Hazine

29.03.2015 - Estelle Marandon

Designer

The Fashion Prodigy

HE IS AN EXCEPTIONAL TALENT. NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE WAS PROMOTED TO THE ROLE OF CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT BALENCIAGA AGED JUST 25, AND WITHOUT EVER HAVING STUDIED FASHION. WITH HIS FUTURISTIC COLLECTIONS, HE HAS LED THE LONG-STANDING, BUT AILING, FASHION HOUSE BACK TO THE PINNACLE OF FASHION SUCCESS. IN NOVEMBER 2013, HE BECAME THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT FRENCH LUXURY GOODS COMPANY LOUIS VUITTON.

Nicolas Ghesquière's departure from Balenciaga was announced in November 2012. It was nothing short of a minor disaster for true fashionistas. It was like history repeating itself. Back in 1986, fashion editors feared that, without Cristobal Balenciaga, the house would no longer produce decent collections. The departure of Ghesquière triggered similar fears. This hero of the fashion industry was leaving the stage where he had been feted for 15 years. For his radical futurism, his slim-line trousers and his perfect 'Perfectos'.

FROM SELF-TAUGHT DESIGNER TO CREATIVE DIRECTOR

However, back in 1996, Ghesquière's debut collection for Balenciaga had been largely ignored. It came a year after the then 25 year-old had taken over creative direction of the Parisian fashion house, which had lost much of its shine when its founder stood down. Hardly anyone had heard of this handsome young man with the bright blue eyes. Ghesquière grew up in the French provinces, in a village near Tours, and had never been to fashion school. He spent two years as an assistant to Jean Paul Gaultier, and then worked as a stylist and designer for Thierry Mugler and Trussardi. This high-flyer did not need years of training. Even without a degree, Nicolas Ghesquière was able to return the once legendary brand to its former glory. In no time at all, a veritable hysteria developed around tickets for his shows, with only a happy few lucky enough to get them.

THE TURNING POINT

The collection that finally put him on an equal footing with the most successful contemporary designers was his 2006 autumn/winter collection. It was the first collection where he was given access to the Balenciaga archive, and it is still regarded as marking a significant shift in direction for the fashion house. Extraordinary volumes, rounded silhouettes and new proportions all marked the advent of a new style. "That was the collection that made my colleagues decide to recognise me as an equal," said Ghesquière in an interview. One letter from a colleague gave him particular praise: "Karl Lagerfeld wrote: In the 60s, Paris was Chanel and Balenciaga. This confederacy suits me well today. Welcome!"

AN ABRUPT ENDING AND A NEW BEGINNING

Ghesquière had made it to the top; his work regularly received acclaim from renowned fashion critics. "At his worst, he is more interesting than most designers of his generation, and at his best, he makes you think," wrote Cathy Horyn of the New York Times. So why did his collaboration with Balenciga end so suddenly in November 2012? Some say that his collections were not commercial enough for Kering, the business group to which Balenciaga has belonged since 2004. Elsewhere, it was said that Ghesquière felt the fashion house had sucked him dry. The two parties certainly did not part company on good terms. Ghesquière is in dispute with Kering. He is accused of having revealed confidential information. But this is unlikely to affect the designer. He has already collected a substantial severance settlement, and he became creative director of fashion giant Louis Vuitton in November 2013. In March 2014, he presented his first collection, which captured the spirit of the times with its sixties-style mini dresses. Will he manage to leave his mark on the legendary brand, like his predecessor, Marc Jacobs, did? With such prodigious talent, there can be no doubt about it.

Short Facts

Awards

2000 Avant Garde Designer of the Year at the VH1 / Vogue Fashion Awards
2001 International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America
2014 British Fashion Award for International Designer

Distinctiveness

Nicolas Ghesquière is self-taught. He became a fashion designer without ever having attended fashion school. By the age of twelve, he had already started drawing sketches of dresses. He learnt the fashion designer's trade purely from internships and roles as an assistant. His exceptional talent led to him becoming creative director of a major fashion house aged just 25.

Trademark

The designer takes his inspiration from many different sources, such as architecture, sport and engineering. He draws on all these influences to create a "hybrid", his favourite word for describing his approach to design.

Anecdote

When Ghesquière was still at Balenciaga, several of the benches collapsed under the "heavyweights" of the fashion world just before one of his shows. Some people were close to panic. An apology was made via the loudspeakers, asking the audience to stand up. So there was a standing ovation for the duration of the whole show.

Timeline

1971 - Childhood and early career

Nicolas Ghesquière is born on 9 May 1971 in Comines in northern France, but grows up in Lourdes, near Tours. At the age of twelve, he starts sketching fashion silhouettes and expresses a desire to become a designer. During the school holidays, he undertakes internships at Agnes B and Corinne Cobson.

1990 - Entry to the fashion world

For two years he works as an assistant to Jean Paul Gaultier. Without ever having been to fashion school, he then becomes a freelance designer and stylist for various companies, such as Thierry Mugler and Trussardi.

1995 - Balenciaga

He is responsible for Balenciaga licenses in Japan before being appointed Creative Director in 1997. Over the course of 15 years, he turns the ailing fashion house into one of the most desirable contemporary labels, thanks to his ground-breaking collections. His designs are considered style-defining and trend-setting. In November 2012, the collaboration ends.

2013 - Louis Vuitton

In November, Ghesquière takes over creative direction of the historic French fashion house, Louis Vuitton, thereby inheriting a double legacy - that of the legendary luggage manufacturer, and that of Marc Jacobs, who has spent 16 years putting his personal stamp on the brand.

Photo:

© Karim Sadli, Instagram @nicolasghesquiereofficial

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