Adrian Alicea is an award-winning fashion designer and creative director based in New York City. Born in Puerto Rico, Alicea moved to the Big Apple at the age of only three. Not knowing that the city would lead him to be the established fashion and costume designer he is today. Invited to walk for Thierry Mugler’s costume by Rae Dawn Chong at only 21, from there his career took off. With having an accomplished resume under his name and working with brands like Hermes, Giorgio Armani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Gianfranco Ferre, Vivienne Westwood, and Patricia Fields and even getting the opportunity to walk the runway with supermodels Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Veruschka von Lehndorff, Alicea slid into the fashion industry with style and grace with his brilliant designs and visionary fashion sense.
Why did you choose fashion design as a career?
I don’t know if I actually chose fashion design as a career. I think it chose me a lot. Well, in a nutshell, I was first a dancer and then I got into modeling and from the modeling just to go forward. I tried other things, I did carpentry, gymnastics, a few things, even a little bit of interior design, window display. I did a few and ended up doing fashion. And because I didn’t go to school for fashion, first of all, this is just something that became a passion when I learned how to drape, cut, and sew.
So I just learned how to do it. And I’m not the best sewer in the world, but I do a pretty good job. And the people who have ordered and own my designs, they have no complaints.
What do you love about being a fashion designer?
That I can make or create whatever I want. That’s the end, and that’s one of the reasons and I think what is my favorite reason. It’s to see the expression on their faces, man, woman, or child or whatever I make a piece for when I make pieces.
Who are your top three fashion inspirations and why?
I’m going to say I’ve been inspired and I know how much that came from my ancestors, my mother, you know, she had seven girls and three boys. So I’m number nine. I’m the ninth child. So she just used to sew for my sisters, them all by hand, never with a machine. So when we were little, she used to make them tutus. And my sisters all had to have the same outfit. She would dress them all the same. So it must have been mom, you know.
So many people that have influenced me, especially Europeans. Mostly European designers, catch my design, my attention.
What advice would you give to young fashion designers, stylists, and creators?
Well to each, I would tell them to just believe in their heart and it has to come from, again, the gut, the gut would tell you. So most people are afraid, of course, if you put, let’s say, a zebra print shoe with a giraffe print bag and. Well, that doesn’t go. But if you feel like you want to change it up and do it, then do it.
What are some of the most memorable celebrities you have worked with?
I’m going to say Zoe Saldana from Avatar, remember her? Yes, she was a great, great woman. She still is. I’m sure it’s been a minute, but I styled her with my partner, Nicole a while ago. Maybe six, seven years ago. But she was just amazing. I’ve done a few people, you know, I’ve done some great people, but yeah, they’re great people. Celebrities are great to work with. Remember, they’re almost as shy as you.
What is fashion to you?
Well, I’ve learned that it’s not about fashion, it’s about style. And that’s a big thing. But fashion. You make the fashion, so we make fashion pieces like these two beauties (motioned to beautiful gowns behind him) and then you style it to your liking so when you purchase it or you own it, [sic] the fashion to me is I love it. I love the way that it is produced. I love the way it’s created. I love the way it’s shown. And there are so many artists out there, many designers that show it in different forms. And especially I’ve learned that in America they criticize like a red carpet if it’s not like a beautiful long gown and nice hair. They criticize it and trash it and assume that it’s horrible.
Okay, you know, even J-Lo in Chanel, she looked great, but I’ve seen a long trench coat and white pants, beautiful. That is acceptable. It’s something approachable in some ways, but when it’s out of the box they go, oh, how dare she? And what is that?
How has the pandemic impacted your brand?
It was good and bad. I lost a brother last year, on April 13th. He passed. Yeah. And I never really told the public. But on January 31st of this year, I got infected. And it changed my life and it happened during a photoshoot, we got comfortable. Somebody had it, you know, would never say the name. And I don’t know. But somebody, but he had it and they gave it to me. Then it triggered on, I think I passed it on to three people, but I was the only one hospitalized. I’ve been at the hospital now one month. I spent eighty-eight days here really badly, like lost 20 pounds. I, I basically had to learn how to walk again. I couldn’t even walk. It was the worst thing that I spent 12 days at the hospital. I caught pneumonia. I get to share this with you because I would like to speak the truth. Most people don’t think about it and they say, oh, but You know, you don’t think it could happen to you, but you never know who you around and it just can happen. As far as the pandemic, the hoodies and the sweatsuits did well because everybody was staying home like I was doing right.
The high fashion pieces a few people were just ordered to rent and do for issues. So there will be rentals and then some people will buy as well. But the majority of the high fashion was rentals, the sportswear, it was selling like hotcakes. Yeah, and it still is. People just like, oh, I’ll take a hoodie, I’ll take a pair of sweatpants because that’s what we do.
What were some of the most challenging fashion pieces you’ve created?
There were some challenges on the big when you do couture big pieces and you’re adding tons of feathers and depending on the piece, they’re all intricate pieces to work on, as these stresses [sic] sometimes like this could take three days on just one of these. So [sic] but they need a bigger wedding gown. I did a wedding gown, my first wedding gown for a friend of mine named Dawn Sanders. That took me about three weeks to make that dress. It was a lot, maybe a month that that was probably the most challenging and the most nerve-racking because she was getting married and I never did a wedding dress. So that was a big deal.
What are some important aspects do you think should be included in fashion?
I think in fashion, you must right now, of course, we should be sustainable if you can grab an old piece, cut it up and change it and do something new to it. That’s amazing! And also, of course, color. Don’t be afraid to use color, the diverse, not only with the fashion designs, but the models use models from every country, every color, every aspect of the world. I think that is very important. And even height might change at the height and size of models and gender. I’ve done it.
No, talk to me. I’m an open book. There’s no filter here.
With the new year of 2021, the world of fashion never stops. Adrian Alicea continues to indulge creatively with his costumes and fashion designs. By adding streetwear type of attire and purses to his signature collection of designs, he only seems to be becoming a much more divine designer in the industry. To follow along on Alicea’s journey through the fashion industry, follow him on Instagram. You can also visit his website for information about designing inquiries, pictures of past collections, and other things related to his fashion brand.