Six months ago, Miguel Adrover jokingly posted “The Designer Miguel Adrover Is Dead” on Instagram. This Saturday, the explanation behind that self-transformation will be unveiled in an art installation in Majorca.
Saturday’s opening will be a village-wide blowout with a bonfire, loads of relatives and much merriment. The former “It” kid of New York’s fashion scene pulled the plug years ago, returning to Majorca to open a bar, tend his garden, Airbnb his 770-year-old house and hang out with his family. From afar, his escape plan might sound like the quintessential in-another-life career plan, but Adrover spoke candidly about the erratic days that led to him defeating demons, ditching his cellphone and examining his inner self. Through a collaboration with Tristan Favre, he will unveil “Death With Roasted Peppers,” an installation that has the art world calling. The designer-turned-photographer also still has a few major league fashion companies knocking on his door, including a digital behemoth.
He is keeping a gimlet eye on all those designers who have taken an interest in upcycling and repurposing luxury labels. And he doesn’t need reminding that trench coats are once again front-and-center in many forms. Surprisingly tuned in for a guy who has wholeheartedly embraced the simple village life, Adrover is not about to rule out a return to fashion. Nearing midnight Wednesday, he brought WWD up to speed about his new life.
WWD: Are you getting ready for Saturday’s opening?
Miguel Adrover: It’s like showtime. I am a little overwhelmed with everything. I’m doing everything on my own. In New York, we used to have a minimum of 40 people working on a show. Here, I’m doing it with my assistant and a few friends from the village. It’s not exactly a gallery. It’s a really old house — about 400 years old. It was a gallery in the Eighties. Through my friends here, we met the owner, a ceramic artist, who moved here from Paris. Somehow it was just all natural how it happened.
WWD: How are things in Majorca?
M.A.: I’m living in the countryside, not even in the village, almost close to the forest. It’s 10 minutes walking to town. I’m really close to my mom and dad. Where I live, the house is 770 years old. I have electricity but it’s like a cave, too. There are five generations of my family here. When I came back to Majorca three years ago from New York, I started to work in the garden. Right now, I have almost 3,500 tulips blooming. Some of this will be part of my show, too. I have almost 400 types of roses. This has really been helping me to come back and to look in the mirror to try to find something.
WWD: Do you miss New York?
M.A: Living in the big city, you lose perspective of who you are. Do you know what I mean? You create this character for yourself. It was really hard for me to find myself — not my outside, my inside, who I was. I have a well where we collect the water. It was abandoned close to one of the properties of my mom and dad. I left alcohol and a lot of demons and devils out there. I didn’t drink a lot in New York but to maintain the speed and energy — like everybody in the big cities. When I got here, I psychoanalyzed myself in my own way. Clothing had become my necessity for expressing myself. Clothing was always my biggest companion for the fight for equality. Clothes are so powerful in the way that people look at you and classify you. In the industry, with every presentation, the selling and the whole production, I was kind of like, “Get out of my way.”
WWD: How do you spend your time?
M.A.: What I have been doing involved being closed within myself. I have become totally self-sufficient. For months, I didn’t need to go to the market because my family provided me with chickens, turkey and everything. That really helped me out to create this fairy tale that I have inside myself. I’m 52, I guess. I don’t even remember if I’m 51 or 52. But I’m supposed to be dead somehow because of what happened in the Eighties with AIDS. I had so many friends who passed away when I was 18. Somehow I got back down here, where I came from.
WWD: Are you enjoying living in Majorca?
M.A.: Seeing the world on the Internet, it doesn’t matter where you are. You share in something. It is not about you, it is about us. I don’t want to get too deep. But now I have opened the windows and the doors of my house and you can see inside my heart. Physically and metaphorically, I have been a very open person and I look to the world and Mother Earth. We’re given a life and we’re supposed to be happy with that, not more than that. Yet we try to find happiness down the road. Happiness is planned these days. At the end of the road, there is a sign that says, ‘Happiness, Fame, Richness, Greed and Beauty.’ But if you take that road, you never reach that. And you see a lot of people crashing on the side of the road. Happiness doesn’t come from that, and I’ve been there.
WWD: Do you miss fashion?
M.A.: In the room where I sleep, I have a poster of myself on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily as the new young star. Talking to you right now feels like such a surreal situation. I’m on the other side of the world in a village of 800 people and that’s so powerful.
WWD: How would you describe your new life?
M.A.: What I’m going to show Saturday is an apocalyptic and kind of grotesque view. A lot of people from the art world are coming. It is hard to describe. It has so many connections to so many things. I don’t really have any knowledge of that. I just learn what they tell me. I am using a $160 camera that we used for family holidays. I never did photography before in my life. When I was working in the well for so many months, I was thinking. I got sick. My Mom and Dad were worried because I was like possessed with it. I don’t know how to explain it. I went inside there and I wasn’t in touch with anybody. I don’t use human beings because I don’t trust them for photography. Girls and models pretend or act to do something or to show an emotion. But in the end, it’s not true. I’ve done the art without having a customer in my mind or whether people will like it or not.
