“My brand stands for technicality, sensuality, opulence, horror, and multiculturalism,” starts Andrea Brocca of his eponymous label. The Italian-Sri Lankan couturier, who was raised in Dubai, has just released his Central Saint Martins FDM class of 2020 graduate collection. At age 16, he was hailed as the world’s youngest couturier (Guinness Record), having opened a boutique in Dubai and making gowns for private clients, following an internship for Alice Temperley at age 14. He has since gained further experience with Ellery in Paris, Bottega Veneta in Milan under Daniel Lee, and Prabal Gurung in New York.
The graduation collection, “Senanayake,” is named after his mother’s family’s name. “I never met them,” he reveals. “My collection is inspired by the mystery around the dual identity of my mother and who she was in the Eighties. I don’t know half of my cultural identity, and in many ways, this collection is trying to fill that void, as does all my work.”
What was your first impression when you realized the grand finale would be digital only?
Heartbroken, truly. That show was my dream since I was 8. To get to this point of my career, it took a while. I had previously studied couture in Paris, at La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne where I learned the traditional techniques of Haute Couture. I brought this to CSM to re-interpret couture in a modern way through a multi-cultural approach to a traditional craft.
Therefore the essence of my work was very much driven around seeing my technically intricate garments up close in a show, so you can see the hand work that goes into them. The solution to staying relevant as a couture-focused designer was to create a ‘world’ through lookbook and video, which would 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.
What is your feeling today – how has it evolved?
Around 1.5 months before the Central Saint Martins runway show, borders started shutting down around the world. I took the last flight out of London before the UAE borders closed, to quarantine with my family. This all happened in the space of two days. I thus had to restart my collection from scratch. I put my head down and evolved the garments in quarantine with support from family and friends, and thanks to my British Fashion Council Scholarship.
Aside from my corsetry, under structures and spiral pleated gown (I developed these spiral pleats for six 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, Italy), is made out of around 80 pattern pieces and Swarovski crystal mesh. I developed the sleeve non stop throughout day and night in quarantine. The body of the coat is cut in such a way that is has an integrated corset which redefines 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.
I am proud now. My sisters and I put together a great team of collaborators to shoot the collection. One sister was the model and my other sister handled the set. I even animated my art work with a friend. I finished my Central Saint Martins collection in one month regardless of quarantine and a global pandemic, and moving country mid-way through.
The landscape has changed drastically since you first sketched this collection. How will your clothes reflect the current climate design wise?
The way I responded to the current climate; I wanted to reveal the understructures of my gowns due to what is going on. It was never my intention to shred apart my red gown on film to reveal the understructure, as I developed those patterns since January, but I wanted to destroy all that delicate hand work on the spiral pleated red gown, because I didn’t see a point in validating the beauty of fashion right now, or the relevance of a graduate collection. I wanted to show the raw essence of what a couturier goes through to achieve these pieces under quarantine. I shredded apart my gown because I was going mad, this frustration is obviously a direct mirror and reality of my cultural frustration; not knowing half my identity, I continuously try to shred away the superficial to look for the core. The cloth I am made of.
What are your short term goals?
I want to focus on building a demi-couture label which serves as a platform to investigate and innovate technical ways of creating garments and to dissect my multi cultural background. In my brand I use traditional yet up cycled glamorous couture fabrics but I subvert them in a contemporary statement in terms of my multi cultural identity; globally diverse research is in itself a contemporary way of understanding the traditional idea of Haute Couture, and so is the interchangeability studies mentioned above. I stand against fast fashion, and how disruptive it is to the ecosystem. The reason I do couture is because these pieces are mostly one of a kind and have a strong durability.
Since I was 17, studying at la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, I started studying the logarithmic spiral and adapting it into creating 3D volumes out of flat fabrics through spiral pleating. This process introduced me to the idea of interchangeability and multi use garments which represent a sustainable and circular system in fashion; from the way that you wear the garments to the up cycled fabrics I source. I am currently, and continuously developing this unreleased series of work to preserve and evolve garments to such a standard that they can achieve a sustainable DNA while staying chic and glamorous. As a financially independent student, I now need to find the funding, platform and space to develop and showcase my next collections.
Creative Director, garment, artwork: Andrea Brocca
Videographer: Marvin Burayag
Video editor: Stavros Antypas
Music: SHYGIRL – UCKERS
Model: Chantal Brocca
Set manager: Laura Brocca
Set design: Abdulla Elmaz
Make up: Athina Doutis
Animation: Thomas Rackhl