He gave us the Motorcycle Bag, Darth Vader visors, and a bold new approach to the feminine form. But after 15 years at Balenciaga’s creative helm, Nicolas Ghesquière is leaving the historic house. WWD broke the story this morning, reporting that it was a mutual decision between Balenciaga’s parent company, PPR, and the designer, who will leave his post at the end of this month. Needless to say, fashion folk around the globe emitted a collective gasp upon learning the news, as Ghesquière’s departure came as a startling surprise. The designer turned out a highly acclaimed spring 2013 collection, which nodded to the house’s Spanish heritage with racy flamenco skirts. But more importantly, over the last 15 years, he reinvigorated the brand, which, founded by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1918, had been struggling since its namesake designer’s death in 1972.
Cristobal Balenciaga was one of the most influential designers of his time, pioneering new volumes and shapes in the 1950s with the iconic cocoon coat, the bubble skirt, and trapeze silhouettes — all of which were a sharp departure from the hyper-feminine looks of the era perpetuated by Dior. The same can be said of Ghesquière, who worked with Jean Paul Gauliter before heading to Balenciaga in 1997. During his time at the house, Ghesquière frequently referred the archive, creating his own, more severe takes on Cristobal Balenciaga’s use of sculpture and geometry. But his clothes, while nodding to the past, always looked to the future. Complicated forms — like the structured, slim waisted, wide hipped printed frocks from spring 2008 — balanced sex appeal, power, and severity. And his fabric innovation (think hand-painted embossed latex bombers and bubbly multi-layer tech fabrics) was unparalleled. During his reign, Ghesquière’s aesthetic constantly evolved but his bold vision was unwavering. He made profits rise and women swoon, and was a driving force in contemporary fashion for the last decade.
Ghesquière’s next move has not been released, but it’s safe to say that his dedicated fans are hoping for an eponymous line. His successor at Balenciaga has yet to be named — whoever takes the reins will have some very big sky-high block-heeled shoes to fill.