“I always say luck is a well-prepared person waiting for an opportunity.”
David Gandy is an English male fashion model who has been working in the fashion industry for more than 21 years. He’s known for being part of advertising with Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss and other major fashion houses. He’s also been involved in the creative process of a number of ad campaigns, including work with M&S.
Gandy is also the creative mind and owner of the newly launched fashion and lifestyle brand David Gandy Wellwear. He created the brand with the goal of selling sustainable clothing with an affordable price point that supports overall health and wellness. The idea is to provide clothes that are versatile and long lasting as well as good for the planet, good for the body.
David Gandy started more than just a new business in 2021 when he combined science and fashion to create clothing that combines sustainable practices with self-care. As founder and Creative Director, Gandy has curated a fashion brand that incorporates sustainability into every step of the process, while incorporating wellness elements such as aloe vera into the fabric.
That’s after 21 years of building a career that has included relationships with fashion icons Hugo Boss, Massimo Dutti, M&S and Dolce & Gabbana. Gandy says all his success can be attributed to hard work, forward thinking and seizing opportunities.
“I always say luck is a well-prepared person waiting for an opportunity,” Gandy explained during a site visit to his historic home in Richmond Park, a property which he and his family are renovating.
Moving is just one of the new things on Gandy’s schedule. He’s also been flying to factories, attending investor meetings, making creative decisions and investigating the latest wellness technology - all in the name of Wellwear.
Gandy got his start on a television modeling contest, a contest he won in 2001 and was one of the first in the world of male fashion modeling to curate a brand, create a following and use that foundation to develop his career.
After modelling for five years, he spoke to his agent at Select Models and wanted to re-position to align with what the female supermodels were doing. Together they came up with a career strategy that culminated in Gandy becoming the face of Dolce Gabbana’s Light Blue fragrance in 2006 - a campaign that became a global sensation and one he still fronts today.
And as he learned about the industry, Gandy built his brand on the recognition from Light Blue. He formed a longstanding relationship with Dolce & Gabbana, as well as other fashion houses. He’s also developed longstanding relationships as a writer with fashion magazines such as Vanity Fair.
“Everything is about experience and observation,” Gandy said. “Observe people who are the best in the business and notice how they got there. This way, you go a lot further in life.”
Also integrated into Wellwear is the concept of giving back, with charity partnerships as an important component to the new brand.
“We want people to know they’re buying into a brand that is doing good stuff with the profits then we will continue to do that,” Gandy said.
Gustaf Lundberg Toresson: What kind of products are you working on at Wellwear and how did you decide on creating a wellwear brand?
Gandy: We’re one of the first brands in the world to combine apparel and wellness by looking at how people see clothes, how they wear clothes and how clothes affect people’s well-being. That’s through quality and sustainability.
We started with the concept of loungewear. Eight years ago, it wasn’t a massive element in the fashion world, but with the pandemic, people have started dressing down a little more. That market has become bigger and so we started looking into the benefits of anti bacterial elements and odor control as well as aloe vera within your clothing.
Aloe vera has moisturizing and anti-inflammatory aspects that benefit you while you’re wearing your clothes throughout the day. Having odor control properties means you have to wash your clothing less, which is less impactful on the environment, and which means your clothing lasts longer. That also means you have to produce less, which is my idea of sustainability.
And there’s a piece of Wellwear that can be incorporated into any outfit for daywear, whether it’s the gym, or being with the kids, or the office. We want to be the essentials that people wear month after month, day after day, week after week, year after year.
Lundberg Toresson: What was your inspiration to combine elements of the wellness and fashion industries into one brand?
Gandy: We looked at enough studies to see there was this connection between mental and physical wellness and fashion. When you’re confident in what you are wearing, you have a better outlook on yourself and on everything else.
Of course, we all know about retail therapy. You get a high from something that makes you look good, but when the item isn’t well-made or starts to unravel, your mental state goes down. When you understand this, you get rid of it, but you can't recycle it you can't and then it's bad for the environment. And then you're going out shopping again, and it is a bit of a high-low in your mental state.
We also know that many people wear the same things over and over again, only about half or a quarter of your wardrobe. That’s where Wellwear comes in. With Wellwear, you can find those clothing essentials that you’ll wear over and over again, and they are high-quality pieces that can be used over and over again.
Lundberg Toresson: What inspired you to launch your own brand now, in 2021 and what’s the process been like?
Gandy: It’s been in my head for a while, I wanted my own brand and clothing line. But, the authenticity part of it was very important to me. I wanted to learn the process really from that authentic point of view and that’s what I did with M&S.
