By  on February 6, 2002

A MUCH-TOUTED QUARTET -- NICOLAS GHESQUIERE. WILLIAM IVEY LONG. JEREMY SCOTT AND MATTHEW WILLIAMSON -- WEIGH IN ON WHAT'S BEHIND THEIR NEW YORK DEBUTS.

Nicolas's New York Moment

Nicolas Ghesquiere was 18 when he took his first bite out of the Big Apple.

Then working as an assistant at Jean Paul Gaultier's Paris studio, he came to Manhattan with a group of friends and colleagues for Christmas and they rented an apartment on Lafayette Street for a week. On New Year's Eve, they ended up at artist Francesco Clemente's apartment partying with the likes of Lauren Hutton.

No wonder he's crazy about the town.

"I've always loved New York a lot," said Ghesquiere. "I find it very inspiring." That's part of the reason he decided to show his 10th collection for Balenciaga here instead of Paris, on Feb. 13 at an undisclosed gallery in Chelsea.

As reported previously in WWD, Ghesquiere doesn't consider the move a permanent one, but an expression of his admiration for the market and a desire to demarcate his partnership with Gucci Group, which bought Balenciaga last year. "It's really about freedom. Paris shows are really about the event, which is great, which is very Paris," he said. "But we are free to change, and we are not stuck in a very heavy concept. What everyone learned last season was intimacy, that presenting the clothes more personally was something interesting."

Since Americans were among the first to recognize his work for Balenciaga, Ghesquiere has a soft spot for them. In fact, while American designers are often derided for being too commercial, Ghesquiere raced to their defense, describing them as "completely international." He also defended American consumers, who are often stereotyped for being conservative in their fashion tastes. "After the second season, American department stores came [to see my collection for Balenciaga]," he said. "There is a real appreciation and a real market for exceptional pieces."

Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the Balenciaga brand is more "neutral" in the U.S., Ghesquiere acknowledged. By contrast, many Europeans stereotyped the brand based on licensed products and an outmoded image of grand eveningwear perpetuated partly by fragrance ads.

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