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Can He Make It as the Comeback Kid of Fashion Design?

Up one minute, down the next. Miguel Adrover is banking on his upcoming show


NEW YORK — With a touch of bitterness, designer Miguel Adrover speaks of being a rising star one season and not even mentioned the next. He's trying to move on. "I need to believe in myself and my work and not pay attention to others."

Still, a successful comeback rides on his 20-minute show Saturday night at the Bryant Park tents and the critical response to his spring 2003 collection after missing a season. Hailed as the hot new thing after his debut two years ago when he sent a coat made from pal Quentin Crisp's mattress ticking down the runway, he scored what every designer dreams of: a deep-pocketed backer.

But no sooner had he signed on with Pegasus Apparel Group then things soured. "They wanted to grow too fast," he said last week. "This is not Coca-Cola."

Working From Home

Late last year, Adrover ditched his corporate digs and severed his relationship with the conglomerate. And now the 36-year-old son of an almond farmer in Majorca, Spain, finds himself again working from home and sinking nearly his entire savings ($45,000) into the comeback show.

Sewing through the night with four friends who help him after they leave their day jobs, Adrover is so wound up, he barely has time to eat.

"Just to do the collection for us is a goal because we express ourselves through clothes," he said from his Chrystie Street home studio. "Right now, it's important for us to say something. More than just if it was a quiet time. The world is going kind of crazy."

Two days before last year's terrorist attacks, Adrover presented his fifth collection, called Utopia, which was inspired by the Middle East. With models in caftans and head-to-toe veils, the show had the feel of an Arab souk. It was actually a statement about women, said Adrover, who is half Arab and half Jewish and has traveled extensively in Egypt. "I live in New York 14 years and I see how the Western world mistreats women in ad campaigns, in entertainment, the woman is always an object of sex and desire, not an intellectual on the same level as a man."

Like others, he was horrified by the World Trade Center attacks. He remembers the day well. His father, Sebastian, was in town from Spain for the show. While out at the market, he saw the first plane hit. He woke his son to tell him that it didn't look like an accident. "I despise people who use violence," Adrover says. "I lived with terrorism in Spain; every day something would blow up."

Selling at Discounters

Even before his last show, the fashion press began to dismiss Adrover and moved on to the next hot new designer. His clothes were selling in Neiman Marcus but also were showing up on the racks at discount retailer Loehmann's.

Trends don't mean anything, the designer continues. "How many people in this world look at fashion magazines? Twenty percent of the population? So many people don't feel represented, they feel horrible if they don't wear their hair a certain way or that they are not beautiful if they are not skinny. That has to change."

Not that he isn't interested in a new backer and in his own perfume someday. "I'm good at perfumes," he says. His new collection, dedicated to New York and to peace, will feature shoes, made by Lottusse, based in his village. They will be the only reminder of home; his father won't be making the trek. "He's still a little afraid," Adrover says.

For now, he and his volunteer design team continue to work day and night. "I feel I have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders," Adrover says.

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