Designer Nicolas Ghesquière Photo: Karim Sadli
So finally, another fashion rumour is confirmed. Nicolas Ghesquière is the new creative director at Louis Vuitton.
Nicolas Ghesquiere confirmed as new Louis Vuitton creative director
Balenciaga seeks £6m damages from ex-creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere
Balenciaga to sue ex-creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere
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No surprises there. The smart money was always on this hugely creative talent taking over somewhere big – and when Louis Vuitton announced in early October that it was finally parting ways with Marc Jacobs after 16 years, most industry pundits thought it was only a matter of time before Ghesquière moved in.
READ: Nicolas Ghesquiere confirmed as new Louis Vuitton creative director
Yet in some ways this isn’t as straightforward an appointment as it seems. For one thing, the 42 year old Ghesquière’s sudden and unexpected departure from Balenciaga after 15 years, back in November 2012, has left some messy business in its wake, not the least of which were some barbed comments subsequently made by Ghesquière about his employers at Balenciaga earlier this year. That employer would be Kering, France’s second largest and most powerful luxury fashion conglomerate. Its most powerful, largest luxury fashion conglomerate is LVMH, owners of Louis Vuitton.
READ: Balenciaga seeks £6m damages from ex-creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere
It is customary in the fashion industry to draw a discreet veil over disagreements. White wash and coded politesse make this particular world go round and pundits are divided as to whether Ghesquière’s remarks constituted refreshing candour or a breached agreement. Kering it seems has no doubts that it was the latter and is reportedly suing him for “breach of confidentiality”.
READ: Nicolas Ghesquière to leave Balenciaga
Ghesquière has edge then. He’s no pushover. But then nor was Jacobs. And like Jacobs, Ghesquière is an undeniably compelling designer. He has been one of the most consistently admired and influential fashion voices of the past decade and a half. Which is interesting when you consider how uncommercial most of Ghesquière’s collections have been; sculptural armour for modern, micro-mini wearing amazons was a speciality, sometimes backed with sports-derived foam, or hammered from metal. Extraordinary shoes resembling fantasy Lego constructions were another. His shows are extraordinary and intriguing to look at – fertile ground for the copyists who seemed to relish the challenge of running up more wearable and much cheaper versions.
READ: Marc Jacobs on his departure from Louis Vuitton
There’s no argument that Ghesquière turned Balenciaga into one of the most talked-about labels of the Noughties during his tenure – something it hadn’t been since the Basque-born Cristobal Balenciaga closed the doors of his house in 1968 with the weary utterance that “there were no more women left to dress”.
How profitable Balenciaga became during Ghesquière’s reign is a moot point however. He had a hugely successful bag in the Lariat, especially once Kate Moss was spotted wearing it everywhere. And Balenciaga’s knitwear and classics lines were full of (relatively) affordable stylish classics. But Kering presumably let him go for a reason, and the obvious one was that he wasn’t selling enough.
SEE: Ghesquière’s Balenciaga highlights
All of which makes his move to Vuitton, one of the biggest, most commercially successful luxury fashion houses in the world, less of a shoo-in than it initially appears. On past form, Ghesquière doesn’t share Jacobs’ penchant for reconfiguring retro fashions – he is resolutely a modernist. Nor does he have Jacobs’ easy knack for tossing off instant printable quotes. Au contraire, Ghesquière has the reputation for being slightly aloof.
SEE: Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton – highlights through the years
But he has no shortage of fabulously interesting – sometimes confrontationally and befuddlingly so – ideas. After the endlessly diverting saga of Jacobs at Vuitton, Ghesquière could be the very thing to bring a different type of excitement to the house. One of his first task should be to create a must-have bag for Vuitton – and a synergy between its best selling accessories and its ready to wear.
For Bernard Arnault , Ghesquière also represents a considerable trophy hire, not only because of his reputation, but because there’s a strong chance it will irk Francois- Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering.
For so many different reasons, fashion’s latest hiring should be an unmissable spectacle.