Yesterday it was announced that Nicolas Ghesquière is leaving his role of creative director at Balenciaga, after 15 years at the house. Ghesquière was only 25 years old when he was appointed, and shaped the house into a creative powerhouse, albeit a rarely profitable one.
I’ve long admired Balenciaga, though it’s never been my favorite brand. And that very opinion may have doomed Ghesquière – his work was aesthetically superior, but often a touch severe. Under his helm Balenciaga was futuristic, athletic, complex. More intellectual than Alexander Wang, maximalist compared to Raf Simons, and sexier than Pheobe Philo, Ghesquière is a challenging but compelling designer. He updated Cristobal Balenciaga’s classic style, pushing the boundaries of fabric technology, construction of clothes, and “good taste.” Many of his shows stumped me, but when he was on point he was untouchable. Here are some of my favorite seasons during his time:
1) Fall 2008
This clean, incredibly sexy collection was a direct father of Lanvin Fall 2009, possibly my favorite collection of all time. Balenciaga created minimalist 40s noir dream with shaped hips which preceded the peplum trend of the last three years. Ghesquière shows are always distinguishable with their unceasing focus on the silhouette, and I loved this show’s modern, minimal approach.
2) Fall 2006
The exquisite Fall 2006 collection, perhaps Ghesquière’s most iconic collection. The oversized bowlers, the molded, blossoming skirts, the intricate beading … this collection really takes my breath away. And it wasn’t just a beautiful moment in time. The lower silhouette – the black opaque legs paired with equestrian platform boots – helped create the legging trend of the late 2000s. The next time you leave your house not quite exactly wearing pants,you can thank Ghesquière.
3) Spring 2013
Ghesquière’s final show was his sexiest, and most feminine to date. The strongest statement in the show is the two-sided ruffle, reminiscent of Raf Simon’s sculptural Fall 2009 show for Jil Sander, another one of my all time favorite shows. While Sander’s dresses jutted out in elegant double-faced points and curves, Ghesquière took a more exuberant approach. And this very feminine exuberance – traits rare in his earlier collections – is what makes me love it so.
Ghesquière’s exit from Balenciaga marks the end of an era, but this hardly an obituary. Like Raf Simon and his brilliant last show at Jil Sander, Ghesquière is leaving on a high note. Hopefully he will be able to launch a line of his own – one where he can create unfettered by the politics and history of a classic house like Balenciaga. I would certainly be eager to see what kind of work he might create under his own name, working by his own rules.