Model David Gandy busy building fashion and lifestyle empire

Male model David Gandy not only rules the runway but also owns fashion businesses and writes for Vogue, The Telegraph and British GQ

8Q

British model David Gandy is one sauve and savvy businessman. When the 35-year-old is not strutting down the runway as one of the world's most sought-after male models, he is busy building a fashion and lifestyle empire.

Gandy co-owns British shoe label David Preston and the London Sock Company and he has a stake in the sleepwear and underwear line David Gandy for Autograph, which he collaborated on with retail giant Marks and Spencer.

He dishes out fashion tips and writes on lifestyle topics for publications such as Vogue and The Telegraph, and is a car reviewer for British GQ magazine.

An avid gym-goer, he has also created a fitness and training app.

The 1.91m-tall model, who is single, says of his venture into entrepreneurship: "Models are self-employed, your business is you."

He was in town last month for a whirlwind one-day visit to promote Dolce & Gabbana's Mediterranean-inspired fragrance, Light Blue. Impeccably dressed in a navy blue cashmere V-neck sweater over a crisp white shirt and matching navy blue trousers, he exudes sensuous charm with his azure blue eyes, chiselled cheekbones and English drawl.

The Essex native with a marketing degree from the University of Gloucestershire broke into the modelling scene at 21 after he won a television modelling competition. He signed a contract with the prestigious London-based modelling agency Select Model Management and was catapulted into the global limelight after being cast in a Dolce & Gabbana campaign in 2007, which showed off his buff and masculine build.

According to Forbes, Gandy was the second top-earning male model in 2013, pocketing US$1.4 million (S$2 million) that year.

After 14 years in the fashion industry, he is gradually taking a backseat in modelling. He wants to give younger male models more opportunities in an industry dominated by female supermodels such as Gisele Bundchen. Noting the stark disparity in income and recognition between female and male supermodels, he hopes to show that male models can become household names.

He says: "The younger guys have to step up. Hopefully, I have built a platform to show them that they can do it, but they need to work very hard to get there."

With his smouldering good looks, it is little surprise that he has been offered roles in movies such as 300: Rise Of An Empire, Hercules and, more recently, the role of Mr Grey in the erotic film Fifty Shades Of Grey. "They sent me the script for Fifty Shades Of Grey, but it wasn't right," he says. "I would jump at the chance to act if the right script came about. It needs to be something with depth."

1 How do you keep up with the competition from younger male models?

I have strategically managed myself to be different from anyone else. You can have a guy who is younger and better-looking and he should absolutely be a rival.

But between myself and a younger model, I am instantly recognisable, have millions of fans around the world, and I write for The Telegraph and Vogue, so the brand gets coverage there.

2 What is the biggest challenge that male models face when fronting fragrances?

It is not about going up against other male models but famous faces around the world. These rivals are the biggest movie stars in the world, such as Matthew McConaughey for Dolce & Gabbana, Johnny Depp for Dior and Brad Pitt for Chanel.

3 There is a trend of male models wearing women's clothes, as seen at Milan Fashion Week earlier this year. Are you open to wearing gender-bending clothes?

No. I am known for masculinity, three-piece suits, classic cars and watches. I am never going to wear anything floral as it is not something that appeals to me and probably not to many guys.

These fashion shows show where the scene could be headed in a couple of years and people will take inspiration from the prints of the clothes. But these shows are extreme. If you don't go to those extremes, there isn't a show; it will be boring with people walking down the runway in normal clothing.

4 What is your top grooming advice for men?

I think people need to look out more for their skin. It doesn't have to be complicated. You need a good moisturiser, facial serum, exfoliator and fragrance. Men don't have to worry that much compared to women. We're quite fortunate. You can have four or five products and you're set.

5 You do some writing on the side. How do you deal with writer's block?

That's probably why I am not writing much any more when there's not much inspiration to write. It is easy to write about topics that you have passion for and truly believe in. If not, I won't write.

Writing is a hobby, it is not something I have to do for a job.

6 If there were an opportunity to go into acting, what roles do you hope to play?

It would be fun to get my teeth into a character that is completely different from how people see me. It is like the commercial for the Light Blue fragrance, it was kind of fun for an English guy to play a Mediterranean character.

7 You travel widely for fashion shoots and events. What is the first thing you do when you check into a hotel?

The first thing I do is to go to the gym because I cannot just stop and smell the roses. I have got to be in shape for photo shoots. It is very helpful if the hotel has a gym.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As an honest gentleman, and if I have kids, I would love for them to call me a good dad.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Building a fashion and lifestyle empire'. Print Edition | Subscribe