In 1983 you'd find Nicholas Ghesquière in his family home, in the Loire region of France, sketching and making dresses out of his parents' curtains. He knew at a relatively young age that he was not going to follow in the footsteps of his business owner father, nor was he going to do what his father expected of him: be a phys ed teacher. So it's not surprising that his first internship was held at age 15 before he graduated from school. His next notable gig was as an assistant with Jean Paul Gaultier. After that, Nicholas' independent spirit became apparent; he became a freelance knitwear designer. His connections landed him at the house of Balenciaga in 1995, working as a knit and funeral wear designer for their Asian market.
It wasn't the most glamorous job, admittedly. In fact, Balenciaga had been struggling since the 70s when its founder passed away. Some have even said that Nicholas' job at Balenciaga was the worst in fashion. Interestingly enough, they said the same thing about Tom Ford's position with Gucci when he first started — and how did that turn out? Exactly. In 2013, Ghesquière is a household name (albeit one without a job). He pulled Balenciaga from the depths of European obscurity, moved the shows to New York and became the king of cool once he got promoted to head designer in the late 90s. Before there was Alexander Wang slouch, there was Ghesquiere's fitted pants and rock chic, keeping the models and It girls clothed to perfection.
To call him an instant hit and a high fashion darling would be putting it mildly. Everyone from Andre Leon Talley to Suzy Menkes sung his praises. Talley wrote for Vogue, “If L’Académie Française were inducting couturiers into that most august institution, Nicolas Ghesquière would be the first to have his special sword designed and take a seat.” In 2001, Menkes stated that he was the most original designer of his generation.
Something else happened in 2001, too. The Gucci Group bought Balenciaga and by 2003, Tom Ford and longtime CEO Domenico De Sole had left. Ghesquière soldiered on, though. The new holding company gave him access to the Balenciaga vaults, and for the first time he said he said he was beginning to understand what the brand was about. He continued to make amazing collections throughout the first decade of this century until November of last year when it was announced he would be leaving. Speculation abounded as to what his next move would be, and what happened to end such a mutually profitable partnership. Until we see more of one of fashion's most loved designers, we'll be content to peruse looks from his last couple of collections at Balenciaga. Join us by hitting up the slideshow below.