Runway Gibraltar – the fashion show that turns the Rock Bastion upper promenade into a hot catwalk for a night – is back after a gap year, featuring the return of British designer Sadie Clayton, and introducing Maltese duo Charles & Ron, as well as Portuguese Ricardo Andrez’s mens and womenswear.

One of the novelties is the participation of the Youth Service’s creative class who are producing and presenting their vision on wearable art, a popular show that has wowed audiences several times at various local venues in previous years, but which is now inducted in the Olympus of haute couture, with a full segment right after the opening New Designer Competition and before the presentations by international designers.

Shideh Olafsson

Melbourne-based model and talent agent Shideh Olafsson is the inventor and producer of the show, put together by co-producer Naomi Quigley and Jonathan Collado of Fresh Entertainment. She says that the ‘wearable arts’ concept is very close to her heart as she is from New Zealand, a purveyor country, so finally having it as part of her show is a great satisfaction.

Since its inception as a fashion journalist in the late Nineties’ New Zealand, Shideh’s career has evolved towards the business side of the industry, becoming a PR agent representing twenty-one labels and providing a showroom for them to display their collections to the press. “This is when my love of fashion events was born and I started to produce shows for my clients as part of Fashion Week. It all went deep into fashion after that, and I continued to have an agency and produce shows after moving to the Mediterranean.”

Tyan Borrell

The second, and perhaps more nail-biting, change is that the competition winner will be announced at the very end of the soirée, to allow the adjudicators more time, and also to build up to the grand finale.

Three finalists were selected in April for the New Designer Competition, open to any aspiring designer who isn’t yet established professionally. They are: Bournemouth Arts University graduate Kerry Cervan, beachwear designer Lisa Cronin, and Liverpool University graduate Tyan Borrell. Each will showcase a small collection for the adjudicators to scout their originality, creativity, finishing and presentation. The main prize is a trip to London to work with professionals, visit fabric mills and acquire hands-on experience, as well as having their creations photographed by a British team.

Lisa Cronin

The first ever New Designer was the sportswear label Shorji, now a boutique in the town centre. The following year’s winner Paul Perez harvested international consensus, was interviewed by the New Statesman and launched his online boutique (PaulPerez.co.uk). ‘Candy-cane girl’ Gabriella Sardeña was the 2015 winner and Gail Howard glitzed the 2016 edition with her jewel colours.

“All past Runway winners have established themselves in the fashion industry, according to Shideh, who introduced the core format to Gibraltar in 2013, and promoted it as much more than a competition. She describes Runway as a ‘full festival’ and a ‘real’ fashion show for next season’s collections for the fashionistas to peer into forthcoming trends, with the purpose of becoming the launch pad for one new designer into the global fashion industry, as well as to open doors for local models, makeup artists and hairdressers, while bringing to Gibraltar a taste of international fashion weeks.

Kerry Cervan

She adds that Runway Gibraltar is specially geared to focus on the artistic side of fashion, allowing the designers complete liberty in picking their theme and their styles. The worst crime of fashion is an underwhelming visual effect: “If a model can get away with walking off the catwalk to the street unnoticed, then the designer has let the show down. Garments should be displayed as if they were art. Each show should purport the designer’s message with its styling, gait, and even music.”

In a nutshell, she advises: “Don’t be safe. There is no place in fashion for someone who doesn’t take risks. Fashion is art as much as it is business, she says. “And art is subjective. There are no cultural or social rules when it comes to fashion. It is entirely based on the designer and their demographics.”

This doesn’t mean that everything goes, however: “While we always encourage designers to over-style, some go way too far with their hair and makeup choices. Keeping hair and makeup as natural as possible allows the audience to focus on the clothing’s overall appeal. A lot of designers forget this and divert attention from the garment modelled to the models, when downgrading them to an almost cartoon-like look.”

And what about ‘curvy’?

“I would love to feature a plus-size designer in a future edition and will welcome anyone creating a catwalk-worthy collection, as well as plus-size models. Regrettably, plus-size collections tend to play safe, and this wouldn’t fit the feel of the show,” Shideh says.

You heard the boss: start doodling plump mannequins in OTT frocks for the 2020 edition!

Runway is happening at the Rock Bastion on 7th July from 6 to 11pm, with musical entertainment by UK singer Blair Jollands, and beauty pavilions on the sides.

Tickets priced £25 from BuyTickets.gi. Full programme available at www.runwayfashionfestival.com