Balenciaga: Farewell Nicolas Ghesquière

By Veronica Saroli (ArtSci ’14)
Staff Writer

After presenting a critically acclaimed spring/summer 2013 show in Paris this past September, in early November it was announced that Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière would be leaving his position with the brand.
Given Ghesquière’s 15 years of critical success and innovative designs, this took the industry by surprise. Ghesquière’s name will now be grouped with Raf Simons, Jil Sander, Stefano Pilati and Hedi Slimane’s as one of the many big changes this past year in the world of fashion design.
Ghesquière worked in designing golf clothes, funeral and wedding dresses for the Japanese licensing market for Balenciaga. He gained significant esteem as he paved his way through existing fashion norms, pioneering new looks and trends along the way. In 1998, at the age of 26, his monumental first spring/summer collection with Balenciaga was a medieval feat of black and white, evoking imagery of ‘psychotic nuns.’ From then on, his shows have always maintained a stylistic edge, weaving darker inspirations with playful quirks to create a vision for the adventurous spirit of the Balenciaga woman.
Given the acclaim and adoration Ghesquière has received amongst the industry, many wonder what spurred this unforeseen departure. In the New York Times, fashion critic Cathy Horyn hypothesized that the reason for his exit stemmed from long-standing animosity between Ghesquière and François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive of French luxury firm PPR who own Balenciaga.
Ghesquière had been discontent with the handling of financing and the commercial tone of Balenciaga's sister lines and felt that Pinault wasn’t acknowledging Ghesquière’s concerns. This was then exacerbated by Pinault’s apparent carte blanche given to designer Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent Paris (also owned by PPR). Hedi was quick to make changes to the brand, such as renaming the house from Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent Paris, a move that has been met with general uproar from the masses.
Like Cristóbal Balenciaga himself, Ghesquière designs were visionary, modern and depicted sculptural beauty. Looking through the Balenciaga archives, the modernity is striking; this timeless characteristic is an indication that Ghesquière’s designs will stand the test of time.
Here are a few remarkable looks from Ghesquière’s 15 years with Balenciaga.

Fall/Winter 1998

Fall/Winter 2000

Fall/Winter 2003

Fall/Winter 2004

Spring/Summer 2006

Fall/Winter 2006

Fall/Winter 2008

Spring/Summer 2012

Spring/Summer 2013

The split between Ghesquière and Balenciaga was said to be amicable; the industry now waits to see what his next move will be. Rumour has it that PPR rival conglomerate, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy has been in talks with Ghesquière about his future. Meanwhile, rumours swirl over who will fill the spot Ghesquière left behind. Christopher Kane, Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra and Mary Katrantzou have all been mentioned as a potential successor.

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