According to the Guinness Book of World Records, he is the youngest couturier. The self-proclaimed “Engineer of Haute Couture”, Andrea Brocca is a proud fashion designer. Maybe he should be: he fought from an early age to build his name, to build his brand and to work on international collaborations – and he is convinced that if he has succeeded, other young Arab designers should, and can, do the same…
Half-Italian half-Sri Lankan, Brocca likes to stress that he was born and bred in the Arab World, Dubai to be precise, where he lives, works and produces. Obsessed by mathematics – his work is inspired by Fibonacci – and by Japanese anime, but also by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, “a muse since I was young”, the young designer, who began as an illustrator and a painter, names Leonardo da Vinci as his mentor. The guy obviously has obviously good taste.
Why did you choose to stay, work and produce in the Arab world? I like the entrepreneurial spirit of Dubai – it inspires me. I’m in-between Dubai and Paris at the moment, I was born and raised in Dubai and my family is here, so I came back after graduating from Central Saint Martins at the beginning of COVID-19, as the pandemic was handled brilliantly here.
What does the Arab world and mentality mean to a young Italian-Sri Lankan? Describe the MENA region in three words. It just feels like home, it’s what I’ve known since birth. I’m a multi-cultural, third culture kid, so to me it represents what I’ve always known: an entrepreneurial spirit, a vision for the future, drive.
Does the Arab fashion industry inspire you? What do you think its strengths are? Itsweaknesses? What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed? I like that there is a strong market for luxury, people are more experimental and able to incorporate their respective culture in design, which translates into something fresh and new. I like the strong cultural identity it prioritizes and pro-actively works to maintain. There is an incredible amount of creative potential here, and the art that comes from the Arab World is something very profound, especially from a numerical perspective; I have been inspired by this for many years. For example, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi invented the number zero, which was introduced to Fibonacci when he was growing up in Algeria, he then used this knowledge and developed the Fibonacci system, which is a universal mathematical system behind all construction, and which I like to use in my work.
In terms of weaknesses, it would be nice to see more MENA-based creatives do international collaborations. This could come through better fashion education and consultancies. I am a MENA-based, born and bred fashion designer who has an international collaborative portfolio and audience, I built this for myself and truly believe that it is possible for MENA artists to do it too if they develop a strong vision for themselves from a young age through correct education. Aside from this, a sustainable pre- and post-production initiative within fashion design could instill an ethos in the region which would help the environment greatly.
How do you position yourself as the youngest couturier, according to the Guinness Book of World Records? What does “young fashion designer” mean to you? Is age relevant? Age is irrelevant and always will be to me. The Guinness record represents a professional stepping stone and validation of hard work, I was very lucky to find my passion at a young age and therefore was able to start working professionally at 13. I never thought of my age in this process, rather I just thought, and still think, of keeping my passions strong by constantly seeking inspiration.
Your creations are a mix between futuristic Japanese anime and a dive into Hollywood 40’s and 50’s glam. Is that fair to say? It makes sense! I love that. I was introduced to glamour at a young age, and have been watching anime all my life – I was obsessed with Sailor Moon growing up!
Your creations are intensely black and white, and then comes a screaming fuchsia. What is your relationship with color? I am firstly an illustrator and painter, which is how I ended up in couture. Most of my artworks tend to be black and white studies. This is because I want to communicate the emotion, shape and intensity, I am trying to extract the essence of my expression. That being said, I am inherently drawn to fabulous things and this is what the fuchsia and golds represent.
What’s the story with you and women’s legs? Legs represent sex to me.
What are the arts that inspire your fashion? Cinema? Sculpture? Dance? Or painting? You seem to be very fond of Egon Schiele… Paintings and sculpture are the basis of my inspiration. I love Michelangelo, Bernini and Boccioni’s sculptures. I am particularly obsessed with the Renaissance and study deeply the development of the three dimensional understanding of the flat. Leonardo da Vinci has been my role model growing up, and I truly respect the polymathic way of working; I try to implement it in everything I do. For example, my white cape look was inspired by sound waves which I reinterpreted into a shape. I love the transversality one can develop in art, and I believe the Italian Renaissance reflected this perfectly.
What does the word “sustainability” mean to you? It is the new luxury. There are the general concepts of sustainability which we all know. For me it’s about respecting artisanal craft, the preservation of quality and traditions within fashion constructions, by paying them what they’re worth, as you are preserving their craft for future generations. It is fundamental for the safeguarding of culture and our collective human history. It is also a way to minimize unnecessary, excess waste in the fashion production process, as well as the retail system. This is why I identify as demi-couture – I create on demand so I don’t accumulate extra waste.
Sustainability to me also represents revamping what already exists, an example from my end would be buying dead stock materials from large labels and readapting it. Overall, sustainability means a new understanding of quality of life, as a self aware approach. This is the definition of our generation – it is a healthy way of being ‘woke’.
How is the gender-neutral trend translated in MENA fashion? Fashion in the MENA region is flourishing and becoming more experimental and playful. Individuals are becoming more confident in expressing their individual style, and you can see this across the board. Sharp structures, over-sized tailoring, bold colors/unisex fashion is for all and not only this, it’s a less wasteful type of fashion, you pass garments among friends and family, so there’s less waste and it’s more free.
What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing? A fake attitude.
What creation of yours are you most proud of? There are two: my blue velvet hearted wing coat, which I created for my CSM graduation collection, and my logarithmic spiral cut leather suit created with fully sustainable leather recycled from used gloves from China during COVID-19. They both focus on a very laborious and mathematical pattern cutting process, prioritizing sculpture and precision above all else, and represent the culmination of all the work I have put into my creative process thus far.
What was your worst fashion faux-pas? A tank top with a fringe. I was basically an emo punk teenager; in hindsight it was hilarious.
Who do you dream of dressing? Every woman who wants to feel larger than life. Funnily enough, given I’m here talking to FTA, I am very fond of Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who has been my muse since I was a young boy, I find her presence and character startling, and would love to dress her.
Name five Arab people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house. Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and three people who are not with us anymore, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, Zaha Hadid and Dalida.
What would the title of your Netflix documentary be? Andrea Brocca, The Engineer of Haute Couture.