Dismay, Danger and Discovery: Nicolas Ghesquière's Untold Story Revealed

May 01, 2013 2:57 PM

After fifteen years at Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière quietly left his post as creative director last November. Without giving any interviews or explanations, the fashion world has waited for answers, and now, after an interview with Jonathan Wingfield at System, we have what we’ve been waiting for. “The best way to move forward is to go back to work,” Ghesquière explained.

“I never had a partner, and I ended up feeling too alone… I had a marvelous studio and design team who were close to me, but it started becoming a bureaucracy and gradually becoming more corporate - until it was no longer even linked to fashion."

Ghesquière cited this broke link to the industry not only as challenging to overcome, but also because of its wider implications.

“No one [was] helping me on the business side,” and he admitted that he felt he did not control his own projects. When asked to find new store locations, no one trusted his creative vision or taste:

“They wanted to open up a load of stores but in really mediocre spaces, where people weren’t aware of the brand. It was a strategy that I just couldn’t relate to. I found this garage space on Faubourg-Saint-Honoré… And when I went back to Balenciaga, the reaction was, ‘Oh no, no, no, not Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, you can’t be serious?’

Ghesquière didn’t name names while identifying the key issues that led to the end of his time with the brand, but he was very honest about what went wrong:

“…Over the last two or three years it became one frustration after another. It was really that lack of culture which bothered me in the end. The strongest pieces that we made for the catwalk got ignored by the business people. They forgot that in order to get to that easily sellable biker jacket, it had to go via a technically mastered piece that had been shown on the catwalk. I started to become unhappy when I realised that there was no esteem, interest, or recognition for the research that I’d done; they only cared about what the merchandisable result would look like… I couldn’t do everything. I was switching between the designs for the catwalk and the merchandisable pieces – I became Mr. Merchandiser.”

 Historically, creative directors are brought on to help a brand re-focus its image and aesthetic in a modern way, but not just for PR reasons; the designers are meant to bring their unique perspectives to the table to drive the brand into new territory. Ghesquière realized when the brand started to take over his image when:

 “I heard people saying, ‘Your style is so Balenciaga now, it’s no longer Nicholas Ghesquière… It became so dehumanized. Everything became an asset for the brand, trying to make it ever more corporate – it was all about branding… “I began to feel as though I was being sucked dry, like they wanted to steal my identity while trying to homogenize things. It just wasn’t fulfilling anymore… I’ve become pretty good at standing on my own two feet.”

And according to Pierre Alexandre de Looz at 032C, a contemporary culture magazine from Berlin, Ghesquière has been doing more than just standing still. In the interview, he drops hints about a possible collaboration with LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) that could even lead to him starting his own label: “I’m preparing something, but I have choices to make. I will announce something when I am ready.”

Ghesquière moves on to discuss the inherent issues within the fashion market and collection cycles: “now is my time to question interseasonality — it’s always the opposite season somewhere in the world — and fashion’s need to be global.” Without identifying if he is ready to “fulfill that mission” again sometime soon, no other big names seem remotely up to the task. The interview ends with the air of mystery only a successful Frenchman like Ghesquière could harness: “I may be putting myself in danger, but that’s what I want these days… I couldn’t be in a better position.” 

By Sarah Granetz

 

www.system-magazine.com

@SystemMagazine

 

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