Madame Paulette Takes Adrian Alicea to the Cleaners

Adrian Alicea & John Mahdessian
All photos Laurel Marcus

Having lived at the periphery of the fashion business for the past several decades first as a model, then a dancer, as half of a design partnership and now on his own, Adrian Alicea shows no signs of giving up. I met him and saw some of his creations at a cocktail party last night given in his honor for his latest Adrian Alicea Haute Couture collection at high-end dry cleaner Madame Paulette. Alicea says that he’s seen some of the great ones start out and eventually pass him by including Marc Jacobs. “He used to tell me he was going to be a big designer one day so I say good for him!” said the tall, tattooed and devil horn-capped Alicea.

The scene

Along the way of the path or trajectory that his career has taken, Alicea met and modeled for designers including Thierry Mugler, Giorgio Armani, and Jean Paul Gautier. He came to know and idolize Vivienne Westwood after being cast by Malcolm McLaren for “the world’s first international vogue music video” where he danced alongside Grace Jones. Embodying his current incarnation as some sort of nouveau pirate he also let drop that he had worked with photographer Steven Meisel who shot Linda Evangelista in a spiked wrestling helmet of his and former design partner Nico Urquiza’s creation for the cover of Italian Vogue.

Adrian Alicea resort collection

His decidedly sexy clothes are often favored by and shown on the transgender or gender fluid community as demonstrated by his most recent Spring/Summer 2016 show at the New Yorker Hotel on September 11. He notes that everything is handmade in his studio/apartment on 129th Street and is inspired by color, dance and his Latino and Taino Indian roots. The party featured a male and a female model who were really “werq-ing” it in several of his flowy creations.

Adrian Alicea collection

Serving as host was John Mahdessian, president of Madame Paulette, who you may be familiar with from the small screen in your living room. He is the boyfriend of Dorinda Medley of RHONY (See New York Post article). I noted that the last time I attended a soiree at Madame Paulette’s it was for designer Victor de Souza, which attracted an entirely different crowd due to de Souza’s following of socialites including Jean Shafiroff, Joy Marks and Chiu-Ti Jansen.

“Walking the walk”

In attendance tonight were several male models, photographers and various primarily fashion industry friends of the designer. At one point Alicea pointed out a two-page spread of his designs in Rare Fashion Magazine which someone had brought over. Featured were some outerwear pieces adorned with what looked like monkey fur which were quite interesting.

Publicist Lourdes Morales

The dresses on display in the window at Madame Paulette varied from sheer embellished gowns to a fit and flare leather tunic however, my favorite piece was a sample worn by the publicist: a flared vest embellished with striped ” butt” bows and feathers.


The unseasonably raw and wet weather may have served as a going-out deterrent judging by the less than packed room,  but it did nothing to dampen the spirit of enthusiasm and pride emanating from the indefatigable Mr. Alicea.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.


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