Despite its atrocious effects on the world, the global pandemic acted as a catalyst for creatives to innovate. The desire, nay, the need to innovate led Andrea Brocca to push the fashion boundaries both structurally and aesthetically, all from the comfort of his home. Crowned the World’s Youngest Couturier by Guinness Book of Records, Andrea took the world of fashion by storm at least twice in the past year. First, when unravelling his Central Saint Martins graduate collection, followed by the time Lady Gaga graced the cover of Billboard magazine in the designer’s custom gown.
A “classic third culture kid”, Andrea operates across London, Dubai, Milan and Paris. Being able to call each of these strikingly different fashion capitals home in their own way, Andrea picks from a rich palette of cultural inspirations to bring his designs to life. “I’ll research different themes within my natural blood and then I’d mix them”, notes Andrea.
When did you start designing?
I started working at 13 in London during my summer holidays. At 15, I started my label, at 16, I opened my first shop. I went to do pre-masters in Paris at Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, then I went to New York and worked for Prabal Gurung. I came back to London to do a foundation year followed by bachelors. Shortly after, I went to Paris to work for Ellery and Milan to work for Bottega Veneta. Then I came back to CSM, finished my degree, and now I’m here. [Everything] is in the opposite [order]. So, I started with my label, did pre-masters, then foundation, then bachelors. It was kind of fun. It’s very unconventional, I think I took every opportunity, so I could to get as much experience as possible.
Is the brand that you started initially similar in any way to your CSM graduate collection?
I think the way I approach design is always through a Couture touch. I like doing red carpet, eveningwear, made to measure, that’s what I’ve been doing since I was very young. It was because of what I saw growing up. I grew up around my grandma, and she had all these beautiful clothes, which inspired me. I never made anything as conceptual and artistic as I did with my graduate collection. It was quite technically complex since I had the education behind to back it up. Thanks to my experience in Paris and knowledge gained in CSM, I was able to execute this complex graduate collection. When I just started, my pieces were simple, wearable and commercial, but still Couture. I wasn’t able to create those curved shoulders. It took many years to understand how to construct that. After six years of studying, I was finally able to create something like that. I cultivated the knowledge for years and applied it to that collection. I made the most technically complex piece I’ve ever done.
What was developing your collection through the pandemic like?
It was intense. Very stressful. I think the most intense thing was change. My classmates had to fly to their countries overnight to work from home without the studios and machinery. Because of this, the final result became much harder to achieve. I left in the span of 48 hours. I packed everything from my room in London, came here (Dubai) and restarted everything from scratch. Creatives aren’t robots, so naturally, there was some adjustment period. You can’t be on the same wavelength as you were on before because you are in a different environment. You need to find inspiration again. I came back to Dubai, for three weeks I was quite depressed, then I got back to it and started working again. London was a different mind frame and energy, so I had to start over once I came to Dubai. I was working towards the CSM show for so long, and then everything was cancelled two months before the actual show, so I lost the incentive to give it my all, and then I had to regain it.
The abrupt change of the environment. What now might seem like a blessing in disguise, was, at the time, a period of challenge that forced Andrea to create an entirely new collection, much like building an opulent mansion that was razed to the ground by the tornado brick by brick. “What was the blessing in disguise was the fact that I was obsessively draping in my room with doors and windows closed”, recalls Andrea.
Working all day and night in the room is a very specific mind frame of its own. It’s interesting psychologically because of its intensity. I conserved all of my energy that I would use for travelling and getting dressed and channeled it into creating. In London my routine would be essentially waking up, going to the gym and going to school. Now, that whole method changed. I was working through the AMs. I’d sleep until 6pm, and I’d work until 10am.
Who do you see wear your garments in the future?
I think my garments are very exuberant, they would fit better for pop idols. I’d love to dress Cardi B, Beyonce. The vivaciousness of my work matches theirs. And then, those extravagant pieces would simmer down to eveningwear, which is like 30% of what the idols would wear, something more commercial. I’d like to dress royalty too. Queen Rania, Sheikha Moza, Charlotte of Monaco, these kinds of characters. Chic queens and princesses. My work is very regal, so it only makes sense.
Glamour and opulence are not only the sentiments that Andrea’s mind-haunting creations convey. Through his artistry and values, Andrea embodies the emerging idea of rejecting modernity and embracing tradition. The 24-year-old Couturier is the avid believer in Demi Couture as the way for the fashion industry to redeem itself after decades of overproduction.
Demi-Couture is the natural response to the globalisation of ready-to-wear. Now, it is essentially very high quality ready to wear, which means that if you buy it off the rack, the designer can customise it to your body type. It’s more detailed than simply choosing a colour for the piece and less extreme than, [the level of customisation of] Haute Couture. Demi-Couture is the modern way of understanding the luxury system within the fashion world. Fashion was not a hype beast before, it was relatively concentrated, relatively niche, and now because of social media and influencers, it’s become completely fake, it’s ridiculous.
What is going to be the future of couture?
I think the future is in more personalized garments for larger people with a larger price category. It’s finding better prices for good services. It’s going to be much more service-oriented with more affordable prices. Accessible Couture, since people want more personalised things. If you think about it, with social media, people are becoming more “I” focused, they want to tailor things around themselves.
Do you think Couture can be sustainable?
Always. First of all, it eliminates mass production, because it directly caters towards the demand. There is no waste, no overproduction, no dead stock. The way that you source fabrics is also different. For example, now brands sell their dead stock for cheaper prices, so the designers can buy it and use it. It’s kind of like glamorous leftovers. Couture definitely can be sustainable if you source it correctly. If you operate within your radius, the carbon footprint becomes zero. Being sustainable is essential now because the world is a ‘shitshow’. In the past, a fashion show would have a 100 people maximum, now it’s much more than that. The whole industry has become more intense.
You guys had to show your collection online this time around. How was that?
Horrible. I hated it. I had to create an Instagram just for that, it was so lame. People with big social media platforms had more benefit compared to people with no platforms, so it there was an inequality element to it. It was stressful. I have my following, but I’m not a social media expert. I had to figure out how to navigate the app and maximise its opportunities.
Who is the fashion personality that inspires you?
Charles James. He was an American couturier, a fashion architect, and that’s what I want to be. I really like the way he approached design. He never made much money to be honest, but he did have a great career and was respected post-death.
What’s the future for Andrea Brocca?
Fashion architect. Collaborates with interesting creatives. Makes awesome fashion films, maybe a nice coffee table book. I want to represent a multimedia experience. I need to find a way of sustaining my brand identity through collaboration and creating experience. Fashion is only one way I explore my craft. I think just doing fashion is not enough for me.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Gennady Oreshkin
Creative Concept by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Andrea Brocca