It can happen any season. Somebody-then everybody-decides there’s a young star designer out there. A single fashion show becomes the Show. It’s held downtown, somewhere gritty and inconvenient. And, odds are, half of the people in the seats have never heard of the prodigy before. They’re there because of who else is there.
Right in the middle of New York’s fall 2000 fashion shows, at around 8 P.M. on Feb. 6, as fashion editors put in appearances around the pool of Diane Von Furstenberg’s West Village carriage house, this year’s show-to-be-at had been decided.
“Are you going to Miguel?” asked a French fashion editor, nervously checking her watch and casting an eye toward the door.
At 9 P.M., Miguel Adrover, 34, had arranged to show his second collection ever at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center at 107 Suffolk Street. No invitations had been sent out. It wasn’t on any schedule. Assistants of those who wanted to attend had to be dispatched to the 57th Street offices of publicist Marion Greenberg to beg for passes: a dollar bill with the address stamped on it.
Inside the theater, in a low-ceilinged room with a T-shaped catwalk and loud, classical piano music playing, the room grew overcrowded. Designer Nicole Miller; Vogue creative director Grace Coddington; New York Times Magazine stylist Anne Christensen; and Harper’s Bazaar editor at large Brana Wolf, filed into the front row next to Vogue editor Anna Wintour. There was no run-of-show program with which to follow along, and the lights were dimmed so that they just illuminated the runway.
The show delivered a quiet rebellion against the rich-bitch look being shown by older, established designers. Volunteer models wore Burberry’s trench coats, an Hermès belt or a swatch cut from a piece of Louis Vuitton luggage sewn onto it-trademark labels, twisted out of context for emphasis. A Burberry coat was turned inside out and worn backwards and rebelted, with the label front and center. A parody of the gray flannel suit featured one pair of pants cut open at the crotch, pulled over the head, with the arms in the legs, worn as a jacket, cinched by an Hermès logo belt. Even Yankees caps had been sewn into the shoulders of a plain navy sweatshirt.
“Other shows are like catalogues,” Mr. Adrover said after the event. “My show is an adventure … I tried to represent the streets of New York. Like a rich, chic lady from uptown and a hip, chick lady from downtown. Mix it together and represent the street. Rich class, poor class, and at the end of the day, all walking on the same street … The street doesn’t have class.”
Then there was the Victorian-style suit, complete with a knee-length jacket, which Mr. Adrover claimed he made from a mattress that belonged to the writer and actor Quentin Crisp. “When he died, they put all his stuff on the street,” said Mr. Adrover, who was a neighbor of Crisp’s. “And I was trying to show a little bit about how hard it can be living on the street. And I just took it home and pulled it apart and created a nice, tailored suit. The stains? It doesn’t matter. Life is hard, I will say.”
He added: “I hate label whores.”
But the label whores just adore Mr. Adrover. The day after the show, under the tents in Bryant Park, he was news: He’s got so much humor! He’s really pushing the envelope! I’ve been watching him for a while.
Women’s Wear Daily put the Burberry’s dress on its Feb. 7 cover and called Mr. Adrover “New York’s New Star.” And Cathy Horyn, in The New York Times , raved until she was reduced to a one-word sentence: “Wonderful.” Vogue.com called him “one of the most creative new talents on the fashion scene.” Burberry’s, now on a tireless mission to become hip, was initially less than pleased, and considered legal action. By Feb. 18, the company had cooled off.
“After the show, my head was like a balloon,” said the designer, who seemed to be hiding out at the offices of Ms. Greenberg, who is his pro bono publicist-at least for now. “I’ve got so many messages and everything. I am overwhelmed.… But if you think I’ve got a minute to relax? It’s not like that. You have a whole other show to do.”
He was munching on leftover Valentine’s Day candy. “Valentine’s is for losers,” he said.
“All my editors tell me he’s the next big thing,” Ms. Wintour told Women’s Wear Daily .
