When the great Cristobal Balenciaga closed the doors of his couture house in 1968 he lamented, “There is no one left worth dressing.” For decades the house lay dormant until 26-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Ghesquiere was appointed creative director of Balenciaga in 1997 after the departure of Josephus Thimister.
Since 1995, Ghesquiere had quietly freelanced for Balenciaga’s licences. Three years later, Ghesquiere won the Vogue/VHl Avant Garde Designer of the Year Award, followed by the CFDA womenswear Designer of the Year title in 2001. Suzy Menkes of The International Herald Tribune called him “the most intriguing and original designer of his generation”.
Though relatively unknown when he was appointed to Balenciaga, Ghesquiere’s is a life in fashion. He won work placements at agnes b. and Corinne Cobson while still at school in Loudon, central France. At 19, he became an assistant designer to Jean Paul Gaultier and then Mugler, before a brief tenure as head designer at Trussardi. But his great achievement has been his revival of Balenciaga. His green silk crop combat pants for spring/summer 2002 were the most copied garment of the season and Neoprene mini skirts and dresses for spring/summer 2003 kept Balenciaga on the edge, creatively and commercially.
In 2002 a menswear line was launched, a year after the house of Balenciaga was bought by the Gucci Group. For autumn/winter 2005 he showed A-line leather dresses trimmed with pale ostrich feathers and sleek tailoring fitted with chrome fastenings. Former Gucci CEO Domenico De Sole has said: ‘Balenciaga has one fantastic asset. He’s called Nicolas Ghesquiere’