’ll be a millionaire”, he suggests. Confident, elegant and eloquent, it appears he was born to this life. David was a working-class Essex boy, an excellent county cricketer and a talented (and usually tracksuit-clad) rugby player before a college pal entered him in a UK morning TV show’s male model competition. He won, and found himself on the books at Public Image Worldwide. Job done? Not quite.
His rise from breakfast TV man –crumpet for middle- aged This Morning viewers to fronting a Milanese fashion house hasn’t happened by chance – strategy and personality have been critical. Ten years ago, Gandy’s signature wedge shape and smouldering, craggy looks were far removed from the zeitgeist – even for machismo merchants Dolce & Gabbana. Was it a masterful presentation to the casting agent that Gandy squeeze neatly into those famous white trunks? All David will let on is just how meticulous the maestros behind the label he fronts are when it comes to decisions, however minor. “One major thing I respect about those guys it they’re still at the forefront of everything that goes on – right down to the people that sit in the front row at the show”, he says. “They decide everything. In other big designer houses, you won’t find a head of a company governing all that – I think it’s one of the reason they’re so successful. Being so close to them, I see they still make every decision and have complete control. It’s unique compared to other houses”.
It was no Sunday drive from the catwalk to the campaign set for Gandy and the Italian boys, however – not when even haircuts can be a deal-breaker. “Back in 2001, when I first worked with Dolce & Gabbana, they’d have everyone’s hair the same – bosh - cropped right off at the sides, and left alone on top. I lost others jobs because of that cut. When I went back, I was sat with Domenico and Stefano and they said, “Right, go and get the hair cut.' I was only 23, but I said, ' I can't, I lost work because of it.' They gave me an ultimatum, so I had to just walk. I didn't go back until 2005. By then a few things had changed."
Gandy had, by this stage, been getting plenty of modelling work. but mainly aspirational brand jobs and favourable editorial. Although earning a good living, he wanted more, and to have greater control over his career route. " I decided to rebel from the skinny-trendy look and go bigger," he says. "I was never going to be skinny, so I thought, 'It's go big or go home time-- let's see if the industry comes around.'" It did. In the case of Dolce, who decided they wanted a new, inreconstructed of masculinity: a tanned, Mediterranean take on herculean virility. Cue Gandy entering the theater of global advertising campaigns, as directed by the world's finest photographers.
After Testino's Light Blue, David took lead roles in other famous Dolce & Gabbana campaigns, such as Steven Klein's Sicilian odyssey and recent Mariano Vivanco work. Was it difficult for the former sportsman to stay still for such epic roles? "I've never been confident in front of the camera, even in family photographs," he deadpans. "Weirdly I'm still not. I don't like my photo being taken" He raises on eyebrow. "But in 11 years, I've got to learn what works for people. At the end of the day, brand employ you to make it work. The client and art director and photographer know what they want. You have to take those thoughts and adapt them to what you can do. It’s like being an actor. You know your best looks, but you’ve got to trust the director. Particularly Mario and Mariano – they simply know how to make people look beautiful. Some just shoot in their own style, but there’s something about the way they appreciate the female or male form that makes you look good. They get something others wouldn’t. You have to trust them. If you have doubt, you still have to go with it – they have the vision”.
Gandy is now a tangible part of Dolce’s vision. He sits “frow” in Milan, instead of rippling down the runway at their shoes. He’s one of the family. On my recent regular visits to the boutique in Bond Street (to borrow Gandy – sized clothes for the photographs that surround these words), it became apparent that he’s extremely popular with the staff. They all sent him their love along with the carefully packed suits. He’s a Dolce talisman now, encapsulating the house’s masculinity. I’ve heard that his personal traits – he’s charming, modest and a consummate low-key British gent – are partly what appealed to the Italian icon – makers when it came to elevating him. The book David Gandy by Dolce & Gabbana, shot mostly by Vivanco, came out last year, and is a hard-back, slightly homoerotic homage to Gandy via the campaign shoots plus some additional, overtly 'racy' imagery.
Was the book a leap of faith for Gandy? "We actually held back in some regards," he says. "Mariano and the boys did take it to the next step, but I never did a full frontal nude. We always left something to the imagination." In some instances, it has to be noted, it was only half left. "Yes, it's 80's Bruce Webber referential -- very sexualised. People think I do nude all the time. Yes, for the book, but that's Mariano and Dolce & Gabbana's thing -- I don't do it all the time." He's very focused about what he will do and how he's seen. " We have a plan,Select ( his currant modelling agent) and I. I've always said it's more important what you say 'no' to than what you say 'yes' to. It's a game of chess-- the moves you make are important. The wrong one puts you back years." The nude, sexualised shots demonstrate Gandy's trust and loyalty to Dolce & Gabbana and their setup, regardless of how people might view it.
Gandy's quite exasperated by how judgemental people can be about men's style and image in the UK. " If you walk out of London without socks on, people will still take a piss. I got papped with a man-bag going to the gym, then got slated in the press, It shows people's insecurity." This doesn't stop a man of Gandy's wilfulness working his own style regardless. " I go for '50's suites and baggy strides," he says. "That's me going against the trends. I feel compelled to, as it seems there's less and less individualism these days. What I'm trying to say is, it's okay to do what you want." A trifle easier for a chap with screen-idol looks, but I see the sentiment. " David Beckham has done that so well. I also think Andreas Kronthaler - the design director for Vivienne Westwood - is brilliant. He says people are sheep; they just follow. So he leads the way by wearing really good vintage and mad creative clothes put together his way. He looks utterly amazing."
So what has David learnt from Dolce & Gabbana's approach to style? "To be more individual," he asserts. " That's what Domenico does do brilliantly. For example, he now trucks thick knits into smart trousers, and somehow, it just works. Personally, I'm quite traditional English. I like broader lapels, wider ties-- but I do mix it up.
And how the look in the shoot readers are beholding now? " The essence of their style has come from their Sicilian origins," he says. " The style is seen in every season. In my opinion, when they truly go back to those Sicilian roots, that's when the real Dolce & Gabbana comes out. It's brilliant. While a lot of fashion houses seem to blend into each other, you can spot when a guy is wearing Dolce & Gabbana-- there's always that different edge to their stuff, that edge that gives a guy something different."
Keener-eyed viewers will already have noticed that we shot David portraying a Hollywood screen idol. He delivered exactly what we'd ask him for thoughout. while the camera adored him. Mahatma Gandhi ( no relation) once said, " I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers." In the case of this Gandy, the press appear to love him, while the public relish seeing a humble lad from Essex do so well. As far as the British export is concerned, perhaps Jaguar should take a look at how Gandy is perceived from all sides: dashing. modern British at its low-key, classy best.