As the husband of Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel, Gauthier Destenay has an insider’s view of the world stage.
At Tuesday’s Fashion 4 Development’s First Ladies Luncheon at The Pierre, the Belgian architect shared his thoughts on how fashion can lift up impoverished communities and help enlighten others. Earlier this year, France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron singled him out as her “favorite” first spouse in an interview with Paris Match.
He tagged along with his friend Amelie Derbaudrenghien, the partner of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who told him about F4D. “The subject of using fashion for development purposes and helping underprivileged communities is a really interesting combination. I was interested to see that and how it can translate.” Destenay said. “In fashion, throughout the world, you can really discover amazing things that you can’t find here. We can interpret that and use it. That can open minds about what’s happening out there in the world.”
The Commonwealth Fashion Project’s runway show piqued his interest enough to use his smartphone camera, as did an appearance by Diane von Furstenberg. Luxembourg’s first gentleman said he planned to discuss the issue with Bettel, who is scheduled to speak at the United Nations today. “He is involved with helping developing countries not only with money, but also with helping people to create and develop skills by themselves where they live to be self-sustaining.”
In New York, Destenay said he sensed the unrest. “I have to say I can feel that American people are quite divided for the moment. There are strong opinions especially about politics. It’s complicated to discuss because there is no meeting point. It’s either pro or con. It’s a quite difficult moment, I think.”
His agenda today will include attending this morning’s reception hosted by First Lady Melania Trump. Spouses of the visiting Heads of State, Heads of Foreign Delegations, Cabinet Members and representatives from United States Agency for International Development were invited.
Having met FLOTUS at both this year’s NATO summit and last year’s, Destenay said, “I have to admit that each time I got to know her better. I met someone who is really caring, really interested in people and who you can really have an exchange with. I have to say I really enjoyed her company a lot.”
“She’s getting more and more involved and conscious about the impact she can have. It takes time of course when you become first lady from one day to another. It’s not always easy from the beginning. I think month after month you can feel that she’s taking that very seriously and she’s very involved in what she has to do now,” he continued.
Regarding what he is keeping an eye on with the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations, Destenay said, “We have a very strong problem with immigration at the moment in Europe. It’s a serious problem that has created a lot of political changes in countries because people are getting more and more scared about immigration. You can see the extreme right is rising more and more. That is a scary thing for us in Europe. That is a topic that as a European I am really interested to see what they will talk about in the U.S.”
And “of course” climate change will be another area of concentration. “With the U.S. stepping out of the Paris Agreement, that was a big surprise. I am curious to see how that will evolve. It’s our planet — it’s our future,” Destenay said.
This weekend he planned to carve out some time for the Chime For Change concert in Central Park. Accustomed to protocol linked to being a first spouse, Destenay said the role and all the air miles suit him. “I love New York. It’s always a pleasure to be here. I’ve met amazing people and I have great connections. I always say, ‘I don’t do politics. My husband is doing the job.’ But I think relations behind the job are almost as important as the politics themselves, so greeting spouses and getting to know them — I enjoy it. I think it’s quite important for my job and his job.”