We were shocked and a bit saddened today to hear of Nicolas Ghesquiere‘s departure from Balenciaga. After 15 years at the legendary house, Ghesquiere is parting ways with the luxury powerhouse, a label he helped become one of the most influential and respected in the business. Though we know this is likely the start of an exciting new beginning (let the rumors begin) we can’t help but look back at a few of our absolute favorite Balenciaga moments, from the very first collection to those infamous leggings. Take a look at our favorites and let us know yours in the comments.
In 2012 it seems like there are new designers shuffling in to breathe life into old houses every few months, that wasn’t so much the case back in 1997. At 25 after assisting designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and paying his dues behind the scenes at several brands, Ghesquière came to Balenciaga to design for the brand’s Japanese licensing partner. Hardly the most glamourous gig – but his talent was evident and soon he found himself creative director of a brand that had yet to rediscover its footing. His first show back in S/S 98 changed all that, with a darkly chic update on the brand’s identity that made the fashion press stand up and take notice. View the collection in full for yourself at Balenciaga.com.
Seasonal styles of the popular Balenciaga bags
It bags come and go, but modern classics are very rare indeed. Ghesquière knocked the ball out of the park when he launched Balenciaga’s Lariat bag in 2000, the oft imitated but never duplicated style has been seen on the arm of everyone from Mary-Kate Olsen to Carine Roitfeld and is still going strong.
THE GAINSBOURG CONNECTION
Twilight cutie Kristen Stewart may be the latest actress to catch Ghesquière’s eye, but the original Balenciaga-fille has got to be Charlotte Gainsbourg, a woman whose idiosyncratic beauty and avant-garde career choices mirror the spirit of Ghesquière’s boundary breaking aesthetic. Serving as both muse and face of the line’s signature fragrances, Gainsbourg is a fixture in the Balenciaga front row and in the brand’s iconography.
It is hard to go back through Ghesquière’s 15 years at Balenciaga and pick the most memorable collections, each collection has its own merits but there are a few that take on special significance. S/S 2008’s floral explosion remains one of the most daring and influential, just when we thought we knew what to expect we got hit with a strong dose of flower power. Reactions to the collection may have been divisive, but it jumpstarted the current craze for bold, head-to-toe print and has been replicated by everyone from H&M to Celine.
Every designer working at a storied house has access to a wealth of archival inspiration, but only a select few put it to good use. Ghesquière was always adept at taking Cristobal’s shapes and points of reference, then modernizing them, either with subtle changes or grand re imaginings. Take a look at how Cristóbal’s 1963 cape compared to the oversized brocade cape from the F/W 06 show.
Freja Beha Erichsen for Balenciaga F/W 05 by David Sims
Sixties style mod looks often found a place on Ghesquière’s runways and made for some of the most memorable looks; who can forget the mod touches in the F/W 05 and F/W 06 collections?
As much as we love Nicolas’ work, all the credit for Balenciaga’s longstanding cultural impact can’t rest solely on his shoulders. As the brand’s stylist, muse and loyal supporter, Marie-Amélie Sauvé has shaped the Balenciaga look for years on the runway and in numerous editorials. Some of our favorite Balenciaga moments occurred while looking at her artful and creative interpretations of that look in the pages of magazines like Interview and Vogue Paris.
Perhaps the singularly most infamous pair of leggings in history and certainly one of the most iconic Balenciaga pieces of all time. How many leggings find their way onto the bodies of Terence Koh, Kate Moss and Beyoncé Knowles? Not to mention the omnipresent place these leggings held in fashion edits for nearly a year. We love it when Balenciaga goes on a sci-fi streak!
Balenciaga S/S 2002 by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
Every season we’ve looked forward to see which beauties would be featured in the Balenciaga campaign and to date we’ve yet to be disappointed. Whether it is a bonafide supermodel like Gisele Bundchen, or Christy Turlington or a fresh crop of brand new faces, Balenciaga always goes for the unexpected and remains one of the few brands whose campaigns can really launch a compelling face.
The one thing we’ll miss most about Ghesquire at Balenciaga is his ability to kickstart a design trend. There are whole websites devoted to looks cribbed from Balenciaga and while all designers get inspired by each other every now and then it was always amusing to see who was drawing inspiration from Ghesquire.