PEOPLE OF THE CITY

Supermodel and entrepreneur, David Gandy on his favourite Christmas traditions and his Aerodrome range for Aspinal

01 December, 2019

What epitomises Christmas in London for you?

When Christmas trees for sale start to appear outside the shops and all of the streets and shops are decorated beautifully with all the decorations and lights.

 

What’s your earliest or best Christmas memory?

My earliest and one of my fondest memories was when my dad dressed up as Father Christmas and walked through the garden. Of course, I didn’t know it was my dad! I remember Mum said we had to quickly get to bed, and it was the only time my sister and I were keen to clean our teeth in record time.

 

What smells and tastes do you associate with the festive period?

We always have a real Christmas tree, and I love the smell of the pine, though I swear they don’t smell as much as they used to. There’s that great ritual of choosing your tree and bringing it home in the car or carrying it. Those pine needles make it smell of Christmas instantly. And then, of course, there’s the smell of chestnuts on a cold winter’s evening whilst shopping in the West End.

 

What is your favourite Christmas dessert?

Christmas pudding. But it has to be with brandy butter. It’s funny because during the rest of the year I never look at butter and think, I’ll just add some caster sugar and brandy to this, it’s only at Christmas.

 

What’s on your Christmas list to give and/or to receive from The Royal Exchange?

I’m ridiculously hard to buy for, which is why I designed the Aerodrome range for Aspinal. It’s a collection of leather bags and accessories inspired by the RAF Spitfire, and many of the pieces incorporate an opening mechanism that is a replica of the Spitfire firing button. This is so unique that any man, even if he has everything, will love something from the collection as a gift. As for myself, I really don’t need much, so I just ask people to make a donation to the Battersea Dogs Home, for which I am an ambassador – my three-year-old mongrel Dora is from there.

 

What’s your Christmas gift-wrapping style?

I take great pride in my present wrapping. It’s very precise. Every year I put on a Christmas movie and spend the evening wrapping. I’m so tragic that I buy all my wrapping stuff in the January sale for the following Christmas. I buy large quantities of ribbon. The thing is, I often put it somewhere safe and then can’t find it a year later.

 

Do you have any special, unique or unconventional Christmas traditions?

Soup. We have this family soup that we always eat on Christmas Eve. It’s made from all the turkey giblets and we make a big stew. I have no idea where this tradition comes from, but my grandparents made it, my parents still do it, and now my sister and I cook it if we’re hosting Christmas Eve. It’s the only time we have it – once a year – but for me that taste is just Christmas.

 

Do you own a Christmas jumper?

Oh yes! Actually, every year I design one for Save the Children. And we always do a big dinner with friends in the run up to Christmas where you have to wear Christmas socks and a Christmas jumper. Most of the people there are in the fashion industry, so it’s fun to see them dressed in ludicrous jumpers – of course, everyone pretends that they haven’t made an effort, but we all know that we have. I have a go-to one I designed for Save the Children that has the word “Grinch” on it, which is pretty appropriate, as I can be a bit Grinchy at Christmas. I also have one that lights up, but that is for really special occasions!

 

What’s your favourite Christmas film?

It’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. Chevy Chase is good any time of the year, but he’s perfect at Christmas – I can totally relate to his character in this film. He wants everything to be perfect but it’s a disaster. That is how it inevitably ends up with me. I strive for Christmas perfection and then one thing goes wrong and I lose it…

 

Do you have a favourite Christmas song?

I have two: River by Joni Mitchell, which is actually quite a sad song – people always ask me why I like it. Then because I love soul and Motown, there’s Otis Redding’s White Christmas. There’s this one line where he sings, ‘May your days’, and it sounds exactly like ‘mayonnaise’. Every year, I still chuckle about it and I’m not sure why Heinz hasn’t used it for a Christmas commercial.

 

What signifies the start of the festive season for you?

The first time you look up when you’re driving around London and you see the Christmas lights. London has a real buzz at this time of year in places like Regent Street and Oxford Street, and the Christmas lights contribute to that sense of occasion. I’ve been fortunate enough to switch on a few sets, which is really special.

 

What do you think is the best way to help others at Christmas?

It can be small things that we take for granted. We need to remember that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. Where I used to live, in a flat in Fulham, there was an older lady two floors below, and she didn’t have much family and was not particularly mobile especially in winter. I would always drop off a card, flowers and a present for her and have a chat at Christmas. Of course we should do that sort of thing throughout the year too – we need to recognise that there are many people who are on their own. For those in that situation, Christmas can be especially tough, so just a card and a chat can make a big difference.

David Gandy became a model after winning a TV model-search competition and has since led high-profile campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana and Massimo Dutti. More recently he has turned his hand to designing, creating the Aerodrome capsule collection for Aspinal of London, taking inspiration from Britain’s heroic aviation history