As the news spread that David Gandy was launching his own fashion and lifestyle collection, we naturally assumed suits would be at its core. Tailoring, after all, is what he usually sports off duty – front row at London Fashion Week, suited and booted. Except it now emerges that this is still Gandy on duty: ‘My suit is almost like my armour,’ he explains. ‘It’s what I wear to go to red carpet events, or London Fashion Week, which is where I am photographed, so that’s how people see me the most. The other side they probably don’t see – the other three-quarters of the day, when I’m in T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, waffle Henleys. That’s what I’m comfortable with. In fact, recently I didn’t wear a suit for a year…’
This type of casual clothing is the basis of David Gandy Wellwear, the model’s new venture. And though the idea was born during the pandemic, it was not inspired by it. ‘What Covid gave me was time to sit and actually think about where I wanted to be in the future,’ he says. ‘This is something I’d been working on for six years, before loungewear became a thing.’
He is referring to his stint with M&S, where he collaborated on a swim/sleep/loungewear range for men that proved hugely popular. Since then, the conviction that men are creatures of comfort has preoccupied him. ‘We don’t realise how our clothing affects us psychologically. We looked at the science around comfortable, soft clothing. Why does it affect us so much, why do we like it so much? There’s so much research on this that talks about the benefits of dressing comfortably: studies showing students performing better in their exams if they are wearing comfortable clothing; financial institutions seeing an increase in performance from employees who were able to dress more casually. It encourages positivity and openness towards others. That’s where the idea of Wellwear came from. I’m very keen that people don’t see it as loungewear. The world has moved on.’
The concept is that aesthetically his pieces can function at home but are also smart enough to be worn out and about. But, most importantly, with high-quality natural fibres such as pima cotton, lyocell and modal, technical finishes and treatments with anti-odour and anti-bacterial properties, and aloe vera extract for healing, anti-inflammatory and moisturising qualities, these clothes genuinely make you feel good. With Wellwear Breathe and Wellwear Care, the technology also helps regulate body temperature, so clothes can be washed less often, which helps the environment – and that, incidentally, also helps you feel better.
And while Gandy acknowledges he still has work to do in terms of sustainability, he points to the use of natural materials in the collection. As high-quality products, he hopes people will wear them for a long time, reducing their environmental footprint. ‘I’ve been brought up to buy quality,’ he explains. ‘You didn’t buy fast fashion when I was younger. And fast fashion has a negative psychological effect as well as an environmental one. Scientists are saying that people who get addicted to fast fashion realise the impact they are having on the planet by buying cheaper, throwaway things, and this affects them negatively. It’s fascinating. I’ve always bought stuff to last. I have suits that people think are brand new, but are in fact 12 years old. By wearing things for a long time, you are contributing to less production. The less that is bought, the less is thrown away, and the less [that goes to] landfill. We’re doing our best to be sustainable with this collection, and we will look to do more in the future.’
Gandy explains how his time with M&S has proved invaluable. ‘It allowed me to learn about how the design process works, what were the customers’ favourites, which were the colours that sold.’ But, he points out, he also has many years’ experience with other brands to draw on – not least Dolce & Gabbana, which gave him his big break in modelling. ‘It’s great making imagery as a model with the best photographers, but really, for 20 years now I’ve been enabling other people’s creativity. Now, this is where I can be creative. Everything that has inspired me and I have learnt over two decades is going into David Gandy Wellwear.’ That’s quite some R&D.
The result? Twenty core items in black, white, ecru, khaki, grey and navy, which he admits owe their genesis to ‘all those pieces I’ve loved over the years’. These are the source of his style inspirations and, for him, they ‘tick the box’. T-shirts include a scoop-neck, which is Gandy’s go-to shape – and there’s sleepwear too. Sweatshirts and a gilet feature side pockets, which he says reflects the experience not of Gandy the model, but Gandy the father. ‘It’s just the practical side of being a dad. If you go out with your kid and have to carry a toy unicorn, child’s necklace, credit cards, tissues, you need pockets.’ The sweatshirts are a favourite: ‘I love the neckline and the softness’ – as are the Heritage Joggers: ‘They’re made of sweatpant material, wide-legged with turn-ups, a fly, drawstring and pockets; a really utilitarian piece, daywear, amazingly soft – but you can go out in them.’
He’s not aiming to reinvent the wheel, he says, but ‘trying to make the definitive version’ of each piece. ‘If you go to men’s shopping platforms online and look up white T-shirts, you get four pages of styles, ranging from £30 to £1,200. Where do you even start? It’s bewildering. I want to offer the best selection of great classic basics.’
We should trust him to create these for us, he says, as he’s peculiarly well placed to curate a contemporary men’s wardrobe: ‘With my experience, wearing so many clothes over the years, I have done the work for you! There’s nothing here that isn’t high quality, and it feels great on the skin and fits beautifully.’
And if the first surprise was that he has focused on casualwear rather than tailoring, the second is that his collection is so keenly priced. ‘I fought to keep everything affordable. I want regular men to be able to buy this and enjoy it.’ These ‘regular men’ may prove to be Gandy’s secret weapon. For Britain’s highest-paid male model, he’s pretty down to earth; still close to the school friends he grew up with in Essex, who delight in teasing him for his more outré modelling work, and never happier than when walking his dog Dora, or just being with his family. For all his success in the fashion industry, there is something about Gandy that is resolutely unpretentious. And this relatable quality translates brilliantly into the Wellwear collection.
He’ll carry on modelling, he says, when the work is there, pointing out that female supermodels, such as Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford, are still going strong, so why should it be any different for him? But David Gandy Wellwear is a step into a different future entirely.
In the run-up to launch, he’s already been surprised by how much he’s enjoying the experience – and by what he’s learning. ‘We did a shoot for our first campaign and I was on the other side of the camera. I thought, “Modelling. Now I know how easy it is!”’ He also discovered that what he had imagined as a collection for men might have wider appeal. ‘We’d asked some women to model a few pieces on the day. Everything was originally designed for men, but the women looked so good in it that we took many more shots of them than I had intended.
The fact that women can wear the collection so easily may be a sign, he thinks, not just that his design philosophy may be unisex at its core, but also that it’s refreshingly perennial. ‘It wouldn’t have stood well with me to have jumped on the bandwagon and plastered big logos over it, or to have introduced other things we perceive as being fashionable at the moment. This is not a fashion brand, it’s a style brand. People always ask me what’s on trend, and I say, “I don’t know about trends” – I never really have – all I know is what I feel confident in.’ And ultimately this is what Gandy aims to bring to customers with his new Wellwear. ‘It changes your mindset when you wear something you feel confident in,’ he says.