The Genteel
December 11, 2017
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Nicolas Ghesquière will leave Balenciaga on November 30. Source: opnminded.com.
Nicolas Ghesquiere The Genteel
Balenciaga Spring 2006.
Source: nymag.com.

"For me it is the definition of fashion: It's about now. It might last for longer, but you have to really work to witness your time; to say, 'This is now.'"

That was the wisdom of Nicolas Ghesquière delivered to Style.com after he had unleashed yet another scene-stealing spring collection in Paris this past October. Now, less than one month later, Ghesquière's time as creative director of Balenciaga has come to end. As the fashion fraternity scrambles to write the epilogue on one of the industry's greatest collaborations, both Balenciaga and Ghesquière have cause to celebrate the reincarnation of a brand previously cloistered by the burden of its own prestigious heritage. Together, they shared 15 years that changed the face of fashion.

In 1997, Balenciaga was a maison without direction, suffocating under the passage of time. Haunted by its own luminous past, the house had become a cenotaph to Cristóbal Balenciaga, the charming, visionary Spaniard who, silently and enigmatically, challenged the aesthetic of his day.

Into this couture mausoleum entered the young successor, Ghesquière, a licensed product designer who specialised in wedding dresses and mourning clothes for the brand's Asian market. Ghesquière shared many of his predecessor's traits: an aversion to personal fame, a dedication to innovative design realised through a punishing work ethic, and a visionary, preternatural eye for high fashion. As he would tell W Magazine many years later, "I approached Balenciaga in the most religious way possible: very black, very monastic, a sharp line."

From his signature, sleek silhouette to the shearling motorcycle jackets, biker boots and tulip skirts which have become referential hallmarks of every designer and dreamer's closet, Ghesquière's vision has been realised not only in the lookbooks of Balenciaga, but also in the DNA of the modern woman's approach to fashion.

Ghesquière's sharp approach to the iconic brand earned him almost instant acclaim from both critics and customers alike, as each season his creations helped to reinvent the staid fashion wallflower into a house of unparalleled innovation, experimentation and allure.

Delving into the slew of "best of" pictorial compilations that seemingly sprung up within seconds of Monday's announcement, it is startling to note just how significant Ghesquière's influence has been on the aesthetic and sartorial direction of the last decade and a half. From his signature, sleek silhouette to the shearling motorcycle jackets, biker boots and tulip skirts which have become referential hallmarks of every designer and dreamer's closet, Ghesquière's vision has been realised not only in the lookbooks of Balenciaga, but also in the DNA of the modern woman's approach to fashion.

Ghesquière's Balenciaga spoke to the confident, powerful, adventurous woman of the 21st century, who was unfailingly elegant yet fearlessly flawed, possessing an enigmatic, deconstructed beauty that he so often aspired to recreate in his collections. Under his tenure, Balenciaga championed the aesthetic of the future, drawing from an eclectic catalogue of influences whilst always remaining loyal to the integrity of the brand's heritage. As Ghesquière told Tom Ford in conversation for Interview Magazine, "I think the most beautiful thing for me is to revive this brand and to make sure one of the most incredible names in fashion is alive. That's probably what I'm most proud of." 

Thirty years since the passing of its eponymous designer, Balenciaga once again finds itself without a leader. The venerated void created by Ghesquière seems like an insurmountable challenge for any designer to live up to. Over the last week, Ghesquière has repeatedly and invariably been hailed as the preeminent designer of the contemporary age. Given his meteoric rise to fashion Olympus, his deliverance of one of the industry's greatest maisons and his indelible influence on the aesthetic of a generation, such praise seems stunningly appropriate. For Ghesquière is not merely witness to now; Ghesquière is now.

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