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Grit and Grace with Couturier Andrea Brocca

Grit and Grace with Couturier Andrea Brocca

How self-financed couturier Andrea Brocca is making his mark in Hong Kong.

When philanthropist and Prestige Woman of Power Mira Yeh stepped into the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong ballroom to celebrate 30 years of marriage, all eyes were on her gown, in vibrant red brocade and lace, created by the young Italian-Sri Lankan couturier Andrea Brocca.

Fashion enthusiasts might remember Brocca’s graduate collection from Central Saint Martins, which he presented during the pandemic. Four years later, as we meet in Hong Kong, Grant Hyatt, it’s evident Brocca has come into his own as a fashion force. To the sanctimonious gatekeeper’s question, “Can a 28-year-old even call himself a couturier?” the answer is emphatically, “Yes. A million times yes.” And Brocca is the living proof.

Andrea Brocca

“I wanted to become a fashion designer at seven years old,” he tells me. “I spent my entire youth sketching obsessively – drawing was the only thing I wanted to do.” Then, when he was aged just 13, those same sketches landed Brocca his first internship – at Temperley London. “I met Alice [Temperley] when she came to Dubai to open her store,” Brocca tells me. “I showed her my sketches and she took a liking to them and my perseverance. I was continuously trying to reach out, and she gave me the internship after my third attempt.”

And that fired his entrepreneurial spirit. “I started my own company when I was 16, and two years later I took a big break of seven years to culture myself.” Armed with experience, Brocca enrolled in a pre-masters course at L’École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, before travelling to New York to work for Prabal Gurung. He then returned to London to study at Central Saint Martins before, once again, taking a break to work for Ellery in Paris and Daniel Lee’s Bottega in Milan and, eventually, returning to London to complete his degree.

Look from Andrea Brocca’s latest Alta Moda collection

If fashion schools are notorious for their competitive environments, that especially applies to Central Saint Martins. Studying alongside unicorns such as as Chet Lo, Prestige 40 Under 40 honouree Celine Kwan, Nina Ricci’s new creative director Harris Reed, Connor Ives and couturier Miss Sohee cannot have been easy. Although Brocca describes his time at the London institution as stimulating and creative, it was also filled with immense challenges. To support himself at university he was forced to take three jobs – and just as things seemed to be looking up, the pandemic struck, forcing him to join his sisters in Dubai, leaving the famous graduation show – the very reason he joined CSM – behind. That didn’t break him. With unwavering dedication, he tirelessly worked on his graduate collection from scratch in his room, draping obsessively into the small hours of the morning.

Brocca’s first big break came when in 2020 Lady Gaga graced the cover of Billboard magazine in a custom gown he’d made by hand. “I woke up one day and saw an email from her team,” he says. “I made that dress in my room during Covid without a couture atelier or anything. It arrived in Los Angeles on the day of the shoot, [where Gaga’s team] had to Uber it from FedEx directly to the studio. The second it got there, they just threw it on her and the rest is history.” The image of the hand-painted gown with an intricate bodice constituted a “double impact” – a piece of art wearing another piece of art.

udor-era headdress- resembling motifs on Andrea Brocca’s gowns

Self-doubt remains one of creativity’s mortal enemies. How many literary and artistic masterpieces never saw the light of day because their creators lacked faith in themselves? Brocca seems hyper-aware of this.

“I don’t have the luxury of self-doubt,” he says. “I have to keep going. There was a point when I didn’t launch anything for two years because I was building the infrastructure of my business so it was more solid, and no one was watching me for a while.” In an age when fashion is largely dependent on social media and the amount of “viral” moments a designer can manufacture per season, it was a risky decision – but it paid off. “We’re back and in better motion than we ever were before,” Brocca tells me. “Having the tenacity, consistency and perseverance to continue when no one is watching is what differentiates some people from many others. You need to make every moment count because, for all you know, you could pass away tomorrow.”

Bridal look from Andrea Brocca’s latest Alta Moda collection

After a two-year hiatus, Brocca emerged from the shadows with renewed confidence and skill. His return marked a shift towards daring innovation, intricate execution and adulthood, showcased in his recent Alta Moda collection, which debuted in September. The designer’s technical prowess is evident in every piece of hand-cut crystal, but what truly reflects his maturity is how – for lack of a better word – effortless it feels. There’s poetry in his sculpted gowns; much like the novels of Pushkin, which are known for their seamless flow and brilliant turn of phrase, Brocca’s creations feel as if they were willed into existence out of thin air by magic – because to the layman, the creation of such pieces by hand seems physically impossible.

“This collection is an elevated representation of what I think is timeless beauty,” says the designer. “We used the finest Italian silks and Chantilly lace” – and with these textiles as well as beading and boning, he created fantastical worlds. “I took Roman mythology, which directly relates to my Italian heritage, juxtaposed it against Art Deco elements and presented it in a surreal view.” Only a true aesthetic scholar could conceive such a notion.

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Brocca’s sketches

Bustiers with beaded baroque detailing reminiscent of Tudor-era headdresses mingle with liquid gowns adorned with surrealist three-dimensional crystal embroidery and glittering hand-sculpted palm branches. Brocca tells me his mood board featured works of art by Rafael and Michelangelo interspersed with vintage Harry Winston campaigns, runway images from the 1950s to the ’90s, of Sophia Loren, supermodel Carla Bruni and Christian Lacroix, vintage Cartier, Boucheron and Fabergé pieces, 1920s architecture and studies by Da Vinci.

Bodices and corsetry appear to be Brocca’s forte. He says he designed a corset that can dramatically cinch the waist without hindering the person’s ability to breathe. “I create a strong front panel that doesn’t dip, and allows the stomach to move while breathing but cinches the sides, creating a striking hourglass shape.” This very trade secret is how he manages to accentuate the female body in an elegant and respectful way. “I elevate every form of the female body and construct a gracious shape,” he says, “which feels romantic.” Which is much like his predecessors and fashion heroes, Yves Saint Laurent and Thierry Mugler.

Mira Yeh wearing Brocca’s design

It’s no surprise Brocca’s creations captured the interest of someone like Yeh. “The dress took around 100 metres of fabric and 150 hours to make,” he tells me. “I hand-designed and 3D-printed the crystals, which we embroidered all over her jumpsuit, and then we made a gown out of the finest French lace and Italian Duchesse, which was constructed in a way that cinched her waist by 5 inches, but remained comfortable.”

The journey to becoming a fashion designer knows no predetermined path – and age is but a number on the road to couture. While some find themselves trapped in perpetual studenthood, producing collections that resemble graduation projects, Brocca breaks free as a shining example of creativity and evolution.

Source: Prestige Online

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