As one of the world's most famous male models, David Gandy is used to having jaws drop in front of him on a regular basis. During the launch of Jaguar's new I-Pace concept at the LA Motor Show earlier this month, however, it was his own that hit the floor.
Unveiled using the latest virtual reality technology that made guests feel as if they were hitting the open road, the I-Pace Concept is Jaguar's first all-electric SUV, representing a huge breakthrough for an iconic British brand with the future firmly in mind. As well as going from 0-60 in just four seconds and achieving a charge of up to 80 per cent in 90 minutes, with a 50kW DC rapid charger, Jaguar says you'll be able to drive 350km (218 miles) with one charge.
That's been enough to win over brand ambassador and self-professed petrolhead Gandy. We caught up with him to discuss the new vehicle, its unveiling and why, when it comes to fashion and design, he believes in setting trends, not following them.
Hi David! The LA Motor Show looked like such a brilliant event, and particular Jaguar's virtual reality unveiling. How was it to be there?
Well, you already know what [the cars] are gonna look like before they’re launched because of all the spy shots and testing and everything else, and Jaguar has done an amazing job in hiding all of that, so it was a big surprise to the industry and to the world really that Jaguar was this advanced with all-electric cars. It’s got an amazing response. I’ve worked with Jaguar since about 2008 and they were always trying and catch up with the German manufacturers, but this car is so advanced. They’re really at the forefront of electric technology.
It definitely seems as if Jaguar have re-established themselves at the forefront of the luxury market in recent years.
Absolutely, they've got a hell of a range of cars now. You know they always had good cars, but it never had that coolness factor. I think Bloomberg have just announced them as one of the world’s coolest brands, which is great. It’s a British brand and British engineering and we should all be very proud in this country and of producing some of the best cars out there. It’s difficult to describe how good the launch was in VR [virtual reality], and that was a sign of the future as well. You can see why you’re not going to be visiting motor shows and fashion shows soon; you’re going to be sitting in your office with a headset on watching it, driving it down the road, poking your head into the engine, all by VR. It’s astounding.
As someone who’s known as a petrolhead, is greener motoring something that’s important to you, or are you someone who sees an electric SUV like the I-Pace as sacrilege?
Well as a petrolhead – and that’s the word, petrolhead – I race classic cars, and there’s always gonna be that experience with fuel and noise and petrol; that emotion attached to racing cars. You don't get that emotion at the moment from electric cars. But we all have to be more responsible, we all have to be greener. This is the future; we are here and this is it. The thing with electric is that it’s instant torque – the speed of the i-Pace is 0-60 in four seconds. That’s super-car quick. The problem [with electric] has always been the range, but this has a range of 500km. I think it's about time for the government to support electric cars a bit more now.
And what do you drive day-to-day?
Day-to-day, my Jaguar F-Type. I love that car, it’s just stunning. But I renovate classics as well.
Do you do any of the work yourself?
Oh no – believe me you wouldn’t want to drive a car that I’ve worked on [laughs]. Actually I did get under the hood of my girlfriend’s car and fixed a few things – a new fan belt and something else – so I can do it, but I’d rather someone else did! I have some expert guys that do it. But it’s my passion, I always remember having a car magazine in my hand.
And what about you first car, before your international supermodel-of-the-world days?
[Laughs]. At that time it was a 10-year-old 1988 Ford Fiesta with after-market electric windows that didn’t work. Me and my friends called it The Beast, which it was far from. But I still loved that car and looked after that car. It was my first real venture as an adult. People might think I’m a bit of a snob about the cars I drive, but I’ll drive anything; I absolutely love driving, that’s the thing. I've come a long way since the Fiesta, but I’d love to find that car! I’d love to find The Beast and see if it’s still on the road.
Obviously you’re a man with fingers in a lot of pies, what projects have you got in the pipeline at the moment?
I’ve just designed the Winter 2017 collection [for M&S Autograph collaboration] which is quite a difficult thing, and I’m learning as part of that transition. You’re designing a year in advance now really, and that’s difficult. 2016 has just gone on sale and I’m already designing 2017. I’ve just begun another collaboration with another British brand which I can’t really say anything about, for September 2017 as well.
It’s quite rare for male models to reach such levels of success that they can make the transition to designing – do you feel as if you’re in the legacy-building stage of your career?
[Laughs] I don’t know. People say it’s weird to go from modelling to creating and designing and cars, but to me it’s that whole thing of style and design. There are fabrics I choose for my suits that I also have in my house. People always ask:"‘are you going to bring out your own line independently?" but I’m still learning the business.
Is that an aspiration though, further down the line?
Yes, I’d say it probably is. We’ll have to see. I’m very grateful to M&S, they’d never done anything with a male model before, they took a chance and it’s worked. We’ll have to see; the fashion industry is rapidly changing at the moment.
We’ve seen, in the past few weeks, brands such as Burberry and Calvin Klein merge their menswear and womenswear shows. Do you think that’s a good thing for menswear, something that will give it a bigger platform?
There have been lots of discussions about whether it’s a good thing or not. I personally love that we built men’s collections [in London Collections: Men] over, what nine seasons. It became a very big platform, and it’s still a great platform for young British designers. I can see why Burberry and Calvin Klein have done what they’ve done though and I’m sure many others will follow. The thing now is that people want to buy what they see immediately, so it really is the consumer who’s winning here. You’re pretty much seeing things and the next day they’re available to buy. From a consumer point of view it’s incredible, but I think it’s taking a while for everyone to get their head around it. I still very much believe in the traditional fashion weeks for smaller brands, but I can see why Burberry have done what they’ve done.
You regularly grace our style pages and all the best-dressed lists – what are the trend tips you’d give men at the moment?
I’m not really trend-driven. When I’m designing and looking for inspiration, I go back in history. My swimming shorts came from a classic picture from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They’re the kind of people I, not emulate but definitely take style ideas from. I’m just not trend-driven. Usually if I see people doing something, I’ll do the opposite. I always think: set trends, don’t follow them. There’s no right or wrong in fashion. It you’re wearing something and you feel confident, I love that.