Entrepreneurs

David Gandy On The Business Of Being Beautiful, And Beyond

After five minutes chatting with a flat-capped David Gandy, it felt like I’d known him for years.

I have, of course, in the sense that most people would recognize the face behind Dolce & Gabbana’s iconic Light Blue fragrance campaigns if it passed them on the street, but I was pleased to discover the man behind the ‘world’s most successful male model’ superlative was also incredibly down-to-earth.

“I can’t actually believe it’s been 20 years since this all started,” he tells me, recalling the moment he found out his university roommate had entered him into a modeling competition on British TV show This Morning. “I’d honestly never thought about modeling or entering the fashion industry, but after three years at university I was open to an adventure.”

When he won, Gandy landed a contract with Select Model Management and left university to focus on said adventure—but it didn’t happen quickly.

“I think everyone assumes I just turned up and all these doors opened for me, but it took a good five years for things to kick off. Five years of observation.”

In that time, Gandy became increasingly interested in the divide between male and female models. While women were thriving—and becoming brands in their own right—male models felt almost anonymous.

“Eventually I was lucky enough to work with women like Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell and I literally used to ask them how they were doing it.”

He discovered that while, yes, all of these women were abnormally beautiful, they were also brilliant business people. The type who didn’t think of their work as the sum of a day in a studio, but a step towards a sustainable and enduring business.

“Cindy Crawford said ‘I’m not looking for a one-night-stand with a brand, I’m looking for a marriage’—and that was it. I got it. It’s all down to those women. They were my inspiration and they created the platform that allowed me to become a brand, too.”

By the time Dolce & Gabbana came knocking in 2006, Gandy’s entire approach had changed. He prioritized partnerships, professionalism, and personal PR—all of which helped him escape the confines of ‘male model’ and turn him into ‘white pants boy’, ‘sexiest man alive’, and ‘the world’s first supermodel’.

And, loyal as ever, Gandy became a lifetime collaborator with the brand, taking on few other jobs—bar a 10-year relationship with Jaguar, 15-year relationship with Massimo Dutti, and 8-year modeling and design collaboration with M&S.

But it was his collaborations with M&S, specifically, that offered a training ground for creating a brand of his own.

“I’ve always wanted my own brand but it was never the right moment. I really value integrity in business and I wanted to do it at a time when I could be fully involved.”

A time which, unexpectedly, arrived alongside a global pandemic.

During the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown Gandy sat down with his best friend, Charlie Tee, and began to talk seriously about the clothes they’d been conceptualizing over many years of wine-fuelled dinners.

“Loungewear became so big over lockdown, you know, but I’d been doing it with M&S for years,” he says. “It was already a proven concept, in a sense, because my collaborations had been so successful. Now, I’d simply be taking it on myself.”

With time finally on their side, the duo began working on David Gandy Wellwear—a gender-neutral clothing line dedicated to fashion, function and feeling.

“We wanted to take essential items to new heights and figure out why some people wear their favorite clothes until they have holes in them,” Gandy continues. “Which always comes down to comfort, fit and how it makes you feel.”

Inspired by studies showing that simply touching smooth fabrics can create a sense of psychological wellbeing and reduce negative emotions, all Wellwear items use natural fibres (including ultra-soft Pima cotton, lyocell and modal) and utilize technical treatments with anti-odour and anti-bacterial properties.

From concept to creative, Gandy’s relentless perfectionism means he hasn’t taken a day ‘off’ from Wellwear since July 2020.

“This isn’t a little five-piece Instagram brand. It’s big and I still can’t underestimate how much work it takes. If someone sends an email or WhatsApp at 11pm, we’re all there. No-one is switching off,” he says.

Unlike his previous collaborations—which have limited personal or financial incentives of success—Wellwear marks a moment of unparalelled risk for Gandy.

“It has my name on it,” he laughs. “The anxiety levels go down a bit when people we’ve tested it with like it, but the proof is in the pudding at the end of the day.”

The 20-piece range launches today, featuring ‘ultimate’ versions of everyday basics in a range of neutral colors, on DavidGandyWellwear.com.

While Gandy is dedicated to the development and expansion of his brand, he isn’t ready to hang up his white pant lifestyle just yet.

“Now that I’ve seen the work involved in starting a business, modelling is almost relaxing—I do my thing for eight hours and then I go home. I don’t have to worry about sales and marketing and creative and editing 9500 images, you know?” he laughs.

“It’s still major part of my career but Wellwear is what I’ve envisaged for 10 years. It’s the legacy I’ve always wanted to leave.”

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