Back in the early noughties, David Gandy single handedly changed the face of men’s fashion. All it took was the attention of Italian design heavyweights Dolce & Gabbana and a pair of tiny white briefs.
Before Gandy’s now-iconic fashion moment in that advert, male models came skinny and androgynous. More importantly, they also didn’t have anywhere near the same star power as their female counterparts. Gandy’s chiseled good looks and unashamedly masculine, six foot three inch frame changed all that but, ultimately, it’s his impressive roster of side projects and entrepreneurial drive that’s kept him at the top of his game for the best part of two decades.
Gandy’s most recent designer collaboration is one of his most ambitious to date. The Aerodrome Collaboration is a sleek men’s capsule collection of travel bags and accessories, designed by Gandy in partnership with Aspinal of London. The 18-strong collection ranges from leather keyrings and passport covers to 48-hour weekend bags – and Gandy has been heavily involved every step of the way.
‘People don’t ever believe I’m involved at all. I don’t really understand that,’ he quips as he reveals his collection ahead of the official launch at Aspinal’s plush new London flagship. As well as designing the range, Gandy has also been heavily involved with the accompanying marketing strategy (including riding in a Spitfire plane along with a handful of plucky journalists) and campaign shoot. It’s also a project he’s personally invested in too. He beams when he reveals that he was able to gift a bag from the collection to Alan Scott, one of Britain’s last remaining World War Two pilots, who instantly recognised the replica Spitfire MK1 firing button reimagined as an opening mechanism. However, in spite of the obvious homage to the British military, he insists that he didn’t ever want to ‘replicate a Second World War pilot. It was very much a nod to and respect to that time.’
‘The Aerodrome Collaboration came about through a conversation with Iain Burton, the owner of Aspinal,’ explains Gandy. ‘Aspinal of London is a brand I respected and appreciated and I love the fact that they’re British. I try to keep all my collaborations and work with British brands.’
‘Iain and I started talking about the Spitfire being the most iconic piece of British engineering. I really wanted to bring back the luxury of travelling, especially flying, and it just so happened to be the RAF centenary. Iain called me one day and said: “three Spitfires have just flown over my house, I think that’s a message we should go ahead!”‘
The process of designing and producing the capsule collection – a first for Aspinal of London – was a long one, but the result, Gandy admits, is ‘better’ than he could have expected. He takes an equally hands-on approach to demonstrating the collection, making a beeline for a tan leather backpack (‘I’m not really a backpack person, however, I just adore this – it’s a great size and there are so many compartments.’) before whizzing over to a wash bag that comes with a clever detachable pouch, then it’s on to one of the signature leather holdalls. ‘One of my pet hates is putting shoes in with clothing, so all the weekend bags have a separate shoe compartment.’ He demonstrates by sliding out an ingenious slot discreetly built into the bag. Everything comes with in-built tech capabilities too, designed very much with Gandy’s hectic work schedule and that of the modern man in mind.
‘I always have ideas from a customer point of view,’ he explains. ‘I could see from looking at the market that no one had really done men’s luggage that well. Suitcases, yes, but a lot of the pieces for men are so, so expensive. I could see there was a gap in the market. I’m also fascinated by the Second World War and I always go back to history in my collaborations. Even with my collections for M&S, they’re very much based on traditional tailoring. History inspires me.’
Keeping the collection at accessible price points was fundamentally important for Gandy, with only the largest weekend bag creeping over the £1,000 mark. Much like his traditional approach to dressing (‘people often ask me what’s on trend but I have no idea, I just know what suits me’) the pieces he’s designed are classic with contemporary sensibilities and built to last.
‘I think all of these bags will get better with age,’ he agrees. ‘It goes back to that classic car thing, which I love – I get them restored because I almost think it’s something for the next generation. You look after items you love; you polish your shoes, you look after your suits. People like my dad and grandad, because they didn’t have much money, things had to last, whereas now people are used to clothes being disposable items. Everything I do is made to last.’
The Aerodrome Collaboration: David Gandy X Aspinal of London is out now, from £50; aspinaloflondon.com