NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE’S VISIONARY REBUILDING OF FRENCH FASHION HOUSES, FROM BALENCIAGA TO LOUIS VUITTON

BY RHIANNA JONES

When you think of the French brands globally known, worn, and coveted, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton immediately come to mind. True, the LV monogram is a long standing emblem of luxury, but Balenciaga wasn’t a household name until the ‘00s. The common denominator? Nicolas Ghesquière, a once young unknown designer who has since earned rank as one of the industry’s most revered visionaries. The former creative director at Balenciaga, he’s been sitting pretty as LV’s creative womens wear director since 2013.

His penchant for design blossomed in his youth, sketching dresses and hand making clothes from curtains, a fantastical escape from the bucolic boredom of his small town French upbringing. Sending portfolios on a whim, he nabbed an internship at agnès b at the young age of 14, and got his first fashion job assisting Jean Paul Gaultier after graduating high school. Eventually Ghesquière landed a position designing collections for the Japanese market under the Balenciaga license.

The label had little commercial success after its founder Cristobal Balenciaga the “King of Fashion” passed in the ‘70s, despite its iconic legacy of regal elegance and voluminous silhouettes. At only 25 years old, Ghesquière was unexpectedly tapped to head the brand in 1997 and challenged with the daunting task of resuscitating the label from the glamour grave. Needless to say, he far surpassed.

It was at Balenciaga that Ghesquière developed his now signature aesthetic of techno couture and architectural remixing. Forever inventive with fabric and technique, a key Ghesquière Balenciaga piece is a coat bonding neoprene to a classic tweed, or a Lego like color block heel on a Velcro patent stiletto. is master innovator always pays respect to the house’s history; however, in the case of Balenciaga, who literally “reshaped” fashion with his architectural box jacket, egg coat, and sack dress, Ghesquière’s rendition would pair a cropped cocoon coat with voluminous pleated miniskirt, worshipping legs for days with towering platforms. His biggest commercial success was the iconic “Lariat” motorcycle bag of 2002, one of the biggest “it” bags since the Birkin. Ghesquière elevated Balenciaga to a golden era of modern luxury, vastly different from its street wear powerhouse association today.

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Though Ghesquière’s Balenciaga 2013 departure was mourned industry wide, he met a new challenge when appointed women’s creative director at Louis Vuitton, taking the reins from the contrasting Marc Jacobs. Whereas Jacobs’ LV was bold and overstated (remember the candy colored graffiti logomania era?), Ghesquière restored the house’s legacy of classic, streamlined luxury. Taking a nod from the house’s unparalleled history of impeccably constructed leather goods, his Fall 2014 RTW debut sent an army of leather and suede clad models down the runway in geometric yet glamorous designs. A line dresses peeking under sleek ‘60s esque leather coats with shearling trim and patent boots marched down the catwalk with the now cult “Petit Malle” micro mini edition of LV trunks dangling off the models’ arms. Once again, Ghesquière proved himself as a master re inventor, flipping the entire brand aesthetic on its head, to well received acclaim.

Now seven years later, Ghesquière continues to build LV’s legacy beyond its namesake accessories, but a happy place for je ne sais quoi girls who are as cultured as they are chic. Louis Vuitton luggage was created for adventure, and Ghesquière’s collections go both global and glam. From the highly coveted Desert boot updating LV’s signature monogram canvas with a utilitarian lace up flare to pop up exhibitions and installations around the world. Each season debuts a new collection in a more exotic architectural locale than the last from Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles to Kyoto’s Miho Museum and NYC’s revamped TWA Flight Center continuing the theme of Vuitton as an invitation to explore.

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