Rocky Gathercole // From Runaway to Runway

Humble beginnings in Pasay City, Philippines has paved a path of determination for fashion designer, Rocky Gathercole. As he begins to embark outside of the typical US fashion landmarks, next in Austin on October 30th, let’s take a step back to see how this daring designer has gone from runaway to runway, while staying true to himself and his modest roots.

When he was only 14, he suffered an identity crisis, and left home with the hopes of a brighter future. After living on the streets selling tapsilog on a kariton along Roxas Boulevard in Manila for several years, thoughts of his past and not graduating from high school resurfaced. He began to restore his faith and met a Korean through church, who gave him a job as a waiter in Makati. In between shifts, he began to discover his interest for fashion through the simple art of hand sketching. In 1989, he moved to the Middle East to gain technical knowledge about fashion design.

His involvement with Calash Haute Couture in Dubai is where he really began to understand his potential. Through his strong faith, mentorship from peers, and a tremendous amount of hard work, he ventured on his own in the Middle East, primarily designing wedding gowns. In 2010, his debut at Miami Fashion Week garnered increased international attention, and since then, he has showcased his collections throughout the US in New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and now in Austin.

His A-list of clients is far from unassuming – Paris Hilton, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Ariana Grande, and now Sia, are all showcasing his designs to their millions of fans with their stage wear. The flamboyance and edginess in his designs exudes his diverse background and mirrors his personality. “I design according to my mood. When I’m happy, that’s when the weird designs come out. When I’m sad, it’s more feminine and simple.” He loves to surprise people, and let his true artistry shine.

Living on the streets has helped keep him grounded, he says, “Because I never expected a life where everything was given to me.” Nowadays, he doesn’t draw his designs and rather, designs on the fly with materials and the mannequin. “When you already know the design, it’s easier to do it that way. When there’s something I want to do, I look for materials. When I was younger, I would draw then look for materials. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll have it made.” This process is unique, and more akin to an artist. Some have proclaimed his designs as “moving art on the runway.”

His show in Austin will unite fashion, architecture, and philanthropy, benefiting the Faith + Love + Care International Children’s Foundation. He has a big heart for helping children, never forgetting his journey from runaway to runway. Rocky is truly an inspiration to people of all ages. There are no boundaries with him. He exclaims, “What is vital to me is that I’m able to express myself through my work. I don’t believe designers are made; I believe they’re born. From [my experience], I didn’t study to be a designer. Somehow, designer talaga ako (I really am a designer). The best advice I can give is to be yourself and find it in your heart, and the art will come out.”

Click HERE to purchase tickets to the show this Sunday, October 30th at the Hotel Van Zandt. I will be going from grime to glam – installing the backdrop conceptually rendered above to rocking the runway, rocky style! Hope to see you all there!