If you’ve noticed, I avoid negative commentary and press on Peacock Under Pressure because there’s enough negative energy in the world without me adding to it. But with his departure, then complete silence of his resignation from Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière has finally come forth to explain.
This is a perfect example of choosing what is best for you over the glamorous spectacle of what it is you do. Everything that glitters isn’t gold.
In an interview with System magazine, Nicolas Ghesquière discusses his seemingly abrupt decision to step down from his coveted position at Balenciaga as creative director after 15 years of service. The creative mind behind some of Balenciaga’s most successful pieces of late felt like he was being “sucked dry” by the business aspect and disregarded in for his unique designs.
When was the first time you felt your ambitions for the house were no longer compatible with Balenciaga’s management?
“It was all the time, but especially over the last two or three years it became one frustration after another. It was really that lack of culture which bothered me in the end. The strongest pieces that we made for the catwalk got ignored by the business people. They forgot that in order to get to that easily sellable biker jacket, it had to go via a technically mastered piece that had been shown on the catwalk. I started to become unhappy when I realised that there was no esteem, interest, or recognition for the research that I’d done; they only cared about what the merchandisable result would look like. This accelerated desire meant they ignored the fact that all the pieces that remain the most popular today are from collections we made ten years ago. They have become classics and will carry on being so. Although the catwalk was extremely rich in ideas and products, there was no follow-up merchandising. With just one jacket we could have triggered whole commercial strategies. It’s what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t do everything. I was switching between the designs for the catwalk and the merchandisable pieces – I became Mr Merchandiser. There was never a merchandiser at Balenciaga, which I regret terribly.”
Did you never go to the top of the group and ask for the support you needed?
“Yes, endlessly! But they didn’t understand. More than anything else, you need people who understand fashion. There are people I’ve worked with who have never understood how fashion works. They keep saying they love fashion, yet they’ve never actually grasped that this isn’t yoghurt or a piece of furniture – products in the purest sense of the term. They just don’t understand the process at all, and so now they’re transforming it into something much more reproducible and flat.”
What’s the alternative to this?
“You need to have the right people around you: people who adore the luxury domain. There has to be a vision, but there also has to be a partner, a duo, someone to help you carry it. I haven’t lost hope!”
At what point into the job at Balenciaga did you realise you needed to wise up to the business side of the brand?
“Straight away. It’s part of being a creative because the vision you have ends up in the stores. It actually makes me smile today when I think about it because it was me who had to invent the concept of being commercial at Balenciaga. Right from the start I wanted it to be commercial, but the first group who owned the house didn’t have the first notion of commerce; there was no production team. There was nothing.”
In spite of the increasingly stifling conditions you felt you were operating in, were you nonetheless scared by the prospect of leaving Balenciaga?
“I just said to myself, ‘Okay, well you have to leave, you have to cut the cord.’ But I didn’t say anything to anyone, apart from to a few very close people, because, you know, I’ve become pretty good at standing on my own two feet.”
Once you’d decided enough was enough and you made your intentions clear, was management surprised that you wanted to leave?
“Yes. I think so, because I’d shown my ambitions for the house. There’d been lots of discussions, of course, and there were clearly some differences, but that sort of decision doesn’t just come out of nowhere. I’d been thinking a lot too. I was having trouble sleeping at one point. [Laughs] But there’s usually something keeping me awake.”
Did you ever think about making a personal announcement?
“No, I never wanted to express myself like that. I don’t know how to do that.”
What’s the most exciting thing about this period of time for you?
“Preparing for the next chapter and having the time to observe what’s going on in the industry. People could have forever associated me with Balenciaga. We saw clearly when the split took place that there was a desire for my name, so I disassociated myself naturally from the house. That could have been a risk. It would have been different if Balenciaga had disassociated itself from me, but people had seen me develop my signature and knew that it might happen. That’s exciting because whatever choice I make, the possibilities are open, and that was confirmed with the freeing of my name from Balenciaga. I’d made so much effort and been such a good obedient kid in associating myself… Now I can imagine a whole new vocabulary. I’m regenerating again, and that’s very exciting because it’s a feeling I haven’t had since I was in my twenties.”
Read more of the interview at Business of Fashion.
Be Extraordinary- Alyssa Peacock