In Conversation with...Alan Crocetti

Breathing new life into jewelry design, the Brazilian-born and London-based designer Alan Crocetti redefines the codes of traditional jewelry making by opting for gender fluid, sophisticated, and thought-provoking aesthetics. He explained his creative vision and future plans to NOWFASHION and revealed what it takes to build his own eponymous brand.

Alan Crocetti. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

Apparently you quit CSM on the eve of graduation – what made you leave this famous school at the very last moment, and how was your experience studying there? 

I was told I wouldn’t be able to show my final collection in the internal show but I would still receive my diploma. I didn’t go there for a piece of paper, so without the show I was not at all interested in carrying on. I feel like I was at my best when I respectfully confronted my tutors and went ahead with what I had in mind for my collection. You can’t teach someone how to be creative, but you can learn how to stand your ground with the things that matter. I take my ideas very seriously.

Starting an eponymous brand today is quite a risky business (especially if you consider that the fashion industry is saturated with brands). What was the most challenging part of launching your jewelry brand? 

Everything was a challenge. I had just spent 4 years training to be a womenswear designer and, somehow, starting my jewelry brand the moment I dropped out of CSM was seen as bold and risky. I never put that kind of pressure on myself to be or do something at a certain moment. I did not see the world the way many of my classmates seemed to. I was already the oldest in my class and without the privileges a majority of the other students had; as a result, my brain disassociated from the others. I was able to remain aware of my limitations along with my will to thrive. Kids are always cornered regarding choices they are pressured to make. Some of us don’t really know until we know, and that’s alright. I had to be very focused, learning everything in a non-methodical way. I had to dive head-first into the whole world of jewelry making. My first ever collection was the one I showed at Fashion East. It was like the world was my school and the presentations were my tests. But I was being judged by the big dogs in a cutthroat industry. I always felt I had a message to bring, one free of strategic intent. It was simply the core of me as a person and designer. Once I felt I had established my voice, the next step was the hardest, the business behind it.

Alan Crocetti's EROTICA collection. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

In many brand profiles about you, it's written that you want to go "beyond basics." What do you consider to be basic and how can one push the boundaries of jewelry design? 

I don’t really like using the word “basic” because it’s very subjective. A spike Mohawk can be basic depending on the context. I try working with ideas I’ve never seen before while avoiding things that feel too familiar as well as trying to  create my own mechanisms. 

My work’s starting point comes more from an anatomic perspective than the simple drive of having to create an earring or a ring. I like analyzing the body and I don't underestimate its parts. 

Gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones…those are the classic noble materials that you use to craft your pieces. Are there any other materials that you've experimented with or that you'd like to work with? 

For now, not particularly. Beyond quality, I value durability. So I avoid materials like brass. 

I would like to think that my pieces are more than ephemeral fashion and hope they are passed on to future generations. While I do love gold, I care more about expanding my demographic. My pieces are not so small, and people's purchasing power would decrease. I want to see people wearing my jewelry, not just wanting them. Maybe in a future with another line or with more delicate pieces this will change, but it’s not something I’m thinking about at the moment.

"Control," "Endurance," "Anarchy," "Odyssey," and "Fixation" are my favorite collections…can you tell us more about how you proceed when you work on themes?

The themes of my collections are very much connected to my emotions. We are all a combination of strengths and weaknesses, and I try to bring all of that into my work. With every collection, I try to relate to our brightest and darkest sides. There’s beauty in both, and no parts should ever be taken for granted.

Alan Crocetti's EROTICA collection. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

The rose seems to be a recurrent element throughout your work. Why is it so special to you?

My first rose earring was designed at what felt like the turning point of a time when I was really struggling in my personal life. To me, the rose represents not just endurance and strength, but a reminder of fragility and vulnerability as well.

Would you say that your Brazilian cultural heritage is influencing the way you design? If so, which pieces precisely? Belo Horizonte is quite famed for its knitwear factories. Has craftsmanship from this region influenced you somehow?

When I left Brazil 12 years ago, my main contact with the industry was my parents’ knitwear factory. It wasn’t as creative though, as they used to manufacture pieces for other brands.

I started learning all about jewelry here in London, so I cant say Brazil has influenced me in that sense. However, my collection ODYSSEY was heavily inspired by Brazilian modernists Oscar Niemeyer and Burle Marx. Niemeyer had designed the area I used to live in Belo Horizonte (Pampulha Lake and the structures around it) prior to developing the capital Brasilia. Somehow his aesthetics and futuristic projections have always touched home and influenced my work.

There's a toughness to your designs, and yet they're somehow both feminine and masculine, gender-fluid as most people would say. Do you consider yourself a post-gender designer? What is your opinion on gender-fluidity in fashion? 

There is toughness in both male and female. There has never been any discrepancy in the way I look at them. I didn’t start my brand with the intent to provoke or with any mission of breaking norms. I wanted to convey with my work 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 normativity 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?

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 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 armor 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.

What sells or not in fashion today seems to be dictated by a crowd of influencers and the performance of their social media accounts. How do you feel about that, and about the relationship between influencers and fashion brands in general? Are you happy to gift influencers with your pieces, or is it not something that is part of your brand philosophy? 

I like to pay attention to the people who appreciate my work and who I share some common values with. Follower counts do not influence my choices when gifting my pieces. That being said, there have certainly been times when I have refused to send pieces out to very famous people and influencers. In the past, I didn’t have much money, so now I try not to sell myself short.

Alan Crocetti's EROTICA collection. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

Your last presentation in Paris was otherworldly, to say the least. Please tell us more about the idea behind this provocative jewelry installation. 

At first, EROTICA wasn't about overtly sexualizing the body; it was about the fetishization of jewelry itself. In this collection I wanted to disconnect the object from its purpose and simply appreciate it for what it is in all its forms. The presentation pieces with Esmay Wageman spoke to the eroticism of body modification, evolution and adaptation, how we are constantly changing and emphasizing different parts of our body. I was very obsessed with knuckles. They felt like unexplored territory, and I was interested in how sensual they could be. So I created the Armadillo and Halo joint rings. I worked with the amazing cello player Patrick Belaga to convey those ideas with music and movement, to show how the rings could be sexy, yet also liberating and functional – that they could extend to his fingers with no limitations.

Would you consider collaborations with other designers or artists? What are you looking for when you team up with somebody else? 

I’m always drawn to the idea of working with artists across different medias. At the end of the day, everything in life is about how, as individuals, we integrate with our surroundings. Whether we’re co-relating in the same environment or decontextualized from it, the results are always fascinating, even in its more extreme aspects. 

I don’t usually have a formula of what I think could work – sometimes I just see it happening. I love diving into people’s worlds and sharing a bit of mine.

What's up next for you in 2019? Any new plans / events / projects you want to announce? 

There’s so much going on. I’m launching a small capsule collection in June along with a new collaboration. My next collection will be out in Paris in October. I’m working with some pretty amazing artists. That’s all I can say.