Central Saint Martins graduate Alan Crocetti began his career in womenswear, but his interest shifted to jewellery-making right before he was spotted by Lulu Kennedy at Fashion East. His designs are bold, elegant and are a perfect combination of minimalism and maximalism, of playfulness and individuality. Today, we speak with the London-based creative to discuss gender, the fashion industry, and his viral campaigns.
You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that you grew up at your parents’ knitwear factory in Brazil and then moved to London to start studying womenswear design at the prestigious Central Saint Martins. Would you have taken the same path if you hadn’t been in contact with fashion from a very young age?
I don’t really know how to answer that. As much as I would like to think that we were born with something innate that catapults us into being who we are personally and professionally, I have a strong conviction that my surroundings and upbringing moulded me into what I have become. My parents have always supported my creativity and never pressured me to go into a different career despite our financial struggles. If my circumstances had been different, maybe fashion wouldn’t have been an option for me.
How do you think moving to London shaped your creative vision regarding fashion design differently as if you would’ve stayed in Brazil?
Despite the divide we see today, London exposes me to a myriad of people and cultures. It’s been a common ground for social and cultural interaction and celebration of identities and their unrestricted expression. The fact that I was an ‘alien in foreign lands’ helped me to get out of my shell even more than I probably would have if I had stayed in Brazil, where I felt, somehow, comfortable and safe.
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Your work significantly stands out in the contemporary jewellery industry thanks to your approach to gender-fluid and timeless pieces. They are elegant, bold and contain an idiosyncratic combination of minimal and maximal details. What triggered you to start designing jewellery? What is it that is so special to you?
I was on my final year at Central Saint Martins when I actually started experimenting with jewellery. I fell in love with it, from the beauty of the materials to the intricacy of the making process. I didn't understand why jewellery was simply regarded as an accessory and why there was nothing out there to disrupt that idea. I wanted to elevate it, bring it to centre stage, and redefine its importance in the industry.
Your first ‘proper’ debut in the industry arrived in Spring/Summer 2015, when you joined the Fashion East organisation in London. You’ve mentioned that “Fashion East made everything that would have seemed/been unfeasible, possible.” What is the most important thing you learned during this period, both on a personal and on a professional level?
Never stop yourself from reaching for your goals due to insecurity or a belief that you are not ‘ready’ enough. The process of striving to do something itself teaches you the lessons you need to be ‘ready’, whatever that may be for you. In my case, I never studied jewellery nor interned for a jewellery house. In fact, I was discouraged by people in the industry to pursue a career in jewellery design. But given that I had just dropped out of womenswear, I knew I had to dive in head first into my newfound passion. I studied, worked many jobs to be able to design and sell pieces here and there, met people who believed and didn’t believe in my dream and talent. All of these experiences were crucial to my understanding and growth as a designer and businessman.
Your designs speak to our demand for something sincere, peculiar, vivid and something that connects with this zeitgeist of the forward-thinking. Where do you find your inspiration to create? And what are your main influences?
It's always hard to voice where inspiration comes from, I myself never really follow a norm. They come from literally everywhere.
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Designing jewellery is quite an intricate process, do you think that there is a big difference between the process of creating womenswear and that of jewellery? And how does such a creative design process start?
It really comes down to the same factors: inspiration, prototyping, fittings, show.
You are known to celebrate individuality. You push the boundaries of male adornment and your creations are mostly defined as ‘gender-fluid’. You once said: “As clichéd as it may sound, I design for the human body, regardless of gender.” Is this also the primary message you want to convey to the fashion industry and your customers?
There has never been any discrepancy in the way I look at men and women. I didn’t start my brand with the intent to provoke or with a mission to break norms. I wanted to convey a message that embraces individuality as an organic reality, as opposed to some kind of radical statement. From a young age, I felt the way forward was to deal with normatively in a normal way. For instance, I refused to hide my gayness as a kid. If I didn’t accept it as completely natural, how could I expect others to do it? Of course, in life and business, I got caught in the system and what it entails to be ‘different’ or to go against a certain grain. I feel that, in the end, it is definitely an important thing to have that message out there.
My message is: be true to who you are, be proud of what you are, and wear whatever you want to wear. There’s nothing more empowering than that sense of self-awareness and self-love. In my experience, finding your armour helps you to stay in touch with those feelings. It grounds them in the material, in something you can see and touch. First and foremost, I consider myself a designer; the post-gender thing is a social statement indirectly attributed to the product itself. Every single brand can be part of that change no matter how traditional they consider themselves. In the end, it’s completely up to the consumer to make something of it. It’s pretty simple: Alancrocetti is for everyone who identifies with my designs.
You described your Spring/Summer 2020 collection, called Corporation, as a juxtaposition between men showing their romantic and sensitive gestures while endeavouring their fierceness, hence why they look like boxers getting out of a fight. Can you tell us more about the story behind this collection and what this project means to you personally
Corporation is a capsule collection with updated pieces from my first three collections. I was unable to produce and commercialise them then, so I wanted to honour them and make sure people understood how vital they are to my brand and its history. The shoot itself reflects a history of endurance, of the ups and downs of starting a business and building a career, falling and getting back up always learning from my wounds and being proud of my scars.
For this collection, you decided to collaborate with the Amsterdam-based photographer Ferry van Der Nat, who started his career by showcasing the natural beauty of men. What makes you decide to let Mr. Van Der Nat shoot this particular campaign? Which is pretty striking and has gone viral, by the way.
Ferry is such an incredible photographer. The shoot was about that natural beauty in its rawest form, and together with Isamaya Ffrench’s amazing makeup, we aimed to capture a realistic yet fantastic mix of textures and colours that has a violent yet poetic aspect for everything the campaign represents. I had always wanted to work with both of them so I was beyond thrilled when they showed interest in working together on this project.
During this year’s New York Fashion Week, you’ve started to collaborate with one of fashion’s greatest brands: Helmut Lang. How did you come to work with him? What did you learn by working with such a renowned figure from the industry?
Mark Thomas and Thomas Cawson were just starting this new Helmut era and I was incredibly grateful, honoured, and excited to be a part of it. They wanted me to have my take on it and it was more about merging the two brands other than having specific pieces designed for Helmut Lang alone. Their mood board was mainly their archived tailored pieces, and I thought it would work best if I also dug into my own archive to recreate ideas I had when I first started. The synchrony was great. Both Mark, Thomas, and the stylist, Carlos Nazario, are such a dream team.
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If you had to pick one piece from your collection, which would you say connects the most to you and your personality?
I feel like all the pieces and collections relate to specific parts of my personality and life, so it is hard to pick one. If I had to choose a piece that embodies my brand, I’d pick the Mini Space ear cuffs as they are casual, out-of-the-box, elegant but not pretentious.
What would you be doing if it wasn’t a career in the fashion industry?
I think my answer to the first question kind of fits here as well. It is hard to say because it would depend on my circumstances and opportunities. But what I do know is that it would have to be a career as fulfilling as designing is for me.
How do you see yourself and your brand in let’s say five years?
World domination (smiles).
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