I was under no illusion that I could run my own brand eight years ago. That’s why I needed to learn about all of the factors. I needed to learn about the fabrics, the lead times and that sort of thing. Six years at M&S gave me all the experience I needed.
Now, I don’t have the expertise and experience to do it myself. I don’t say I’m a designer or a PR marketer. That’s why I have my incredible team of experts for each of those. I’m involved though, and it’s something you have to be willing to dedicate your life to. It’s not a nine-to-five. There’s no office. It’s constant traveling, constant knocking on doors.
And we’ve started phenomenally well, and there’s lots of exciting things coming. And of course, I’m always looking forward to the next thing.
Lundberg Toresson: How has your 21-year career in the fashion and modeling industry helped you be successful in launching Wellwear?
Gandy: People know me, so that’s a massive positive because you’re not starting from scratch and trying to establish what you stand for. People who follow me over the years get that authenticity and that transfers over to areas where you’re brand new.
The Light Blue campaign in 2006 gave me the opportunity to create a brand and capitalize on that. We couldn’t do that without anyone recognizing me and putting a face to the brand. I was able to build a brand when people recognized me as the guy in the Dolce & Gabbana commercial.
We know the modeling world is highly competitive and you can stand out if you’re bringing with you your brand and name, and you have fans. That takes hard work and a little bit of luck, but you make your own luck. I always say luck is a well-prepared person waiting for an opportunity. Light Blue was the first big opportunity. That helped me start my brand.
Creating that brand and following wasn’t something that had really been done on the male side of the modeling world at that point. We knew there were big names, but it wasn’t like what the female models had created. Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss were already doing it. They already had brands, so I looked at what they were doing and used it as a template.
The rewarding side to that is you can expand from that. You can get involved in charities. Magazines have asked me to write from them. Then it’s branching out and starting a fashion lifestyles brand.
Lundberg Toresson: How has social media helped grow the David Gandy brand over the years and how is it helping grow Wellwear?
Gandy: Social media is the new advertising and you can’t ignore it, because it works. We aren’t relying completely on my social presence, you still see Wellwear in magazines and we’ve run a very successful out of home campaign for our new poolside collection at selected tube stations around London. But we are on social media and we let it grow very organically. We want people to be able to see the behind-the-scenes part of the Wellwear journey so they can be engaged with the brand and so we can use it for advertising.
It helps that I’ve been building a loyal fanbase over the past 20 years with followers before social media was around. Because I have such a longstanding relationship with my followers, my brand engagement on social media is very high.
And at the end of the day, from the point of view of an entrepreneur, it’s a golden ticket. It's an absolutely wonderful tool to be able to use.
Lundberg Toresson: What’s in store for the future of Wellwear and for the David Gandy brands?
Gandy: We have just launched our new Poolside Collection which has sold incredibly well. It’s a category that I’ve had a lot of successful experience in so it was a natural fit for Wellwear. All the designs - swim shorts and towelling essentials - have a UPF40 treatment on them giving the wearer full sun protection. Next we’re looking at the autumn and changing our launch structure which is something we’re adapting in response to how our customers are shopping, after which we’re launching another big market category which I’m excited about taking on but can’t reveal the details yet.
We’re also trying to predict fashion trends, what people are wearing and how this affects the new technologies and Wellwear. We're constantly talking to other factories, and other materials suppliers because we're still looking at ways to enhance clothing from that wellness point of view.
I look forward to waking up every day and to the challenges ahead with Wellwear. You can't count the chickens before they hatch and you don't know what's going to happen.
Then personally, I also look forward to picking up my eldest daughter at five o'clock every night and having a fun two hours with her. And I look forward to the mornings when I take my dog for a walk in Richmond Park with my coffee. It’s that important balance of work and well-being.
Lundberg Toresson: What are some experiences that stand out as you look back over your 20-year modeling career?
Gandy: I’m fortunate to look back on so many incredible times, it’s really rewarding. Of course there was Light Blue, then later on I became an ambassador for the British Fashion council and an ambassador for London Fashion Week Men’s.
And there was the challenge of the way men thought about the fashion industry and being a major part of how men dress differently. We've created campaigns and content that will hopefully be around for many, many years to come.
That was the goal. While I was creating stepping stones for myself and my own career and brand, I was creating stepping stones for others in the industry.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Gustaf Lundberg Toresson Contributor
I cover how the Passion Economy is changing careers and leadership.