Tuesday, 6 November 2012

As Nicholas Ghesquiere Leaves Balenciaga, Who Will Replace Him?

It's been a year of turbulent fashion shake-ups, but none more dramatic than the departure of the legendary Nicholas Ghesquiere from Balenciaga, where he had been the Creative Director for 15 years. As of 30th November, Ghesquiere will no longer be responsible for the brand's aesthetics, leaving a gaping hole that will need to be patched up by a serious innovator. 

P.S. If you're looking for updates on this story (the Kane debacle, followed by the Wang debacle), scroll to the end!

Nicholas Ghesquiere Leaves Balenciaga: Final Collection SS13
 His last collection for the Parisian fashion house, Spring/Summer 2013.
[Image via Elle UK].

You don't have to delve far into the Google results to find that there had been growing animosity between Ghesquiere and Balenciaga's CEO, Isabelle Guichot, and also with Francois-Henri Pinault, the chairman of the brand's parent group, PPR. Pinault invested serious money into the reinvention of the Yves Saint Laurent label under Hedi Slimane but seemingly did not give Balenciaga the same lavish treatment. If this is the case then it's not hard to imagine Ghesquiere's frustration at watching a newcomer being given more funding and prominence, when he has spent one and a half decades doing his job without those kind of special exceptions. Slimane was even allowed to change YSL's name to 'Saint Laurent Paris', for goodness' sake, which felt a little pointless to me - a bit like when the Conservative Party went on for ages in the press about their new logo, which turned out to be a scribbly crayon tree that took approximately five seconds to produce.

Cluedo Balenciaga
Who will replace Ghesquiere? It's a Cluedo-esque mystery.
[Image via Google].

Wang, Altuzarra or Kane for Balenciaga?

The rumour mill is already going into overdrive with speculation as to who might be lined up as the new Creative Director of Balenciaga, with Alexander Wang being an early favourite. Other contenders are as varied as Joseph Altuzarra, Christopher Kane (who has been working his magic over at Versus with Donatella Versace), Mary Katrantzou and J.W. Anderson. Personally my money wouldn't be on the last two in that list, as I feel they're still determined to focus on building up their own labels and it would be an incredible shift to go from designing edgy Topshop capsule collections to influencing an entire fashion house. Depending on your source, Balenciaga dates back to 1914, 1918 or 1937, according to the Telegraph, Mr. Porter and the New York Times, respectively, though 1937 was when the first collection was shown in Paris as a fashion house, but whatever date you pick then we're talking about a long heritage of seriously respected couture. I'd prefer to see Katrantzou and Anderson continuing to spread their wings creatively under their own names before making that kind of leap into taking the reins of a powerhouse. However, Altuzarra, Kane and Wang would all be on my shortlist as they've had longer to establish themselves in the public eye and find their feet.

As for Ghesquiere, what will happen to him? Well, both Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes (New York Times) have at least implied that PPR rivals LVMH have already approached him to discuss working together. Menkes claimed that he would be able to design under his own name if he took up the LVMH offer, which would come with much greater creative freedom. Good on him if he does choose to do this, as he deserves to be better known for the work he has produced.

I look forward to reading about Ghesquiere's successor and seeing what direction he chooses to go in next. The times are certainly a-changin' in the fashion world, and it seems you can't expect everyone to stick to the status quo.

UPDATE: 17/11 - Christopher Kane to take over at Balenciaga

Grazia has today reported that Kane will succeed Ghesquiere as Creative Director at Balenciaga, according to the French branch of the magazine and also the newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur. Though there has been no official declaration from either Kane or the fashion house, it seems inevitable that the Scottish whizzkid will be taking the coveted position. 

Congratulations to Christopher, and I hope that Ghesquiere will find himself in a similarly exciting new role. 

But wait... what's that? A new development? Yup, read on. I thought Kane was a done deal, thanks to all those sources, but little did I know that the plot needed to thicken a little more.

UPDATE: 30/11 - Alexander Wang to take over at Balenciaga

Bloody hell, I can hardly keep up. Today it was announced in a flurry of whispers and some mega tweets that Wang, and not Kane, would be taking the reigns at the fashion house. Alexandra Shulman, Bryan Boy and Suzie Lau got Twitter in a frenzy and made us all wonder what on earth would happen to Kane, as excited as we were about Wang's future. I'm not sure what to believe anymore, but I know that Kane won't be allowed to flounder as he has a solid reputation and has built up an incredible following over the last few years, assisted by his sister Tammy. 

As for Wang? It is undeniably a 'big leap', in Shulman's words, given that the celebrated diffusion line T by Alexander Wang focused on great casual basics rather than couture, but his main line shows that he knows what the public wants and is very commercially attuned to the modern woman and he already has 12 stores. Given Ghesquiere's propensity to move away from the mass market then it's clear that Balenciaga is showing they want to focus on a wider and more financially driven (rather than creatively driven) market by hiring Wang.

That, I hope, is the conclusion to this story...

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