Designs by Paul Perez at Brighton Fashion Week (photos by Malcolm Tam)
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Rock the catwalk: an interview with Gibraltarian fashion designer Paul Perez

Paul Perez has been tipped as a rising fashion star. We talk design inspirations, life in the industry, Gibraltar’s young creative scene, and why he thinks the Rock makes the ultimate backdrop for a photo shoot

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. 

www.paulperez.co.uk

[All photos by Malcolm Tam] 

Photo: Getty
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Gibraltar - impact of Brexit

Last week our editor took a general overview of some of the scenarios for Gibraltar if Britain were to leave the Euro. This week, as the atmosphere in the British Conservative Party becomes ever more toxic, Michael Castiel, partner at Hassans lawyers on the Rock, goes into more detail (this piece written before the Iain Duncan Smith resignation and subsequent arguments happened).

However unlikely it may prove, the prospect of Britain's withdrawal from the EU sends shivers through Gibraltar's financial services, gaming and tourism industries, which are at the core of Gibraltar’s economy. For, if Britain leaves the EU, Gibraltar goes too, and, should Brexit occur, it is Gibraltar’s relationship with the UK that as in the past, largely will shape Gibraltar's future.

Gibraltar joined the European Union in 1973 as part of the UK. While rights to freedom of services across borders of EU member states apply between Gibraltar and the rest of the EU, because Gibraltar is not a separate member state (and is in fact part of the UK Member State) those rights do not apply between Gibraltar and the UK. Instead a bilateral agreement, formalised almost two decades ago, gives Gibraltar's financial service companies the equivalent EU passporting rights into the UK. Accordingly and pursuant to such agreement, where EU rights in banking, insurance and other financial services are concerned, the UK treats Gibraltar as if it is a separate member state.

This reliance on the special relationship with the UK is recognised by both the Government and the Opposition in Gibraltar, and when the territory (which in this instance as part of the UK electorate) goes to the polls on 23 June, the vote to remain in the EU is likely to be overwhelming. This may have symbolic significance but realistically seems unlikely to influence the outcome. In actual terms, although some non-EU jurisdictions use Gibraltar and its EU passporting rights as a stepping stone into Europe, almost 80% of Gibraltar’s business dealings are with the UK.

But whether or not Britain maintains the 'special relationship' with Gibraltar, if Brexit becomes a reality, other factors will come into play, with the ever-present Spanish Government’s historic sovereignty claim over Gibraltar topping the list.

Recently Spain's caretaker Foreign Minister Jose Maria Margallo went on record that if the UK voted to leave the EU he would immediately 'raise with the UK the question of Gibraltar.' If this was to come about it could take one or more of several different forms, ranging from a complete closure of the border between Spain and Gibraltar, demanding that Gibraltar passport-holders obtain costly visas to visit or transit Spain, imposing more stringent border controls, or a frontier toll on motorists driving into or out of Gibraltar. The latter idea was in fact floated by the Spanish Government three years ago, but dropped when the EU Commission indicated that any such toll would contravene EU law.

Here, again, imponderables come into play, for much will depend on which political parties will form the next Spanish government. A Spanish government headed by the right wing PP party is likely to take a less accommodating attitude towards Gibraltar (the Foreign Minister having recently indicated that in case of Brexit the Spanish Government may opportunistically push once again for a joint sovereignty deal with the UK over Gibraltar) whereas a left of centre coalition will likely adopt a more pragmatic and cooperative relationship with Gibraltar in the event of EU exit.

The most significant changes to Gibraltar's post-Brexit operation as an international finance centre are likely to be in the sphere of tax, and while Gibraltar has always met its obligations in relation to the relevant EU rules and Directives, it has also been slightly uncomfortable with aspects of the EU's moves towards harmonisation of corporate taxes across member states.

Although it was formed as a free market alliance, since its inception fiscal matters have been at the root of the EU, but Gibraltar's 'special relationship' with Britain has allowed considerable latitude in relation to what taxes it imposes or those it doesn't. However, as is the case with other member states, Gibraltar has increasingly found in recent years its fiscal sovereignty eroded and its latitude on tax matters severely curtailed.

As in Britain, Gibraltar has benefitted from several EU Directives introduced to harmonise and support the freedom of establishment, particularly the Parent-Subsidiary Directive which prohibits withholding taxes on cross-border intra-group interest dividend and royalty payments made within the EU.

As a stepping stone for foreign direct investment, should Brexit come about EU subsidiaries could no longer rely on these Directives to allow tax-free dividend or interest payments to their holding companies based in Gibraltar. In the case of the UK, bilateral double tax treaties will no doubt mitigate the impact of the non-application of any tax related Directives. Gibraltar, however, is not currently a party to any bilateral double tax treaties. Accordingly, Gibraltar would either have to seek from the UK the extension of all or some of the UK’s bilateral tax treaties to Gibraltar (subject of course to the agreement by the relevant counterparties) or it would need to negotiate its own network of bilateral double tax treaties with a whole series of EU and non EU Member States. To say the least, neither of these options would be straightforward to implement at short notice and would need the wholehearted support of the British Government

Whilst Gibraltar’s economy is likely to be adversely affected should Brexit occur, there may be some potential benefits. An EU exit would result in fewer regulations and possibly may provide Gibraltar with greater exposure to emerging economies.

From a tax perspective, an EU exit would probably enable Gibraltar to introduce tax rules and incentives that are contrary to EU tax laws and would provide the Gibraltar Government more freedom to adopt competitive tax regimes that may be considered contrary to EU state aid rules. How possible or effective any such strategy would be is doubtful given the OECD driven anti-tax avoidance climate affecting all reputable jurisdictions whether within or outside the EU.

In this as well as other possible change much will hinge on any post-Brexit relationship with the UK - an issue which the Gibraltar Government addressed recently in a paper sent to Westminster's Foreign Affairs Committee. It stressed not only that 'EU membership has been an important factor in the development of Gibraltar’s economy' but also the importance of 'clarity as to the rights the British Government will protect and defend for Gibraltar in the context of its own negotiations.'