Dressing Paris Hilton & other A-list stars: The intriguing journey of Rocky Gathercole from dusty Quiapo to glittery Hollywood

It was a surprise phone call from old friend and associate Wheyee Lozada who started off with “Nag-Like ka sa FB post ko about Rocky Gathercole, di ba? Nabasa mo ‘yung article? (You Liked my FB post about Rocky Gathercole, isn’t it? Have you read the article?)”

(Click thumbnails to enlarge pics)

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Rocky Gathercole: World-class fashion designer

For the last few months, Wheyee had been intermittently posting feeds about the fashion designer, but it was only on July 10th that a full article was written about the friend of our friend – and by Philippine Star entertainment editor Ricky Lo, no less.

(Click link for full story http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2014/07/10/1344338/other-pinoy-who-dresses-hollywood-celebs)

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Black Ensemble

Rocky had been based in Los Angeles, California dressing A-list stars but decided to put up shop in Manila almost two years ago upon the prodding of Wheyee.

The Gathercole Atelier is located in Kamuning (near Tomas Morato), Quezon City.

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Paris Hilton in Cannes Film Festival 2014 wearing a Gathercole dress

His success story is one for the books, cementing the axiom of Divine Providence.

He was just 14, out of sophomore high school at Arellano University when he left home and joined street children who made the foot of Quezon Bridge in Quiapo their abode, relying on the alms of people passing Plaza Lawton (now Liwasang Bonifacio) for survival.

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Paris Hilton in underwear-less Gathercole gown

His father was a full-bloodied American but born in the Philippines and his mother, Milagros Bernardo, is pure Filipino from Laguna.

An only child, Rocky said he was going through an identity crisis at that time and could not tell his dad that he was gay, the reason he stowed away, adding to the fact that his father was jobless and could not afford to send him to school.

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Britney Spears wears Gathercole in her Vegas residency concert billboards

From the Quezon Bridge, Rocky “graduated” to selling tapsilog on a cart along Roxas Boulevard. His only dream that time was to work as janitor at SM but got rejected for having no high school diploma.

His fate changed when he became a Born Again Christian.

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Very Gathercole making it to Billboard Awards

He can’t be thankful enough for that Korean whom he met at church who recommended him as waiter in a friend’s restaurant.

Sketching had been his pastime even as a kid. So he continued his passion during off-hours. Then he met a fashion designer who became his mentor. That paved the way for him to work in Saudi Arabia, disguising as a Fine Arts graduate.

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Rocky then as high school student

The employer was impressed nevertheless, especially that he could sketch a gown all in just five minutes.

“Not to boast, I’m really good at drawing and sketching, on-the-spot,” he said.

Having gone through a hard life, Rocky did not splurge his earnings on things of no value. Instead, he saved and put up his own shop in Dubai in 1992, becoming an entrepreneur, after many years of working as OFW.

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At Omega watch launching in Dubai with Cindy Crawford (middle)

Of the Arab women, he said they’re fashionable and don’t wear clothes twice, the reason why the Middle East is a fertile ground for talented Filipino designers.

An opportunity to penetrate the US market came when he paid to join the Miami Fashion Week. Then he got invited to the New York Fashion Week, and because of the good reviews of his segment in Florida he no longer was asked to pay in the Big Apple event.

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Rocky at his Dubai atelier

That also opened doors, windows and crevices for Rocky to be tapped by Hollywood A-listers: Pop superstar Britney Spears dons Gathercole creations in the billboards of her Piece Of Me long-running show in Las Vegas; American Idol Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks wears his dresses; Lady Gaga has 30 pieces of his designs; Katy Perry’s gold ensemble in Dark Horse music video is his.

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Katy Perry in a golden Very Gathercole outfit for ‘Dark Horse’

Foremost is socialite Paris Hilton, who was paparazzi’s toast when she wore his creation with no underwear (again) in an event.

Just a few months ago in May, Paris was one of the Best Dressed Stars in the Cannes Film Festival 2014 red carpet, wearing a Gathercole dress modeled in the Phoenix Fashion Week in October 2013.

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With Lani Misalucha

Other Hollywood A-listers that donned a Gathercole creation include Jennifer Lopez, Chinese actress Bai Ling (The Crow, Wild Wild West) and Nicki Minaj.

In an interview after the Miami fashion show, Rocky intimated that he can’t imagine himself as anything else if he wasn’t a designer.

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Very Gathercole bridal couture

“I was born a designer and I design according to my mood,” he said, adding, “I don’t really plan my life. I can’t live without my dreams.”

At that time, the interviewer said Rocky was a legend in the making and the world will be seeing more of him in the years ahead.

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Sarah Geronimo

His presence is awaited in the London Fashion Week and a branch of his atelier in Canada is under way. He’s also signing up with a shop in New York soon.

“The most important thing in life is respect and individuality. If I’m gay, I’m gay,” the proudly Filipino designer also asserted.

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With ’80s pictorial queen Lorna Tolentino and stylist Fanny Serrano

Expressing his kind of designs, he said he wants to see art in every piece that he makes.

“There must be no limitation in the creation of art. My expression of my dream world is manifested in every masterpiece that I execute. Fashion is luxury. Luxury knows no bounds, it has infinite possibilities. It takes a fit and daring woman to handle my kind of art wear. I call my creations wearable pieces of art as they are not for those with limited imagination. I know that not everyone can carry off my clothes. I don’t believe that fashion and art are mutually inclusive. Fashion can be artless and art can be fashionless.”

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With Ricky Lo, Jojo Gabinete and Wheyee Lozada

Rocky was introduced into the local scene by Wheyee when he dressed the featured models during the inauguration of Willie Revillame’s mall. Wheyee had been the TV host’s personal assistant until recently.

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Diana Zubiri in FHM’s 100 Sexiest

Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha is a living billboard of Rocky’s designs. The gowns and dresses she wears in shows, concerts and events (including The Voice Kids grand finale where she sang one of her signature songs with finalist Darlene Vibares) are Very Gathercole.

Diana Zubiri likewise wore his creation in the recent FHM’s 100 Sexiest at the World Trade Center.

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One design for the London Fashion Week

Rocky Gathercole’s time to shine has indeed come – numbered among world-renown Filipino fashion luminaries Josie (Cruz) Natori, Monique Lhuillier, Furne One, Michael Cinco, Rajo Laurel, Ezra Santos et al.

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Manila models say it with pride

Click links to view videos:

Phoenix Fashion Week, October 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlvhhQi5IQE

Dubai Fashion Fiesta, July 2009 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5LQiebSMD8

Photos courtesy of Rocky Gathercole and Wheyee Lozada

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