Exclusive: Tempus strips back the glamour to discover the man behind the David Gandy brand
Explore Tempus Magazine's exclusive cover shoot and interview with model David Gandy
David Gandy may have “fallen” into modelling but, despite a 15-year career in front of the camera, it’s not fashion that inspires him. Sure, he takes an interest in shoots and certainly knows how to work his angles – we discover this first hand as Gandy grabs the wheel of the Jaguar XK120 and speeds off, our photographer hanging on for dear life – but his passion lies in photography rather than clothing. The most successful male model of his generation, Gandy’s experience in the industry is unparalleled.
But now he has begun stepping away from the lens, focusing instead on designing capsule collections for brands such as Aspinal of London, and directing short films for the likes of Breitling. The bigger the challenge the better, for this passionate perfectionist. But while his professional achievements speak for themselves, the question remains – who is David Gandy? When we meet him on a sunny spring day at Bicester Heritage, we want to get to know the man behind the ‘David Gandy’ brand that he has, admittedly, built – and cleverly so. What does he dream about at night? What sets his heart racing? What keeps him awake with anticipation until the early hours? The answer is simple. His true love, his unrivalled passion, the one thing that makes him feel “like a kid at Christmas” time and time again, is cars. And not just any cars.
Gandy’s motoring collection, past and present, rivals that of some of the world’s greatest collectors. From his first car – a 1987 Ford Fiesta Ghia, he admits with a hint of embarrassment – to the XK120 he’s getting custom-restored for the 2019 Mille Miglia, and an impressive selection of Mercedes and Porsche classics in between, his garage has housed some serious metal. And this is just the beginning.
Describing himself a “purist driver”, Gandy’s love for motoring is about more than just the vehicles. It’s about the incomparable feeling of elation he gets when positioned behind the wheel. “I am at home in a car. That’s my happy place,” he says with a grin while reminiscing on his favourite models. So, what happens when we make one of Gandy’s dreams come true by sticking him in one of the most iconic classic cars ever made and giving him full range of one of Britain’s most historic motoring locations? Magic can’t quite begin to explain it. Read on for the interview. >>
Where does your passion for classic cars stem from?
I don’t know where my passion came from. Nobody in my family has a passion for it but that passion was in me from a young age. My mum says I used to look at car magazines before I could even read. Obviously, I’ve fallen into fashion, but that wasn’t engrained in me like cars were. And I think the older I’ve got, the more I can appreciate that we’re never going to get cars designed like classic cars anymore. I’m probably an old head on young shoulders, but I love everything from British tailoring and craftsmanship to classic cars. It’s not necessarily always about cars, it’s about design – from the clothing I’m designing now to interior decorating, watches, bags... to me, I’m passionate about anything with a design element.
There’s something so romantic about the classic car industry...
It is romantic. We’re a cottage industry but it’s important. It’s not always about driving the cars, at the end of the day it’s about keeping those cars on the road for another 60 or 70 years, keeping them for the next generation. It’s that cliched thing of – you’re not restoring them for yourself, you’re restoring for the generation after. Obviously, they’re also a great asset, a good investment. But I’ve never really bought classic from a great asset point of view. I’ve bought them because I love them. I’ve always loved the Porsche 356, which is being finished at the moment, and the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL. Of course, I would have loved the Gullwing, but I couldn’t quite afford that at the time. And then the XK120 because I’ve raced them. I’m buying them for the beauty of the cars and the feeling I get from driving them. You can’t drive them every day – you’d be mad to. But for one day a week, I love to get back in the Jag.
How do you feel when you climb into one of these classic cars?
It’s that feeling that you get from actually going back to real driving. Modern day cars are so easy to drive, you have assisted steering, assisted braking, and so on, but you have nothing on these cars. They’re manual with no power steering, so you have to be careful of what everyone else is doing in front of you. You have to really re-calibrate your brain on how to drive again. Sometimes it’s not the most relaxing drive, it’s actually quite hard, and being 6 ft 3 in, I don’t always fit in classic cars, but it’s always a pleasure. If you love driving and you’re a purist driver then you love getting the best of these cars. They’re not hugely fast or powerful cars, but there’s a thrill in getting the best out of them, especially when you’re racing. Racing a classic car at 80mph seems like 150mph. It’s kind of mad. >>
You're planning to take part in the Mille Miglia again next year – what’s the craziest thing that has happened to you during the rally?
There was a time when I was doing the rally with Yasmin Le Bon – we were driving through Tuscany in beautiful sunshine, she was map reading and we were exhausted, so we lived on Red Bull, coffee and Haribo. So, I’ve got Yasmin Le Bon as my co-driver, driving through Tuscany in the Mille, and she was feeding me Haribo, and at that point I thought, ‘does life get any better? This has got to be it. If someone wanted to kill me now, I’d be in a happy place.’
What are you driving right now?
At the moment, there’s that electric blue beast, the Jaguar F-Type SVR, which is actually one of my favourite cars. It’s an everyday supercar – easy to drive but with supercar speed. I love the Britishness of it. Jaguar have had a very hard time throughout certain decades, but they’re an incredible brand, with an amazing heritage and I love being part of that. I’ve been part of that for 11 years, so I suppose there’s something quite heartfelt for me working with Jaguar. I’ve also got a Mercedes 190 SL and the Porsche 356, which is being finished at the moment.
Beyond cars, what else do you collect?
I collect vintage watches from the likes of Breitling and Omega. Suits, I won’t say I collect them, but I don’t sell them, even if I’m not wearing them, because I’m thinking that either my son or nephew will some day have this astonishing range of Savile Row and Dolce & Gabbana suits which I’ll be proud to give them. >>
How do you define luxury? Is it about the artisan craftsmanship or designer labels? From directing to designing, you very much seem to be moving away from the modelling world. Why now?
People always laugh when I say this, but I’ve never been that comfortable in front of the camera – I much prefer being behind it. I studied photography so even when I came into this, I could see what clients were trying to convey in a picture and what would look better. Hence why I’m involved in the whole process, from campaign to styling. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the connotations of ‘you’re a model, what do you know?’, so you really have to try and leap that barrier and prove yourself. In the UK we love stereotyping people and if you’re in fashion, that’s where they sort of dismiss you. It’s something we have to stop.
Tell us about your latest design project, Aerodrome by David Gandy, in partnership with Aspinal of London.
I’ve always loved the design of bags and leather goods, especially. When I had the Mercedes 190 they had a six-piece luggage set made especially for it in Italy, with the same leather as the interior of the car, and I thought that was a great idea. I love the Aspinal brand, one because it’s British and two, because it’s very disruptive within the luxury luggage market. We wanted to base the collection around something within British history, and we said what is the greatest, most evocative piece of engineering? The Spitfire. It made complete sense. I’ve been involved in every part of that process, from concept and design to the launch. If I put my name to something, I’m involved in every element of it.