What inspired you to pursue a career as a fashion designer?
I started becoming interested in fashion and the industry when I was younger. My main inspiration came from my grandmother, who used to sew clothes for many members of the family. I used to steal her threads and needles to copy her, and since then I’ve always had an inclination towards fashion design. Along the way, I’ve been highly influenced by individuals who have helped me aspire towards my goals, be it via the Gibraltar youth services or tutors and technicians at university.
Did you attend art or design school?
Gibraltar is a small place so I was forced to pursue my studies abroad. I attended The University of the Creative Arts in Epsom. The experience was exhilarating. I was exposed to a world I found previously inaccessible while living in Gibraltar. I was taught by some highly respected individuals who showed me how to nurture my talents and help me find my path in the industry.
What sort of “woman” do you have in mind when designing?
All my designs are based around my muse, a sort of “global nomad”, per se. An ageless woman which is unafraid of making bold choices, she is young but considerate of what to wear for specific occasions. She’s an eternal traveller, so as she explores different cultures she grows in character and style. I would hope that in each of my collection there is something for everyone, for all occasions.
What or who do you draw the most inspiration from?
Being Gibraltarian has had an influence on me, mainly due to my location in the world. Gibraltar borders Spain and has Morocco and Portugal in close proximity. Plus, Gibraltar is naturally a very culturally diverse place, and that has helped me stay inspired. I’m obsessed with research into fringe cultures and the idea of utopian societies. Those are my main influences.
Does Gibraltar have a fashion scene?
Gibraltar has never really had an established fashion scene, but in recent years it has progressed and now has an annual event that focuses solely on fashion – Runway Gibraltar. That has been a game- changer. Most of the Gibraltar-based designers are young and full of promise. Currently, I offer a form of mentoring to help young hopeful students realise that fashion is a viable career. I can only imagine other local designers are doing similar projects to pass on the skills that can only be learnt through experience. The fashion scene can only grow bigger and stronger.
You’ve done a few photo shoots on location in Gibraltar. Does the Rock make a good setting for a fashion spread?
Gibraltar is unique in terms of backdrops, it offers countless grounds for many different styles of shoots. It’s a small place, meaning you can use industrial settings, beaches and forests all within the same spread and shoot everything in the same day. In that respect, I think Gibraltar offers the best setting for fashion spreads. It’s one of the qualities that is so alluring to me about the place.
You’ve just shown at Brighton Fashion week - very exciting. What’s been the hardest thing about breaking into the international fashion industry?
Generally, getting into anything outside of Gibraltar is a challenge due to the constraints of living in a small community. The main issue is the fact that media coverage is harder to come by, and normally local if that. But having said that, I have found myself very fortunate to have been given media coverage internationally via competitions and shoots which have helped me create stronger contacts in the industry.
What are the opportunities like for young creatives in Gibraltar today?
I find that the arts in Gibraltar have been neglected for many years, and only recently have people in the community started to shed light on alternative art forms (beyond fine art). Unfortunately, it has been a common understanding for artistic and creative individuals that you needed to move to a major city in order to be successful. This idea has started to change. The international arts festival is growing each year, and with events such as Runway Gibraltar people are able to try out new things. My personal hope is that this goes from strength to strength.
What advice would you offer to other aspiring fashion designers?
I would tell them the truth; the life of a fashion designer is a hard but fruitful one. It never really gets easier. And don’t get comfortable, because if you do, it means you’re not pushing yourself enough to get the best out of your own talent.
The fashion industry is not for the faint-hearted, but if you do follow it you’ll meet some of the most interesting people out there. Fashion designers work hard and put their hearts into all that they do, and that’s both the best and worst feeling. But for now, I think it’s always worth it.
[All photos by Malcolm Tam]