Cover Andrea Brocca 'Equilibrium' collection (Photo: Abdulla Elmaz)

Meet Andrea Brocca, part of a new wave of couturiers debuting stunning, otherworldly designs that are available only in limited quantities

The haute couture world is shaking up. In a three-part series, Couture Youthquake, Tatler speaks to demi-couture masterminds about their journeys.


Andrea Brocca doesn’t do things in the usual order. The 26-year-old Italian-Sri Lankan designer only graduated two years ago from Central Saint Martins’ BA Womenswear programme, but he has already been working in the industry for more than a decade. Brocca started interning at Temperley London when he was 13, and dropped out of high school to attend the pre-masters at Paris’s École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. The designer opened his own boutique for private clients in his home town of Dubai when he was 16, and was recognised as the World’s Youngest Couturier by the Guinness World Records.

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He felt that he needed to learn more and develop his skills, however, and decided to return to his brand after some education. “I chose to put it [the boutique] aside to study; I wasn’t necessarily as cultured as I should have been to have this kind of power,” Brocca recalls. Soon after, he worked for Prabal Gurung, Ellery and Daniel Lee at Bottega Veneta while at university. When he finally graduated, his couture-quality collection was picked up by Lady Gaga’s styling team.

Several of Brocca’s classmates are also causing a stir in the realm of couture and demi-couture right now—Harris Reed and Sohee Park among them. “I’m not going to define myself as a star,” says Brocca. “But ... potentially five years down the line and if everything goes well with all of us, that’s like an Antwerp Six situation of couture,” referring to the Belgian group of designers who were popular in the 1990s. He has certainly taken the fashion crowd by storm with just two collections—his graduation collection Senanayake (so-called after his mother’s family’s name) and off-schedule debut collection Equilibrium.

The latter is inspired by mathematics: logarithmic spirals, Italian mathematician Fibonacci’s sequence and the “golden ratio”, often found in nature. The collection included gravity-defying leather suits and gowns featuring voluminous shapes, dramatic fishtails and three- dimensional spirals—an idea he came up with when he was 17 and finally brought to life after mastering pattern- cutting skills. Almost like wearable art, all the opulent, sculptural creations can be traced back to his upbringing as a “multicultural kid”.

 

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“As an adult, I realised my identity was born out of my multicultural background, putting together a body of inspiration that enables me to create the division of work that I have now,” he says. “I was like a machine as a child: I would just keep on drawing and searching. I just naturally deviated towards couture.” His obsession with anime, such as the Japanese comic character Sailor Moon, as well as female historical figures including Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette, helped shape Brocca’s view of what a heroine can look like. Another influence closer to home is his mother, who Brocca remembers in all the glamour of the late Eighties and Nineties. As well as designs that he describes as “Disney’s evil queen meets Sailor Moon meets Leonardo da Vinci”, Brocca is very into the fine arts, and the idea of merging the two in the form of fashion.

 

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His current clientele comprises women aged between 19 to 50; Brocca is crystal clear about the commercial side of couture and the potential of offering demi-couture. “In couture, the design is tailored around the clients to fit their personality and body shape. But with demi-couture, you tailor the existing designs to the clients’ personalisation needs,” he explains. “It’s luxury ready-to-wear in the sense that the relationship between the brand and client is much more personal. You are creating one-of-kind pieces for clients who will come back [to buy pieces] for many events because they want to be singular.”

Brocca is not the only one who has felt the pressure of being eco-friendly as a burgeoning designer. “When you’re emerging, you’re inherently sustainable because you’re not producing a large amount of clothes. And there is this guilt that goes on with young graduates in school for not being sustainable enough”, Brocca says. The responsibility should fall onto the shoulders of big brands, he suggests: “The sustainable dynamics should trickle down to us and we can have the ideas to respond.”

 

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Speaking to us on a video call from Italy, where he travels between Milan and Florence to meet “heads of historical mills, fabric makers and artisans who supply established fashion houses” that he grew up admiring and to dig deep into his Italian DNA, Brocca shares his excitement about getting best-quality Italian deadstock materials. “They are the core of the luxury that we understand today; I can repurpose that into something gorgeous,” says Brocca.

He also highlights the link between sustainability and craftsmanship: “People tend to ignore that [a high value on craftsmanship] also contributes to sustainability in fashion; if artisans are paid with respect for their craft, [fewer] designers would look for cheaper alternatives which are produced to imitate the craft,” explains Brocca. “[Designers] invest in the product quality and then have faith that the conscious customers today would recognise and appreciate the ethical movements behind your label.”

Before flying back to Dubai to be with his family and conduct his first TED Talk, the designer gives us a teaser of what to expect from the next Andrea Brocca collection. Set to be unveiled in July, it will be a much more expansive range of looks compared to his Paris debut, including “a lot of like Italian crispness, a lot of elegance from the Nineties and a lot of gold”.

 

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