Whatever Happened to Miguel Adrover?

Miguel Androver
Photo: Getty Images
Designer Miguel Adrover.

When Miguel Adrover débuted at New York Fashion Week in September 1999, he seemed radical, dangerous, and terribly exciting. His first collection—“Manaus/Chiapas/New York"—presented a story arc of a wayward vagabond who escapes to NYC after being rejected by her rain forest tribe. It threw a swift curveball at the common sartorial standards of the time.

Adrover's garments were unique to the point of being bizarre: a coat from a 15-foot python snake, and a show-stopping American flag—torn apart, sewn back together, and worn as an ad-hoc dress. Though few people who witnessed his inaugural collection knew much about Adrover, those who attended fervently spread the word. A few months later, the inflammatory flag dress was sold at Linda Dresner—and featured in the pages of Vogue.

It was the beginning of a warp-speed trajectory; Adrover catapulted into fashion fame before plummeting down to earth. A Spanish-born maverick with no formal fashion training, Adrover toppled New York's alternative hierarchy at a time when American fashion craved its own provocateur. Grunge and minimalism had passed, though remnants of both aesthetics still prevailed. Adrover was quickly earmarked as the next subversive superstar.

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Photo Getty Images
A look from Miguel Adrover's Spring 2002 Collection.

He fulfilled that role with Fall 2000's “Midtown” collection, an Alexander McQueen–esque outing that turned the common tropes of the luxury business upon themselves. He appropriated Louis Vuitton logos and tore Burberry macs inside out, which thrilled spectators and (briefly) angered the British heritage brand.

“The energy of [that show] just catapulted him,” Julie Gilhart, former Fashion Director of Barneys New York, reflects. “It was the kind of show that made you feel something exciting was happening and you wanted to be a part of the fashion process that was going to start.” 

The benefits of positive feedback extended well beyond critical platitudes; Adrover soon landed an investor in new backing firm Pegasus Apparel Group, who began chasing him down only moments after the “Midtown” show was over.

“I knew he was going to be a very interesting designer,” Gilhart says of her decision to pick up the line for Barneys that season. Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, as well as many independent boutiques followed, and Adrover went on to make $5 million in sales that year.

The uneasy collision of highbrow and street culture that formed the thematic crux of Adrover's brand set him apart from his peers—but sometimes the juxtaposition could feel borderline offensive. A great deal of unpleasant press surrounds Adrover's “Utopia” collection, which he unveiled at Spring 2002 New York Fashion Week, just a day and a half before the Twin Towers fell.

In theory, that showing was an exploration of rustic ideals of Old Spain colliding with modern dress. As documented by the media, it was a romantic take on Taliban culture—already topical anathema days before Americans were attacked on their own turf.  

“It was bad timing,” Adrover admits. “People got it confused. And I suffered for it. I was investigated by the CIA. I thought New York was about people coming together; suddenly, we all took 10 steps back in our personal freedoms.” The arsenal of industry goodwill Adrover had amassed in less than two years was starting to crumble.

Miguel Androver

Photo courtesy of Hessnatur

A suit designed by Miguel Adrover for Hessnatur's Spring 2011 collection.

Following September 11, Pegasus went bankrupt, deserting Adrover as well as other young clients like Pamela Dennis and Daryl K. Buyers like Gilhart and Linda Dresner stated their displeasure in Pegasus's involvement with Adrover's line, believing it led to gross mismanagement.

“I was not happy with them [Pegasus],” Adrover confirms. “Everyone warned me. They tried to push me too fast, too soon. At the same time, I was able to hire an amazing, talented group of people to work for me—and to pay them well.”

When Pegasus withdrew funds, Adrover was forced to streamline his business—drastically. Nothing from the “Utopia” collection would be made, despite the fact that retailers responded with more enthusiasm than critics to that particular showing.

Left to his own devices, Adrover regrouped and refocused, taking a year off to reconfigure his business. He had $45,000 in savings left—and spent it all on producing his own shows.

In 2004, Adrover reemerged with “Surreal Real World," a dual-seasonal showing of both men's and women's looks, entirely self-financed and staged in front of his studio. That collection and its successor, “The Americans," enjoyed cult success among certain critical circles, but logistical challenges (i.e., not having the funds to pay for delivery) meant that Adrover's shipments to stores were often late, leading many to drop his line. Adrover's operation, already on an emaciated budget, soon became unsustainable.

After presenting a final collection (one jacket was memorably emblazoned with the words “Anyone seen a backer?”), Adrover quit the New York fashion world. “Bush was re-elected and I gave up,” he quips. “I didn't want to live in a country torn by war I didn't believe [in] anymore. And I spent all my savings. It was time to go.”

After living in New York nearly 16 years, he migrated back to his native Majorca, where he still resides and owns a café.

Given his absence on the American design scene, many may assume Adrover simply retired unceremoniously, but in fact, he's enjoying a healthy career designing for German catalog label Hessnatur, for whom he creates popular eco-friendly capsule collections. Stateside fans will finally be able to purchase those wares this spring, when Hessnatur's American online store finally launches.

“I've always been socially conscious,” Adrover explains. “I've always worked with the concept of sustainable fashion, even in my early work. Now my challenge is to find great eco-friendly materials to work with and design a line that sells, but that the fashion world also recognizes. That's the next step; that's the baby we're trying to create.”