ROCKY Gathercole, a celebrated Filipino avant-garde designer who dressed Hollywood celebrities from Lady Gaga to Jennifer Lopez, died unexpectedly at the age of 54.
Gathercole was found unconscious at his Quezon City home on Wednesday, March 3, ABS-CBN News reported.
A cause of death has not been revealed as of this writing.
In a 2016 interview with the Asian Journal, the designer recounted his humble beginnings when he left home at 14, resorting to taking refuge at the foot of the Quezon Bridge in Quiapo and supporting himself by working various jobs. He sold tapsilog on a kariton (push cart) along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.
His “dream” at the time was to be a janitor at an SM mall but the job required a high school diploma. He instead waited tables at a Makati restaurant and would sketch designs during his free time.
Gathercole received a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, where his employer encouraged him to become a designer.
“There were other Filipino designers who taught me things like how to bead and cut [fabric]. That was for two months and the rest is history. I went to Dubai and that’s where the idea enhanced that I wanted to really be a designer,” he told the Asian Journal.
Gathercole spent over two decades in the Middle East, opening up a shop in Dubai, where he primarily designed wedding dresses and formal couture gowns for women.
It was his artful, over-the-top designs — which include edgy bodysuits and gaudy headpieces — that caught the attention of Hollywood A-listers.
“I could do the weird things and at the same time, I could do the very simple and elegant wedding dresses. In the Middle East, my line was wedding dresses. I can do anything. Here in the U.S. is where I got noticed so I’ve been associated with kabaliwan (madness). That’s okay as long as I am enjoying what I’m doing. Personally it’s important masaya ako (that I am happy). I can make a lot of money but if hindi ako masaya, wala rin, (if I wasn’t happy, there’s nothing also) I wouldn’t enjoy,” he said.
In 2010, Gathercole showcased designs at Miami Fashion Week, his first fashion show in the United States. Since then, he held shows in New York, Los Angeles and Australia. For The Stars Fashion House along Melrose Avenue in LA served as his home base in the U.S.
Gathercole’s creations have also been worn by Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Carrie Underwood, and Paris Hilton.
Among his famous designs include Katy Perry’s gold corset in her “Dark Horse” music video and a black-and-white flare dress Hilton wore at Cannes Film Festival in 2014.
In the past year, he designed a black gown with a blue, jeweled crusted hood for Cardi B, while J.Lo donned his bright red gown on Christmas Eve 2020.
Despite his international and star-studded clientele, he remained grounded and was reminded of his early years.
“It’s important that the client trusts the designer. I don’t get starstruck anymore. I think living on the streets [helped] with that because I never expected a life where everything was given to me,” he said.
When asked about his advice for future designers, he shared, “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.”