GHESQUIÈRE FOR BALENCIAGA: 1997-2012

by Jeremy Danté

effective today, nicholas ghesquiere at the house of balenciaga will be no more. after 15 years of highly influential work at one of fashion’s most acclaimed labels, it was a complete shot to read that nicholas ghesquiere would part ways with french fashion house, which he brought to the forefront of innovation & glamour futurism for the last decade, plus. untouchable through the 2000’s, balenciaga has become a name so synonymous with innovation & unparalleled imagination that it seemed to surpass the boundary of our present day & times. this direction that has become so closely associated with the house of balenciaga in today’s industry is all thanks to the work of ghesquiere. as a fashion house, cristobal balenciaga showed his first collection in 1937. the influence of balenciaga, the man, is still seen in many of fashion’s most creative entities, most noteably the house of givenchy. a rarity of a fashion persona, balenciaga resisted many forms of major media & had become underrated for the work he had influenced into the mainstream, with competitor christian dior. while the house had gone dormant from 1968-1986, the resurgence of the houses fashion heritage thrived & was resurrected throughout the 80’s and 90’s, leading to ghesquiere’s creative role in 1997.

just a week before the new of ghesquiere’s departure his the internet and our jaws hit the floor, i had been made aware of a blog that went to identify the true & present influence of balenciaga. titled, balenciagadiditfirst, that tumblr space is now closed. though unable to be viewed at this time, the space really clarified the level of creativity in which the house of balenciaga has lead the way with for longer than a decade. from groundbreaking campaigns, to insanely beautiful footwear- balenciaga as a house is untouchable. but in the last season or two, many had made comments about lackluster concepts, the feeling of departure felt in design & how much longer ghesquiere would be in place. initially, when he was brought in to lead the label, ghesquiere was hailed for his apprenticed work with jean paul-gaultier & also boasts the skill of being self taught- a rare quality that isn’t often able to draw such credibility as he ghesquiere has now proven & defined through the years. the pairing of ghesquiere with the house of balenciaga was and will remain a true revolution in the world of design. never had a house seen such poignant revitalization that both honored & upgraded a label’s heritage as it had under the guidance of ghesquiere, who has proven himself to be a true gem of a visionary.

i sit, thinking of where fashion is headed- what will be left of the vision and imaginative re-workings of years past through these great designers who have been carefully selected as creative directors. these individuals have greater power than we realize or acknowledge in the present day. if you even look at the archived campaigns of the house of balenciaga; the evolution of design & the tested boundary of what could and would be is something of a fantasy. you can review such an archive on the official balenciaga website, which fundamentally outlines the level of growth ghesquiere had as an artist working with the house. to think that clothes like these are now in closets, walked runways & were photographed for glossy magazines around the globe is that of true artistic execution. this fulfilled potential, i feel, that ghesquiere was able to produce during his tenure at balenciaga is nowhere nearly as valuable now, as it will be in the future. what we have witnessed through his work at balenciaga will live forever, with no expiration or proper replacement.

in speaking of replacements, onward motion of artists & where certain paths lead- there has been speculation that ghesquiere will head of the planned resurrection of schiaparelli, which has lay dormant since 1954. historically, schiaparelli is widely regarded as the most prominent fashion figure between the two world wars. she was a rival of coco chanel. this alone lays such an interesting groundwork for a label to reemerge & with balenciaga’s ownership coming by way of the house of gucci, under PPR- it’s very possible that ghesquiere’s evolution is just scratching the surface. as the internet becomes abuzz with news of american deisgner alexander wang taking the helm at balenciaga, we await an official announcement from the house of balenciaga, while my heart weighs heavily with doubt of whether wang can deliver & execute on the level ghesquiere has. the context of great design as it relates to america, in comparison to paris- forget it. there is no competition. as an american, while i recognize the creative potential of my country; im also a realist & recognize that fashion lives & dies in paris, france. this is fact, not an opinion. while i have observed alexander wang’s own collections, both the alexander wang mainline & his T collections- i don’t feel that he is equipped to take on the immense value of a fashion house that holds as much weight as balenciaga. his knack for turning ugly into beautiful or awkward into interesting is, yes, a skill- but how will this coincide with the work & heritage of balenciaga. a failure in this regard could alter fashion & wang’s own career forever. this is dangerous territory & not at all considered a game.

while time, and the planned announcement, will tell whether or not this is a fitting match; my doubts become stacked. i absolutely doubt wang’s ability to go from american fashion house in new york, to the big leagues of paris with a house that had been founded in 1914. while cristobal balenciaga had showed his first collection in 1973- the house & his boutique was first opened in 1918. wang’s reference of grunge compared to ghesquiere’s reinterpretation of the spanish renaissance- are you kidding? how can this even be considered in the same league? the archives of balenciaga, considering only the work of ghesquiere in the last five years, compared to wang’s entire career; wang is devoured. there is not competition. this is like dinosaurs battling new born babies. my doubts are heavy, i have no hesitation in admitting or articulating this as so. when they spoke of the mayan calendar ending in 2012; this could very well be the change that has been foretold. a new era has begun and there’s not telling where any of this will end up. [source]

a look back at some of my favorite baleciaga campaigns through the years

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visit balenciaga for an extended retrospective look at campaigns
during nicholas ghesquiere’s tenure from 1998-2012