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There is no more genteel, quirky, brimming-with-talent designer than William Ivey Long. (Yes, he uses his entire name; he is a Southerner to the bone.) In Long's eponymous studio at 44 Walker St., the staff all seem to be equally Southern. I wonder if I have unwittingly driven to North Carolina, the locale from whence he and many of the young associates in the studio hail.

After graduating from Yale Drama School, Long lived in the notorious Chelsea hotel, where Larry Rivers and Viva were his neighbors and he once stepped around the body of Terry "TK" Folger, a former resident who unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide by jumping off of the roof. Since then, Long has designed costumes for 60 Broadway shows, including Cabaret, La Cage aux Folles, Catch Me If You Can, Young Frankenstein, The Producers and Contact, and has garnered five Tony awards from 11 nominations.

Long's previous home and studio was a lavish Chelsea brownstone, but last year he sold it to his next-door neighbor, artist Louise Bourgeois, after learning she wanted to turn her brownstone and his into a museum. After selling, Long was off to find new digs; it had to be a ground-floor space so he could load in and out bolts of fabric, set models and yards of tulle for tutus. The 1852 space, built as a button factory, fits the bill.

When Long moved in, they demolished the dropped ceiling and installed dehumidifiers in the basement. The space is designed to be flexible, with movable walls made of fabric that are used as bulletin boards for inspirational photos, clips and drawing of the multiple projects humming in the wings.

?Photo by Wickham Boyle

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