M&S and Gandy: A Brief Story

Missed opportunity. There are few sadder words in the English language. “Too late” is heartbreaking; “gone forever” is, frankly miserable.

I was ruminating on these maudlin notes when viewing the much ballyhooed and heavily marketed underwear collection created by David Gandy for Marks & Spencer. The story of the product is that Gandy, a male model – reputed to be the world’s most successful – has, for a price, lent his name and experience to one of the British high street’s most famous, and sadly troubled, retailers.

In classic Waugh-esque news headline tone; “Desperate retailer clings to the coat tails of its prize clothes horse.”

However, as slight as it sounds, the model’s offering in this trade isn’t insignificant. His experience has its uses; Gandy has often been snapped wearing very little and so his knowledge of lycra cotton underwear is, no doubt, exceptionally useful.

But when all is said and done, it’s his name that M&S are paying for. “But who’s Gandy?” many of you may cry.

Fair question. And one likely to be asked by most of Marks & Spencer’s most loyal customers. For all the bleating M&S can do about Gandy’s leather bound books and his rich mahogany scented home, he means diddly squat to the average John Bull frantically rummaging the underwear racks.

And here we get to the heart of the problem.

The demographic profile of the average Marks & Spencer underwear shopper is not that of the Calvin Klein underwear shopper. He is generally likely to be price sensitive, buy plain underwear in bulk and see celebrity-endorsed knickers as a merry con.

However, the Calvin Klein shopper might be more susceptible to trends and famous people slapping their names on a pair of tighty whiteys. Bjorn Borg, the Swedish former tennis champ, might have tempted him with his hypercoloured retro designs and name stretched across the waistband.

The issue is, he doesn’t really shop at Marks & Spencer. He knows who Gandy is, and might even have bought a pair of Dolce pants on the back of those sweaty-pec D&G adverts. “Oh wow” he might say “Gandy’s done his own underwear. Nice.” He might even entertain the thought of buying a few pairs, uploading on Instagram, telling his followers: “Check it out – Gandy’s pants. Need a few more pairs – and some more gym time!”

However, for all the guff about quality and details, there’s not much that can draw him into a buying frenzy. It would have been quite cool to have a pair of Gandy pants, but they’re just so…ordinary. Nothing. No quirkiness, no outlandish design or statement. Just quiet, white pants with a small, grey, embarrassed logo identifying the namesake.

My first reaction was of incredulity. It’s true that most M&S existing buyers wouldn’t like a pair of tight, D&G-esque pants with ‘GANDY’ stretched across the waistband. After all, they like Rich Tea biscuits, still listen to the cricket on the radio and own picnic chairs. But then they wouldn’t be the target anyway because they wouldn’t pay £20 for two pairs when they could get five pairs for the same amount of money, simply because a male model they’ve never heard of helped design the collection.

M&S could have pushed the boat out, stretched the brief (pun intended) to be targeted at the kind of fashion brigade who aren’t generally seen within 3 miles of M&S menswear. Create a sensation, get the TopMan-cum-Reiss crowd fighting over a pair; have the 20-something girls giggling in excitement as they take off their lover’s shirts to reveal the model hunk’s name emblazoned across the waistband.

The collection is nothing without his name – and yet the retailer has made such little use of it. A missed opportunity indeed.



  1. Dulce Decorum said:

    Generally agree.Re the Gandy collection only two items seem desirable.
    The dressing gown in dogtooth and the bottoms in same.
    However the rest – to use an Americanism – is a little bit meh.
    Its the same as their menswear generally.
    Too many brands that don’t appeal to the average Markies man
    They are pushing out slim fit polyester in the limited collection when the target market is all about Topman or upwards.
    Autograph – better
    Sartorial/Sartorial Luxury/Luxury – some stuff I like but quite pricey. Especially in things like Shirts where CT seem to be on permanent offer at 1/2 their price.
    Savile Row Inspired & Best of British – Some very nice schmutter but again you are getting into serious money for M&S.
    They seem to have the Volkswagen Phaeton image problem.
    If you have the money to buy one you will go elsewhere. That’s a shame because there is some seriously nice stuff
    Also when are they not on sale/flash sale?
    By the way – good to have you back on MF.

    October 21, 2014
  2. ANON said:

    For anything apart from Food M&S is a retailer out of time. It retained profitability during the 80s/90s/00s by selling to its core audience (baby boomers) and by pushing its manufacturing overseas: comparatively recently a lot of their clothing was manufactured in the UK, now they consider UK manufactured clothes to be some sort of curiosity (£700 for ‘Best of British’ suits).

    Visiting even one of their largest stores is a hugely disappointing experience – usually 3 or 4 flights of escalators to reach the menswear, which is dominated by ‘blue harbour’ (appallingly overpriced clothes aimed at baby boomers) and man made fibres (much of their knitwear and their lower priced suits). They do have some canvassed or half-canvassed suits but unless these are in one of their regular sales they are very expensive (£500 for ‘Collezione’ suits).

    Basically the large department store set up is no longer working for them (not that they see any problem with this, as they continue to develop large stores, albeit mainly in out of town locations). It seems weird now but their shares were once considered almost as safe as gilts, not anymore and never will be again.

    October 27, 2014
  3. Winston said:

    Couldn’t agree more with these two comments.

    October 27, 2014
  4. AN Other said:

    I want to venture a partial defence of M&S. The David Gandy pants are, in my opinion, good quality, comfortable and stylish (yes, I bought some). They’re not as gaudy or as heavily branded as the ‘fast fashion’ aimed at twentysomethings, and not as expensive as premium suppliers like Derek Rose, but I see a ready market amongst thirty- and fortysomething men who are a little bit more mature, less brand-obsessed, but still want elegant underwear for a reasonable price.

    It’s true that M&S lost their way for a few years, and I still wouldn’t buy any of their low-end menswear offerings. But the ‘Savile Row Inspired’ collaboration with Richard James is great, as is much of their ‘Sartorial’ line, and both represent decent value if you buy during one of their frequent sales. It’s a shame that M&S haven’t rolled out these collections to a broader range of their stores, which in my experience are mystifyingly still dominated by their cheaper formal ranges and mediocre casual sub-brands.

    October 28, 2014
  5. gary said:

    The gandy thing is as you say , the silly idea being “Be Gandy ” but few know who he is . M and S to me is always a case of as you say missed opportunity , one wonders who runs the menswear ship there. Theres always a few gems though , amongst the dross there are lets say one or two bargains . But they really need to be shaken up and need to change their layout instore . It would be enough to get one or two people like yourself involved .

    October 30, 2014

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