Mr. Adrover’s story has become an urban fashion legend, and “it’s a long story, baby!” he said. He was born on the Spanish island Majorca, in a town of 200; his parents are almond farmers. He dropped out of school at age 12 and, a few years later, headed off to London where, while working as a janitor in hotels, he started to become a regular at nightclubs.
“It was punk,” he said. “The New Romantics.” It was also in London that he first got interested in fashion and met Alexander McQueen, who is now the designer for Givenchy. “I fell into fashion accidentally,” said Mr. Adrover. “It just comes up, you know? I have a passion for clothes. Alexander is a good friend of mine, and I collaborated with him for several years, for about five or six seasons. It was not a job, it was helping a good friend.”
He moved to New York in 1991 and began to design T-shirts under the label DOGG. They sold at Patricia Field, a store on East Eighth Street, and overseas in Japan. Four years ago, he opened his own store, called Horn, on East Ninth Street. It’s filled with his own quirky, one-of-a-kind clothes and sometimes those of friends. Rarely, there’s an Alexander McQueen showpiece hanging on the rack.
Despite the store, his studio and a wealth of connections, a big part of the legend is that this guy is destitute. In the chairs at Bryant Park, it was repeated over and over again. He’s only got $13! He lives in a 300-square-foot basement! How poor, how untrained, how raw.
“He’s famously impoverished,” said Glenn Belverio, who interviewed Mr. Adrover for the fashion magazine Dutch . “He obviously doesn’t come from wealth. And I think often people who come from poor backgrounds are keyed into esthetic things. Like style. I think there’s something more genuine about their interest and the way they express it.”
“It was a brilliant sendup of the whole Burberry plaid thing,” said Mr. Belverio. “It was uncanny how he was able to focus on that and subvert it. I mean, this is someone who can’t afford trend reports !”
Mr. Adrover’s condition encouraged stylists, models and publicists to work for free. “He doesn’t have any money at all,” said Eric Daman, a stylist who worked 12- and 13-hour days for a month preparing for the show. “We’d all bring food to eat, we’d all share food. That kind of thing. It’s like a big paradox, that he can’t buy a bagel at the deli, but has the cover of Women’s Wear Daily saying he’s a big star. He still can’t afford to buy cigarettes.”
“I live in a small apartment,” Mr. Adrover said. “So it just shows that creativity can come from anywhere. It has nothing to do with money. It’s not a lucky thing. I worked day and night for many months. Sacrificing eating to buy fabric.”
Last September, Mr. Adrover presented his first collection at the spring shows-a lesser version of this year’s event. He described it as the story of a Brazilian woman who was kicked out of her rain forest home by loggers. She migrates to Mexico, where she joins the Zapatista rebels, and then to New York, where she winds up homeless, wearing a resewn American flag.
“Even though it wasn’t a great retail success,” said Linda Dresner, owner of the eponymous Park Avenue boutique and the only retailer who regularly carries Mr. Adrover’s clothes, “I still very much admired his point of view.”
But an event in November kept Mr. Adrover’s reputation alive. Vogue asked to photograph some pieces for an upcoming issue. According to Mr. Adrover, every single item was stolen from a closet in the magazine’s offices. Vogue confirmed the story. “It was upsetting, but in a way it was kind of flattering,” he said. “I mean, when I realized someone was really behind it, I was like, ‘Wow!’ Because there were a lot of things from other designers there, things that were much more expensive. And they didn’t take the things from the other designers. They took my stuff .”
Barneys New York ordered a number of pieces from the new collection the week of Feb. 14. And, Mr. Adrover claimed, he’s hearing offers from various backers.
“Maybe I’ll sign with a big house,” he said. “It depends on the house. I’ve got to hear offers, and I’m getting some offers. But with the press I’ve been getting, you know, cover of Women’s Wear Daily , New York’s new star, well, the investors look at that. You’re going to get a backer.”