Words & Portraits Kirk Truman
“You know, if you were ask me about the history of fashion, I probably could tell you very little…”
Over the past two decades, David Gandy has established a deserved reputation for having a careful eye for detail. Catching the attention of leading designers such as Dolce & Gabbana for Mario Testino’s Light Blue campaign, the London-based designer has built an unmatched career in the British fashion industry. He’s an intellectual, a gentleman, and a businessman who finds escapism in motoring. David and I met in Nice, 868 miles away from our capital, and from here we drove the Jaguar XE to St Tropez; on the way back, we drove the F-Pace SVR through the Route Napoléon, shooting en route. Along the way, we discussed life in London, David’s career and Jaguar’s iconic designs, which have captivated his imagination since his youth.
Tell me about the early years of your career.
I was at university in my early 20s. The only thing I learned there was that I shouldn’t have gone to university! Unbeknown to me, a friend entered me in a competition with Select Model Management. I won, and received a contract with the agency. I knew nothing about the industry, and, at first, I was a very much an observer wending my way through a world I didn’t understand. I dressed in a utilitarian way. I didn’t know anything about it and hadn’t ever aspired to be part of the industry.
What was the turning point in your career?
I’d spent a lot of time going to castings which weren’t for me. I suppose I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to be doing and, to be truthful, I felt that at times I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was the brilliant Tandy Anderson at Select who gave me the guidance I needed. I began to think about how I could work toward achieving a lasting effect in the industry and doing something nobody had ever done before, something iconic.
To me, that meant becoming the best in my game and getting a chance to work with the greatest creatives in the industry. I left behind all of my commercial work, earning nothing for months and months: it was the chance I needed to take to open up a bolder opportunity. This led to me working with Dolce & Gabbana, and subsequently becoming the face of the Light Blue fragrance.
With your work veering in a new direction, what did you take from this experience?
It was an education for me. I was passionate about photography during my youth, so I already had my own ideas of creative direction. I told myself to walk before I could run. I was just very genuinely curious about everybody I was working with. I wanted to understand the role and every element of each individual I worked with. Photographers such as Mario Testino to Steven Meisel – their intuition and creativity captivated and inspired me. More than anything, I listened, which I don’t particularly feel people do so much today. Working with Dolce & Gabbana and creatives who inspired my own thinking and direction, I knew that one day this would lead me to curate and creative-direct my own projects.
How should others interpret your work?
I’ve always described myself to people as the middle ground between an average guy on the street and the fashion industry. I hope that I can be a voice between the two. You know, funnily enough, I really don’t enjoy having my photograph taken. More and more in life, I’ve become increasingly selective about who I work with. I’d like to say that I’ve gotten to where I am now with a bit of luck, but in fact it was hard work.
What does our capital mean to you as your home?
I can walk down any street in London and I still feel like I see something new each time. Everybody has this vision of the streets of New York, Paris and Milan being paved with gold. I’ve always felt that London is the most creative and influential city in the world. I’ve reflected this in my work, working primarily with British brands such and M&S, Jaguar, and Aspinal of London. We’re an inspiration – we’re multicultural and the greatest capital city in the world.
How did you develop a passion for motoring?
How do you begin to explain a thing like that? Cars have been ingrained into my psyche from my youth. They just have. It’s an obsession. You know, if you were to ask me about the history of fashion, I probably could tell you very little. If you were to ask me about the brake horsepower, the designer, or how a car was developed, I’d probably be able to tell you everything! My family have always been into cars. I can remember going to my grandfather’s house before I could ever even properly read, looking endlessly through car books. It’s part of who I am, and my route to escapism.
Tell me about your relationship with Jaguar. How would you define the spirit of a Jaguar?
I believe that you can’t have a one-night stand with a brand. Anything I work on with a brand is authentic and long-term. I have fond memories as a youngster of driving around Europe with my family in a Jaguar. I started working with Jaguar in 2009 and the relationship has grown from there. It started out with just a conversation and has organically progressed. More and more, I have had the privilege of being able to see behind the scenes of the design process of each model, and now I work closely with the design team. From being shown the clay models of the vehicles prior to production with Design Director, Ian Callum, as well as racing their cars, Jaguar has become part of my family and my life. To me, Jaguar is the defining British motoring designer. As with the F-PACE SVR, each and every Jaguar is designed in such a way that, even when standing still, it looks as if it is about to leap towards you. Every time you get behind the wheel of a Jaguar, you should feel that look and character.
What are your future aspirations?
There are some in life who are happy to sit and watch the world pass by. I just can’t do that. I always have to be doing something. As I’ve become more selective in life, I’ve thought about this at length. Many people have asked me whether I would consider developing my own brand in time. Doors open, doors close. I’m open to it. Life is a game of chess, and hopefully I’m making the right decisions to take me toward checkmate. I’ve invested over the years in a number of brands, and my gut tells me that one day I will perhaps have to put my money where my mouth is and start my own.