May 31, 2013 -- You might not recognize David Gandy by name, but you can't miss his handsome face and chiseled body on advertisements and runways.
As the face of Dolce & Gabbana and Lucky Jeans, Gandy is arguably one of the most successful male models ever, but he's a bit modest about that "supermodel" title.
"I would sort of just rather be called at the top of the game," Gandy said.
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With his athletic build and smoldering glances, the 32-year-old British native is indeed at the top of the game in an industry in which female fashion models lead the way. The male mens clothing industry rakes in $400 billion worldwide and is growing, but for male models, attaining supermodel status has been challenging for years.
"It's an accolade to be a female supermodel or to be a female model," Gandy said. "They get paid an incredible amount of money, and they get a lot of coverage and people know their names and guys never did that. They did well but they never said they were models."
Gandy, half jokingly, credited actor Ben Stiller's title character in the movie "Zoolander" for putting a negative but hilarious spin on the male model. In the movie, Stiller plays Derek Zolander, a dimwitted, vain, self-centered male model in a comedy that zeroed in on every cliche and stereotype of the male modeling world.
Gandy said modeling was difficult for him at first. He started off doing catalog shoots at a time when even male models were expected to be ultra thin and look almost feminine.
"I came into the industry with the Dior guy -- very androgynous, skinny guys were the moneymakers in the industry," he said. "I didn't follow the crowd. I didn't follow the trends. I bucked the trends. Everyone was saying, 'You need to be skinny, you need to be skinny.' Your legs need to be thinner, and I am not a skinny guy."
But Gandy has changed the perception of male models with his masculine physique, breaking those cliches and pushing through stereotypes ever since winning a modeling competition he said a friend entered him in.
"I came into the industry from university," he said. "I won a competition. I had never thought about being in the fashion industry. Thought it could be fun for a year. It was an adventure."
His rippling muscles and washboard abs are what set him apart, and in 2006, Dolce & Gabbana took a chance. To promote its Light Blue men's fragrance, Dolce & Gabbana showed Gandy lounging on a boat while wearing the barest of bathing suits, on a 50-foot-high advertisement in New York City's Times Square. Millions of people saw him in those tiny white swim trunks, and the ad brought him "icon" status in the modeling world.
"I have a very personal love for that picture," Gandy said. "Not only me in my life, but it changed the industry and that is not an easy thing to do."
Today, Gandy can pick and choose his assignments. He has dabbled in film – he appeared in the short film, "Away We Stay" – and has created style and fitness apps, carefully managing his image -- his brand, as he calls it.
But his success keeps him on the road constantly. Since the beginning of the year, Gandy said he has been to Los Angeles three times, New York four times with Barcelona, Milan and London in between.
"I have missed more birthdays, weddings than I care to remember," he said.
When it comes to having a love life, Gandy said he is single. But does he date other models or make a point to date outside the industry?
"There are two ways of thought [about models dating models]," Gandy said. "You're on a boat in Capri and you are half naked and, believe me, there's a big tugboat and there's 20 Italians sort of fishing behind you, so it's not romantic. A model would understand that. But I don't know. I don't have the answers."
At this stage in his career Gandy knows what works for him and what doesn't, and has the power and clout to call the shots -- like when it comes to his thick head of hair.
"[I] just know how I like my hair," he said. "You have to have input. I think after 12 years I know what looks best on me."
At an age when most models have retired, Gandy is hitting his stride and looking for the next opportunity.
"I don't want to always be doing this," he said. "I get bored very easily, so there will always be an element of pushing where we can go. And that's where we've always pushed it."