At 16, Andrea Brocca has become the youngest haute-couturier in the world, according to Guinness World Records. The title was once held by Yves Saint Laurent when he took the helm at Christian Dior at the age of 21. Despite his tender years, Brocca has not only worked under the supervision of the British fashion mogul Alice Temperley, he has also started his own label and launched a boutique in Dubai.
At what age did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I've always wanted to do it. When I was young, I never had the same passions other children did. In kindergarten, when the kids would be out playing, I would be inside drawing and putting all my ideas on paper.
I'm not your usual teenager, either. I don't have a big social life at all. I focus strongly on what I love, which is creating clothes and fashion.
Was there a defining moment when you decided to take your sketching to the next level?
I would always watch my mum getting ready. That was a big thing for me. I have always wanted to make women look beautiful, glorious and more sculptural.
I also used to go to boutiques and ask for look books - a hugely inspirational one was Chanel's for autumn/winter 2004, which I still have. That would have to be the epiphany for me. It wasn't only the fabrics, cuts or colours that I loved but also the elegance the collection exuded - in contrast to now, where the brand is much more avant garde.
When did your career officially begin?
I started working "properly" at the age of 13. I began interning at ITP, assisting on fashion shoots for magazines such as L'Officiel. I was amazed by all the beautiful gowns and soon came to see how much people valued couture.
A year later, I went to work with Alice Temperley in London. I ran after her with a book of my drawings until she finally offered me an internship. She asked me for around 30 designs of kaftans, and then I made a dress for her, which she included in one of her collections and named after me. That was very exciting! The following year, I went back to help her during London Fashion Week.
Did you have to struggle to be taken seriously by the fashion pack at that age?
In a way, I think, I was an industry anomaly in terms of age. I had to convince people that I wasn't a waste of space or time and that I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. It was all about being insistent and not giving up at the first hurdle.
Your boutique in Dubai opened earlier this year. How did that come about?
My father is a good entrepreneur and I got a platinum - not golden - opportunity to start the brand. I'm very serious about it, and I had to do something that would work or I would lose my credibility.
My style is about keeping it minimal yet edgy. My inspiration actually is underground-scene-meets-high-fashion - it's raw, but with refinement.
My clothes are made in Italy and the fabrics all come from there, too, because the construction and drape of Italian fabric is beautiful.
I produce two ready-to-wear collections each year, and couture all year long. I create made-to-measure gowns, and because people in the UAE really love elegant evening wear, I try to give them that. With a couture line, it's very important to know what the customer loves and to make her feel valued, statuesque like a Greek goddess - essentially powerful and beautiful.
What's the age demographic?
I think my collections appeal to people who are 18 and older.
Is business brisk - is the label making money?
Business is very good, actually. I'm extremely happy and everything is looking up for me. Evening gowns are in strong demand here. Prices for couture vary from around Dh5,000 to Dh50,000, depending on the fabric, cut and embellishments, which can even be diamonds. Ready-to-wear is priced between about Dh900 to Dh3,000 - I wanted collections that were accessible to younger people and not too exclusive.
Where next might you expand?
Wafi has quite a selective clientele, which makes you think mostly of couture. So this is what I've done and, hopefully, it was the right move. I think my next step would be to expand ready-to-wear. I'll be looking at department stores and malls, The Dubai Mall being ideal, obviously. Internationally, I would say Europe and New York.
Do you have any plans to study fashion when you leave college?
Iím doing my A-levels in French, English literature and art Ė I very proudly got an A in those subjects at GCSE level. I also have the opportunity to go to university for fashion studies. In fact, Iíve wanted to go to Central Saint Martins in London since I was about 6 years old.
Quick fire interview:
Would most like to dress: Anna Dello Russo and Kristen Scott Thomas
Personal fashion faux pas: stringy tank top
Best advice received: My father always says: "You have to work with what you have, catch what the market wants but always make it new"
Favourite place in the world: Le Marais, Paris, and my bed
Currently reading: Vogue's September issue
Music of choice: Classical
ē Brocca's collection is now available in-store at Boutique 79 on the ground floor of Dubai's Wafi Mall. Call 04 324 4555 for more information
ALL DRESSED UP
The National's fashion correspondent Gemma Champ is writing every day from Paris Fashion Week. See our fashion blog†All Dressed Up to read her posts, as well as her letters from London and New York.