Monday, September 06, 2010

Fashion Designer Profile: Nicolas Ghesquiere of BALENCIAGA

When Nicolas Ghesquière's name appears in print, superlatives usually follow. Shortly after his appointment as creative director of Balenciaga in 1997, at the age of 26, the fashion press contorted itself into attitudes of obeisance. In particular, the critics noted his uncanny ability to jump-start and influence trends. In 2006, The New York Times went so far as to call him the most important designer of his generation.

His approach combines elements respectfully poached from Balenciaga's rich heritage with futuristic flourishes (futuristic, often, in the retro-sixties sense). Slices of shantung and plastic might adorn a sack dress; a color-saturated floral print from the house archives might be worked into a sculpted bell dress paired with knee-high leather gladiator boots.

Ghesquière, whose Belgian father was a swimming coach, was born in Lille, France, and announced his intention to become a fashion designer as a teenager. An internship at Agnès B. followed, and he eventually landed an assistant gig at Jean Paul Gaultier. When an opening on Balenciaga's design team cropped up, Ghesquière jumped at the chance. Two years later, he was promoted to creative director.

His signature looks include the skinny pant, sharply tailored dresses in techno materials like embroidered latex or patent leather, motorcycle jackets, gold metal "robot" leggings, and anything with a dramatic shoulder (be it voluminous and rounded or a batwing).

Under Ghesquière, the house has expanded into menswear and made a huge splash with accessories, particularly handbags and shoes. In 2001, he was honored with the CFDA's International Award. In January 2008, he was made a Chevalier of Arts and Letters, the highest arts accolade one can receive from the French government.