WWD: What do you think about fashion now?
M.A.: I do see the industry catching up with me from what I was doing almost eight years ago. Like Vetements, everybody is doing what I did before like repurposing. If you look at the catwalk, there is so much of that. But at the same time the whole energy and emotion [behind my fashion work] has been lost, in a way. It’s going to be a trend. When I was doing it, it was about the power of labels taking over ourselves. But now big corporations like LVMH are associating with avant-garde designers. It’s really confusing, somehow.
WWD: Do you follow fashion?
M.A.: Yeah, through YouTube. I have Internet. I’m really connected with the world. I know what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, in Germany and the United States. One of the biggest struggles I am having is not being in the U.S. I have to say, I really miss being in the spotlight and having a voice. Trump hurts my heart.
WWD: Are you working on any fashion collaborations?
M.A.: I’m going to speak to a few companies but it’s confidential. I have to say with my new work, I can do campaigns and photo shoots. It’s a new perspective of how we see ourselves. I do still have a lot of [fashion] people reaching out to me. My philosophy is more alive than ever before. It’s important and much more valuable to have a point of view from somebody who has been up-and-down like Six Flags in New Jersey. I’ve been there.
WWD: Do you have a job? Didn’t you open a bar?
M.A.: No, that’s rented. It’s been seven months since they paid me. Business is not that good on that side. I do have my house, which I Airbnb. I wash the towels and the sheets, so the garden and the yard. I do have a job, yeah — big time. I meet everybody in the village in front of the church with my big brown hat so they can recognize me. A bunch of people from the industry come year after year to rent the place. They think I have this magical, kind of decadent colony — the 770-blah-blah-blah-years-old house. I really love gardening. I have coconut trees and banana trees. I love meeting on the square. People from New York come superstressed out. There is a bottle of wine and my watermelon is all set up. There’s a terrace and it’s kind of cave-y. The lights are on and the garden is all set up. It’s lovely, isn’t it? Two hundred fifty dollars a night for four people.
WWD: Which designers do you like now?
M.A.: John Galliano, Margiela, Vivienne Westwood — but I prefer her instead of the new guy. I can see a difference there. Vivienne, for me, is not just the designer but “mother punky.” In the late Seventies and early Eighties, I was in London in [her] Sex shop on King’s Road. It was not about fashion. It was much more than that. I just love, love, love her. I don’t know what happened there. I like Vaqera, which put my face on their T-shirts during New York Fashion Week. A lot of people reached out to me after that. I’m just watching a lot of shows. There are so many. I can’t keep up with everybody. I like to watch Central St. Martins and also the Parsons shows. Somebody, who has no experience selling is always more interesting.
WWD: Do you ever think about returning to New York?
M.A.: When you come back to New York, the whole city is moving around so quickly. All these neighborhoods have disappeared, in a way. You get there and you feel like a tourist, almost. Of course. I would come down there to work for a couple of years. I am really recharged now but I would need a garden.
WWD: What is the meaning of your new show?
M.A.: It’s a saying here in the village. When you see something that you don’t know what it is, you say, “Oh my God, it looks like death with peppers.” When I was in a punk rock band and I had a mohawk and wore a really long skirt of my mom’s, I went to my friend’s house and his mom said I looked like death with peppers. This sounds really crazy, but I said, “roasted.” The work I am presenting now is somehow a tapestry of what I have done. Behind every image that I am showing is a longer story. Combined, there are almost 200 images in the installation. Because I have been out of touch for so long, I’m opening up so that people can see inside of me. I have been so alone for so long that I don’t know how to interact that much anymore. I’m kind of like Kim Basinger with that people-phobia [referring to reports of the actress’ social phobia.] I don’t have a mobile [phone] so I don’t have people calling me. I have only had an answering machine for a month. But being disconnected has been such an important part of my work now.
WWD: What’s planned for the opening?
M.A.: It will be an installation. People from my village will have a big fire and a party on a big patio with a big, big old tree. There will be three dishes that you fry in olive oil. My mom, my aunts, cousins and everyone will be there with little cakes. It will be out of control. It’s out of control in the country just like in the city. I have three dogs and two cats here. I have my neighbors’ horses but I prefer not to take care of them. It’s a lot of work. I do ride horses, when my friends let me.
WWD: Will your new work be sold?
M.A.: It’s kind of ornery to talk about money, isn’t it? But not in America, OK. My work will go from $3,000 to $15,000. It’s not that expensive when you see it and the framing. I also have a collaboration with Tristan Favre. I’m talking to The New School’s Parsons School of Design and galleries like Gagosian. All these crazy galleries are contacting us. The art world is probably like fashion. Another industry that I will have to deal with.