Tweed’s Model Saviour
David Gandy’s involvement in the British fashion industry has been well documented. A lesser known fact is his involvement with tweed
Article by Andy Barnham
Signed as the face of Dolce & Gabbana in 2006, David Gandy catapulted to fame when the fashion house launched its ‘Light Blue’ fragrance, photographed by Mario Testino. A 50ft billboard of David wearing nothing but white underwear was famously displayed in Times Square. The campaign recorded 11 million hits and David’s face and body became globally recognisable. Since then, his contributions to the fashion industry have been well documented; in 2010 he spoke at the Oxford University Union and was nominated the first ever make model by the British Fashion Council. In 2012 he was included in the London Olympics’ closing ceremony and was named official ambassador for the 2013 London Collections: Men.
What is not so well known – even by his legion of fans – is David’s involvement in the tweed business and the subsequent regeneration of the industry. While demand for tweed rose at the start of the 20th Century, the quality of the output declined. This was in part due to both inexperienced weavers entering the trade after the decline of the traditional fishing industry, and also to unscrupulous mills passing off inferior product. The Harris Tweed Association, set up in 1910, was facing difficulty with trademark laws, its craft status was being eroded, and its long-standing connection to the Outer Hebrides was dwindling due to the pressure to reduce costs and move production elsewhere.
It was while on holiday in Scotland after the ‘Light Blue’ phenomenon that David first came across the tweed industry. An avid petrolhead (prior to his jet-setting model lifestyle, David had worked for Auto Express, delivering Porsches and Jaguars to tracks for testing and in 2013 completed in the Mille Miglia), he was caught short by unexpected and unseasonal weather while on a whisky road trip visiting distilleries (David has since become the brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker Blue Label).
It was at this point that chance intervened, as David purchased a tweed jacket to keep him warm and dry against the inclement weather. Becoming interested in the cloth, David’s newly found global status helped the industry re-establish its intellectual property rights when a draft bill of The Harris Tweed act was submitted to the Department of Trade and Industry. After procedural difficulties in regards to European Law, the bill received Royal Assent in 2008 and the Harris Tweed Authority was established. According to Harris Tweed Hebrides, tweed production grew by 400 per cent between 2008- 13 with production hitting the 1m-metre mark in 2014. Not bad for an ordinary boy from Billericay.