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Ghesquière Departs Balenciaga in Major Surprise
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Ghesquière Departs Balenciaga in Major Surprise
November 05th, 2012 @ 00:43 AM - Paris
Designer Nicolas Ghesquière will leave his position as creative director of the house of Balenciaga in a very surprising turn of events.
The house broke the news in a brief press release just after lunchtime in Paris on Monday, November 5, leaving fashion insiders pretty astonished here.
Since joining Balenciaga in 1997, then aged just 25, Ghesquière went on to build the house into one of the most influential in modern fashion history. His shows for the brand, staged often in its St. Germain headquarters or in the Hotel Crillon, were probably the single most sought after invitation of any catwalk show anywhere in the world.
“The Balenciaga fashion house and Nicolas Ghesquière have announced their joint decision to end their working relationship as of 30 November 2012,” the company statement read, bringing to an abrupt end the designer’s 15-year career with the house.
“Cristóbal Balenciaga was a master, a genius whose avant-garde vision dictated fashion’s greatest trends and inspired generations of designers. With an incomparable creative talent, Nicolas has brought to Balenciaga an artistic contribution essential to the unique influence of the house,” said François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and Chief Executive of PPR, the luxury conglomerate that controls the house.
Considering that there is pointedly no quote from Ghesquière in the release, and the merest of compliments on his work elsewhere, the distinct impression can only be formed that the designer has been deliberately let go. Since the departure of Gucci Group CEO Robert Polet, Pinault Junior has taken a far more active role in the direct management his group’s companies, most notably the high-profile removal of Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent and installation of Paris favorite Hedi Slimane.
Ghesquière’s first runway for Balenciaga took place in October 1997, after he succeeded Josephus Thimister. Ghesquière’s stock at one stage stood so high, it was common knowledge that Pinault’s great rival, Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, had offered him the post of creative director in Christian Dior, the plumiest job in that billionaire’s empire.
PPR acquired Balenciaga back in 2000 in a massive spending spree by the luxury group edited by its then creative director Tom Ford, who also oversaw the buying of YSL, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Bottega Veneta. No indication was given into the reasons behind Ghesquière’s unforeseen departure, though sources indicated that PPR has been unhappy about the dichotomy between Ghesquière’s immense critical acclaim and the more moderate growth in the brand’s business, notably compared to Bottega Veneta. Ghesquière’s choice of unconventional boutique designs also apparently flummoxed PPR honchos, especially his insistence on collaborating with a video artist, the acclaimed Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, rather than a professional architect. Its flagship store in New York’s Chelsea area, for instance, featured offbeat racks and large rocks that resembled an art gallery more than a fashion boutique.
La Maison Balenciaga was founded in 1919 by Cristóbal Balenciaga and established in Paris in 1936, going on to become one of the most influential names in fashion history. The designer subsequently shuttered his business in response to the student riots of 1968 and the fall of the conservative government of Charles de Gaulle.
Under the leadership of Ghesquière, Balenciaga has been a hugely influential collection – from his Luke Skywalker show of 2006 which ignited a huge futurist Star Wars trend and his high-tech articulated boots, to his lariat style Balenciaga City bag and Ghesquière’s packaging collection, featuring neoprene tops in green toothpaste tube hues or macramé leather jackets in the sort of pink in which toilet paper is usually wrapped, this designer has set the high-end fashion agenda for over a decade.
His has always been a blend of high-tech chic and opulent romanticism, most recently in the latest perfume for Balenciaga, Florabotanica, launched with Kristen Stewart as brand ambassador, where the actress wore a zipper front floral bell dress, standing beside a chiseled flacon.
Balenciaga has certainly expanded under Ghesquière, and will end the year with 62 stores worldwide. Though, in its release, PPR pointedly credited this development to “a coherent plan for the construction of a network of directly-operated stores,” which had been “developed in recent years under the direction of its President since 2007, Isabelle Guichot.”
Whoever succeeds Ghesquière will have an incredibly difficult act to follow. Though born in the Northern French town of Comines, Ghesquière spent his formative years in the city of Loudon, the Poitevine city most famous for the alleged demonic possession of a convent of Ursuline nuns, a dark tale of sorcery infamously turned into cinema by British director Ken Russell in his 1971 classic “The Devils.”
Ghesquière's own denouement, by contrast, turned out to be far less bloody.