Miguel Adrover Shares His Hard-Learned Words of Wisdom
As a designer who has known both success and failure in the fashion industry, Miguel Adrover is the kind of mentor many students should hear from, and very few do. So when Adrover was in town from his native Majorca to speak at the Initiatives in Art and Culture’s fifteenth annual fashion conference, Extraordinary: Icons, Iconoclasm, and Innovation, the Pratt Institute’s Fashion Department Chair Jennifer Minniti took advantage of the opportunity and invited him to critique the school’s graduating class of designers. “Miguel has had an incredible influence on the culture of fashion,” explained Minniti. “There’s so much commentary in his work, and it’s critical for students to understand it, so that they can understand their own vision, the practice, and the future.”
Adrover’s name is not as familiar to young fashion students as it once was. He broke onto the scene in 2000, with a critically adored collection that comprised repurposed Burberry trenchcoats and Louis Vuitton bags—a comment on luxury logo mania and consumerism. He was an early proponent of sustainable fashion (many of his garments were made from recycled clothing) and pushed the envelope in terms of fashion as social commentary. But following two Middle Eastern-inspired collections in 2001 that received mixed reviews, and his failure to turn strong profits at retail, Adrover lost the backing of his investors, and closed his namesake house. He returned to Majorca and began designing small collections for the German eco-line Hessnatur that, while well received, failed to bring the designer back to the spotlight.
His experience, hard-won, is part of what’s not taught in fashion schools. “It’s important to teach the students how this business works,” he said. “Students have an illusion of how the industry is set up…It’s all about big corporations, but I think there are a lot of people looking for an alternative to that road—because it’s a big road with lots of glamour and bling-bling. And when you get to the end of it, you die.”
Despite a comeback show in 2012, Adrover has yet to relaunch his eponymous range. (It’s not out of the question though—the designer reasons that he still has a lot to say.) However, he knows how he’d present it. “If I were showing, I’d do it in a really small place. These big runway events, with all these celebrities in the front row, it’s like [houses] need to do it to get people to respect them. And the clothing is so uninteresting these days—it speaks so little to society,” he said. “To change that, it’s a matter of these young people here.”
He seemed heartened by the students’ work that was well constructed and well conceptualized. He praised handmade fabrics like plastic chainmail and rubber-embellished jersey, and stressed the importance of pristine finishings. “They’re very individual,” he said approvingly. “They stand up for their own thing and their own techniques. They want to be authentic and create their own statement. And that’s important because it hardly happens now.”
“You need to play the game,” he conceded. “I don’t want to say names, but you need to have the top people open the doors for you. It’s hard to create a business if you don’t have the support of a big company.”
“But,” he added, “it depends on your definition of ‘making it.’ You could make things by hand, have a little store, and be happy with that. There’s no need to be everywhere.”