Meet Andrea Brocca, The World's Youngest Couturier
The Italian/Sri Lankan designer’s graduate collection proved that opulence and sustainability can go hand in hand.
The Italian/Sri Lankan designer’s graduate collection proved that opulence and sustainability can go hand in hand.
Every now and then, you stumble upon something on Instagram that truly makes your fashion heart soar. At least, that's what happened to me when I saw the creations of Andrea Brocca, a recent graduate from Central Saint Martins in London. Now a fresh-faced alum, Brocca joins an all-star roster of visionaries like him who once attended the legacy institution, like Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane, Phoebe Philo, Sarah Burton, and Riccardo Tisci just to name a few. But fashion newcomer he is not—at the age of 16, Brocca was crowned World's Youngest Couturier by Guinness World Records, after opening his own boutique in Dubai for private clients. Understanding the mindset of the class of 2020, I became intrigued by the presentations of many graduate collections like Brocca's, after having been forced to present their wonderful pieces all digitally this year. If I could summarize Brocca's final collection in three statements: Captivating, terrifying, and oh, so chic! I instantly became obsessed with the larger than life fashion that I was witnessing and naturally wanted to know more about the man behind the gowns. So a few double taps and a slide in the DM later—a match was made in digital heaven!
V Magazine: When developing your graduate collection with over six years of study, was there a particular theme or vision you had when crafting the lineup?
Andrea Brocca: Technicality, Sensuality, Opulence, Multiculturalism, and a touch of Horror. After all these years of studying and refining my crafts, both at La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris and at Central Saint Martins in London, I wanted my collection to represent the very core of why I do fashion. I broke down my brand identity and studied my cultural roots, and identified my muse, who is my mother, due to her opulence and mysterious past. I mixed my Italian and Sri Lankan heritage, and Middle Eastern upbringing, as I grew up in Dubai my entire life. My theme was a multicultural take on an 80’s inspired couture fantasy, focusing on artisanal extravagance.
From a technical point of view, I have a specific vision—my work is inherently sustainable through the philosophy I approach when designing. As a creative who values technique, my way of working is very considered. I don’t have an interest in being part of the overproduction machine that is the fashion production cycle. I have a deep interest in owning my own time frame in the production and release of my collection. I like to think that my own way of working is embedded in a sustainable model. It is essential that in our current times and in the ecological heat that we are in, we must adopt a new way of approaching the fashion production system. As a young designer, I am always looking for new solutions and I believe my line up represents this growth.
V: When designing your couture masterpieces, who do you envision wearing your pieces?
AB: My garments unapologetically take space and give the women that wear them a sense of authority, because my construction aligns them into a powerful posture. I want to see my garments on all kinds of women that want to feel SNATCHED and POWERFUL. Strong women that want to seize life, like my mother. When discussing public figures, I would feel really proud to see my garments worn by Queen Rania of Jordan, Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, Charlotte of Monaco, Naomi Campbell, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Cardi B.
V: Is there a particular individual that you source from when designing?
AB: Since I was a child, I had a fascination with my mother's wardrobe. Every day, after school, I would navigate her closet, and look for treasures. I was always obsessed with finding shiny things, which I deemed treasure. This is how I build my culture of luxury. My mother tried her best to build a collection of luxury garments. I always dressed in her clothes since I could remember. And celebrated the tailoring of her Armani Suits, the fall of her Chanel tailleurs, and the sharp edges of her Versace coats. Always in search of the Yves Saint Laurent oddity, and a huge admirer of the Gian Franco Ferre drape, no one could handle organza like GFF. This sartorial experience was met with a fascination towards fragrance. I am heavily influenced by Coco by Chanel, No.5, Jean-Paul Gaultier ‘Fragile’, Christina Dior ‘Poison’, and Dolce Gabbana for ‘Women’.
I have a deep interest in the greats of Couture—the Bias cut evolution of Vionnet, the pleats of Gres, the incredible fashion architect that was Charles James, the minimal pattern cutting of Halston, the revolutionary refinement of the silhouette of Balenciaga, and the sex of Yves Saint Laurent. More contemporary designers I have been inspired by was Theyskens at Rochas, Decarnin at Balmain. All of these names that I mentioned hold one thing in common, they hold the understanding of technical excellence, and immaculate aesthetic, whilst being very forward-thinking, some, revolutionary in design. Most of them found acclaim later in their life, having worked a lifetime on their craft; something fashion graduates need to take into consideration, in my opinion.
V: With shows and presentations now shifting to a digital-only basis, how do you see couture evolving to this new form of showcasing one's work?
AB: The way Haute Couture will evolve will be through its interaction with virtual reality experiences, reusable precious material, and tech. Tech, fashion, and sustainability will inevitably merge, with great sustainable textiles that easily lend themselves to the circular economy. I do believe the highest art form of this fashion tech collaboration will manifest itself in the realm of Haute Couture. This will allow young couture focused designers to experiment with virtual reality and bring viewers and customers to a full fantasy vision of their world.
