Lauren Tracey looks at Nicolas Ghesquiere’s iconic designs for Balenciaga, case and the significance of his departure from the house

For Balenciaga fans everywhere it seems that an end of an era has arrived. The incredibly talented and greatly respected Nicolas Ghesquiere has announced his departure from the iconic brand. Founded in 1919 by the Spaniard Cristobal Balenciaga, the house’s couture business prospered for almost 40 years right through to the 1960’s, when the house began to lose both customers and power of influence due to a lack of design leadership. However, in 1997, the floundering fashion house received an injection of fresh ideas and creativity through the appointment of Nicolas Ghesquiere, who was just 25 years of age. At the same time, Ghesquiere had been designing for the brands Japanese line, and was plucked for the prominent position to the surprise of many. Under his influence the brand began to regain its former lustre and prowess, transforming into the fashion power house we know it as today.

So what exactly is it about Ghesquiere’s designs that altered Balenciaga and created a fashion forward brand with powerful, trendsetting abilities? Many fashion critics put it down to his distinctively modern and original vision. American Vogue described him as fashions “most sought-after and influential figure.” He is credited with creating the modern woman’s silhouette, comprising of skinny pants with a voluminous and vibrant top, completely reinvigorating the concept of the female shape. One of his most iconic collections consisted of structured cocoon like dresses, with audaciously jarring floral prints. He often works with new fabrics, employing technological advances in his designs, in a way that many of his contemporaries choose to avoid.

The question on everyone’s mind at the moment: why is Ghesquiere leaving the fashion house that earned him unparalleled critical success? There has been intense media speculation in the days since the announcement of his departure. Cathy Horyn of the New York Times has an interesting take on the Balenciaga Saga. Indicating that Ghesquiere is seeking more creative freedom, such as that which has been given to the newly appointed creative director of YSL, Hedi Slimane, she concluded: “Mr Ghesquiere could wind up doing something with LVMH (there is already talk about that), or just take a little break.” There are also reports that Ghesquiere holds a 10% stake in Balenciaga, which would leave him in a better position financially to launch his own label. Wherever Ghesquiere goes, with talent such as his he is sure to make an impact, regardless of whether that is at an established house or his own label.