ADROVER JOINS PEGASUS GROUP

Byline: Miles Socha

NEW YORK — There’s sawdust everywhere, the tin ceiling is drooping and broken light fixtures dangle askew.
But standing in the raw, 5,000-square-foot space that will house his new design studios and showroom on the Lower East Side here, Miguel Adrover was the picture of happiness. On Wednesday, he confirmed reports in these columns that he has signed on with the burgeoning American fashion conglomerate, Pegasus Apparel Group. Eager to get down to business, he was slated to fly to Italy today to get started on fall production and to buy fabrics for his spring 2001 collection.
“We’re enabling Miguel’s dream to become a reality,” said an ebullient Stephen L. Ruzow, chairman and chief executive officer of Pegasus. “We will have clothes in the stores for Labor Day.”
As with its partnership with Daryl K announced Monday, Pegasus assumed a majority stake in Adrover’s fledgling firm. Terms were not disclosed. Ruzow and Adrover also declined to provide sales projections for Adrover’s collection, but characterized the potential as enormous, given the torrent of critical acclaim and media coverage that has ensued since Adrover showed his breakthrough fall 2000 collection in February.
Mapping out for the first time his strategy for the business, Adrover said he will concentrate solely on developing a designer collection business. Ruzow said distribution will be tightly controlled, limited to about two dozen domestic and two dozen European accounts for the first season. Wholesale prices will range from about $120 to $2,150. Footwear is the only category cited for immediate licensing potential, and opening a freestanding Miguel Adrover store is not considered imminent.
But Adrover stressed he is eager to prove that he is as capable of generating sales as he is multipage magazine profiles.
“We are going to make money out of the dream,” he said. “If I am going into the fashion business, I’ve got to be realistic about it. I’m selling clothes, right?”
Ruzow echoed the sentiment.
“When we saw the fall collection, we were blown away by the combination of creativity and commercial potential,” Ruzow said. “Miguel has had the most incredible press we’ve ever seen, and yet I think the clothes themselves are commercially viable. I think we will see a real Miguel Adrover customer emerge as soon as the clothes are in the store.
“It’s so rare that you find the editorial and retail communities so aligned in a unanimous vote of confidence in a designer who really hasn’t even shipped yet.”
Ruzow took pains to stress that Pegasus does not plan to overwhelm Adrover’s creative process with too much management. Consequently, there are no plans to appoint a president. Instead, the business will be run by Ruzow and Adrover, with Louis Praino, executive vice president of worldwide sourcing, in charge of production.
Ruzow said he plans to hire someone to head up Adrover’s sales effort, plus an in-house public relations person, but otherwise, his tight group of collaborators remains intact. These include design director Sebastian Pons, who had been Alexander McQueen’s most senior design assistant; Jennefer Hoffmann, Adrover’s longtime personal assistant; seamstress Mei Zou; stylist Eric Damon, as well as muses Gloria and Pila Sanchez, who are also studio manager and design assistant, respectively.
Stressed Ruzow: “We don’t want Miguel Adrover to change one bit. What we need to do is leave Miguel and his team free to create.”
Patterned after European luxury conglomerates like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Gucci Group, Pegasus hopes to buy eight to 10 brands over the next two years. The Adrover acquisition is its third, following Daryl K and Pamela Dennis. As reported, Cynthia Rowley and John Bartlett are also in negotiations with Pegasus.
Over the past few months, Hoffmann said, she has been contacted by almost 100 retailers who are eager to carry Adrover’s collection. Ruzow said the fall runway looks will be quickly edited down to about 30 to 40 pieces and orders in hand will be adjusted accordingly.
“We are going to put this collection in stores that not only understand the clothes, but also the potential,” Ruzow said. “We could do a lot more volume than we want to do for fall, but we want to keep it small and special.”
Acclaimed for runway presentations and clothes rich with imagination, innovation and wit, Adrover made it clear he does not plan to change his approach to fashion. His first collection chronicled the story of a woman who journeys through a Brazilian rain forest and a revolutionary war only to end up on the streets of New York’s East Village. His fall 2000 collection was an ode to “Midtown,” which summed up the season by mixing uptown sophistication with downtown hipness.
He’s tight-lipped about his plans for his spring 2001 show in September. Asked if he planned to continue playing with references to European luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Burberry, he would only hint: “It’s been done. I’m not planning to do Burberry plaid anymore.”
But he made it clear that working for a European fashion house is not a dream of his, saying it has been a detriment to some designers’ signature collections. “I want to look after my own house,” he said. “I don’t want to clean somebody else’s house.”
Adrover said he has been contacted by LVMH and other European concerns, but his preference was to partner with an American company. He said he opted for Pegasus because of his chemistry with the principals, particularly his confidence in the abilities of Praino, who actually manufactured some of Adrover’s key pieces to demonstrate his abilities. Praino was a sourcing chief for Donna Karan.
“I’m really concerned about the quality of the clothes,” Adrover said. “People aren’t just buying a label. When something is expensive, it should be done right. I want to be proud.”
Adrover also said he plans to develop a single trademark that could span a variety of price points from $100 up, rather than segmenting the business into diffusion and jeanswear price zones.
“When I’m going to be really happy is when people buy my clothes and walk down the street,” he said.