We are the new generation, we are able to reach a very large audience through social media, if we stay interactive, consistent, and have a unique vision and most importantly COLLABORATE as much as possible! This is truly the future, and the beauty of social media; it enhances the possibility of collaboration. We are the creators of our world, but on a much deeper level than ever before. My solution to staying relevant as a couture focused designer is to create a world through lookbook and video, which will mirror the intensity of my technical process and emotions. This way of presenting is more effective as a graduate because the vision comes across more clearly, and it is a 360-degree experience of one's world. My graduate collection video which I launched at the first virtual London fashion week had a truly amazing response, with thousands of views and hundreds of people from across the world sharing my film. My account was on a frenzy for 2 days.
V: With the launch of your first made-to-measure label in your earlier days, could you tell us how those designs differed from your aesthetic today?
AB: There is a huge shift between both those aesthetics. That being, education. I created my first collection when I was just 15-years-old. My way of designing was pure and somewhat marketable and commercial. I built my first collection around bias-cut satin duchesse strips stitched together to create slip dresses and blouses that draped on the skin like liquid. I was young—it was definitely very different then. I’ve been drawing since I was 2 years old, sketching imaginative, otherworldly garments—I was fixated with anime, fantasy, and my mother’s closet and I think back then it was more connected to who I am today. The label I launched at 16 was an incredible experience that taught me so much, but at the same time, it constrained me. I felt lost and pressured to cater to a market that at the time didn’t understand the works I really wanted to create, and so reached a pretty low point inspiration wise. At age 17, I ran away to Paris to study Haute Couture at La Chambre Syndicale, I needed to culture myself. Now I feel a lot more like myself and are unafraid to put out into the world whatever I want to create, even if it’s not met with the same excitement that I would feel creating it. I never again want to compromise on the fact that my garments should be a direct extension of my true identity.
V: How long does one ensemble take to create from start to finish? What’s the longest that a piece is taken to complete?
AB: Aside from my corsetry, understructures, and spiral pleated gown, which I developed for 6 months, I came up with my most complex creation to date; my 'winged heart sleeve' coat. This royal blue liquid silk velvet coat, upcycled from a renowned velvet maker in Como, is made out of around 80 pattern pieces and Swarovski crystal mesh. I developed the sleeve nonstop throughout day and night, during the quarantine. The body of the coat is cut in such a way that it has an integrated corset that re-defines the woman’s proportions but still has an open back to tailor my vision of ideal physical balance; I was inspired by Charles James on this front. I created it around 10 times before I got the right form. I made this coat with a domestic machine; I found domestic couture to be quite ironic.
V: With the title “worlds youngest couturier” hanging above your head, do you feel any pressure to uphold that title when creating?
AB: Yes and no. I think the title came as a circumstance of my ambition as a teenager and my vision as a creative since I can remember. However, I consciously chose to take years off my label to focus on studies and my craft. As long as I keep on evolving my technical abilities and being true to my craft, giving it the priority it deserves, then I will always feel like I am doing my label/title justice.
V: I heard that you’re interested in starting a Demi-couture label! Are the wheels in motion to start that line soon?
AB: Of course, but I want to approach my label in an organic manner. I currently sell my art, and have my third solo exhibition in Dubai in September; I want to attempt to organically merge my art with my fashion. Firstly, I do not think it’s a modern or healthy notion to have young designers start out and immediately be wired to the high-speed high anxiety production system that is the fashion production cycle. Hell no! I want to create and evolve my label organically and work within my own time frame, especially coming out of a global pandemic, we need to take into consideration mental health, and re-evaluate what we want our industry to look like. The power is in our hands. For now, I want to work with my friends who are often my clients too, to create couture alongside my art. I put a lot of focus on my artwork, and make custom made paintings and illustrations often for Hotels and private collectors. I am currently designing a mural in my friend's renovated apartment in London - the more I paint, the better I design.
V: Do you have any advice for those graduating who are pursuing a career in fashion and/or haute couture?
AB: Study the greats of couture, mentioned in my previous messages. Think of your favorite everyday basic piece of clothing, and research the history of this garment. I.e. if a Kaftan is your favorite piece of clothing, study the history of the Kaftan. Take into consideration this garment when designing. Think of your favorite iconic outfits (perhaps one made by a designer now, or made in the past, even a costume) and research it’s history; i.e what was the designer's inspiration when creating. I.e. The safety pin black dress by Versace worn by Liz Hurley. Who are your 5 favorite designers, and what elements of their work do you admire, and do you see your style of work in any of these elements. As a designer and creative in general, our biggest weapon, is our knowledge of movements in the art world that have pushed the envelope on social issues and therefore altered the aesthetic within fashion. Study art history, link art movement to aesthetics. Why is Fontana’s spacialism so indicative to a 60’s Cardin? Why is the Vuitton Murakami collaboration so indicative to where fashion stands today? Why did Dali and Schiaparelli have such success at the same time?
Therefore it is imperative we are informed on art and fashion history. Fashion and art work together in response to their social climate in ways in which many young artists fail to recognize. Ultimately attempt to be considerate of the history, environment, and social context of what you're working with.
Discover the full fashion film for Andrea's graduate collection, here:
Fashion Film // Garments & Artwork: Andrea Brocca / Model: Chantal Brocca / Makeup: Athina Doutis / Videographer: Marvin Burayag / Video Editor: Stavros Antypas / Set Manager: Laura Brocca / Set Design: Abdulla Elmaz / Animation: Thomas Rackl / Music: SHYGIRL - UCKERS