David Gandy wants the legal age for unchaperoned models to be 21: "I think we go into this industry too young"

David Gandy poses on a Spitfire for his new Aerodrome Collection designed with Aspinal of London [Photo: Andy Barnham]
David Gandy poses on a Spitfire for his new Aerodrome Collection designed with Aspinal of London [Photo: Andy Barnham]

In the tough-to-crack world of male modelling, David Gandy is one of the most recognisable faces in the game.

The successful Brit first began modelling at 21-years-old when he was fresh out of university, after winning a televised competition on ‘This Morning’.

Since, he’s gone on to act as a figurehead for male modelling; not just as a handsome face but as his own Gandy brand.

Throughout his career, David has shot campaigns with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Massimo Dutti and Hugo Boss.

But more recently, he’s been staying on home shores by working with British brands such as Jaguar, M&S and Aspinal of London, designing The Aerodrome Collection – a collection of men’s bags strongly inspired by the Spitfire for the latter.

David tells Yahoo Style UK that working with British brands feels more special. “I’m very proud to be British. One thing I like about the British is that we are very self-deprecating. We take the mickey out of ourselves.

“But one of the things we don’t do is actually shout about how good we are at things, and we actually are. It’s why all the F1 teams are based in the UK, our engineering is incredible, our fashion industry is one of the best in the world.”

The collection is strongly inspired by Britain's aviatic history [Photo: Andy Barnham]
The collection is strongly inspired by Britain’s aviatic history [Photo: Andy Barnham]

For decades, modelling has been a much-sought after career for young women, with a wealth of big name stars providing a relentless source of aspiration. But the same can’t be said for the pull to male modelling.

Where the line of work once had vain, un-macho connotations with young men, we ask David if it’s changing.

“When I came into the industry it was something that men were slightly embarrassed about saying they were a model,” he says. “I don’t think it is now. I think with social media and the way people PR themselves in this selfie, celebrity-obsessed world is that it seems now a lot of people want to be the focus of attention, and one of those avenues in modelling.”

He has a point: in a world of ‘Instagram models’ and influencers, the industry is becoming more accessible to aspiring models. Where it was once just about the look, now it’s about the entire package.

Speaking about #MeToo – the movement against sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace, bought into world focus by the damning Harvey Weinstein scandal – David makes a fair point: “The thing is as well, it’s not just women that are involved unfortunately, in the fashion world.”

In January, the fashion world was shocked by the New York Times expose detailing allegations of sexual harassment by male models against famed photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino – the latter of which is a favourite of Vogue and the Royal Family.

David’s shot with Testino multiple times in the past, including for his now-iconic Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue campaigns.

Despite saying he’s never had any experience of sexual harassment in the industry personally, David says he’s worked with some of the accusers, and explained that abuse of power and manipulation comes in many forms, and it’s not just sexual harassment.

“By someone being very manipulative by saying ‘you’re never going to work’ or by saying ‘your agent said you’d do this’, you go ‘no they didn’t, my agent wouldn’t have said that and I’m not going to be manipulated.’

“You might not work with that photographer again, but there are thousands of brands and clients out there. There’s not just one stepping stone to the top.”

While David says that the wheels of change are already turning – citing Conde Nast and its new code of conduct which includes a ban on use of models under 18, pre-signed agreements on nudity and sexually suggestive poses, and use of private dressing rooms – he thinks more has to be done to protect vulnerable young models.

David Gandy poses with the 48 Hour Mission bag [Photo: Andy Barnham]
David Gandy poses with the 48 Hour Mission bag [Photo: Andy Barnham]

“My big argument on this, and I’ve said this from day one, is that I think we go into this industry and allow too young people in the industry. I came into it when I was 21. You think you know everything at that age but you don’t.”

Legally, in the UK models aged 16 can go to jobs without a being accompanied by a responsible adult.

“One day, you are fifteen years 364 days old and you have to be chaperoned, and suddenly you’re fifteen and 365 days old and you’re allowed to be in a room, allowed to be in castings alone,” he points out. “A lot of people argue it should be 18. I argue it should be 21.”

It’s an interesting argument, and while it might be hard to push the age restrictions up so high in and industry that is so obsessed with youth, it can only be a positive thing to have someone with David’s profile pushing for change.

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