In the world of postwar Parisian fashion, Cristobal Balenciaga was very influential. Christian Dior once said “Haute couture is like an orchestra, whose conductor is Balenciaga. We, other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the directions he gives.” Even the sharp tongue of Coco Chanel softened in deference to his skills: “He is a couturier in the truest sense of the word. Only he is capable of cutting material, assembling a creation, and sewing it by hand.”
Nicolas Ghesquière was totally unknown when he was handed the helm of Balenciaga at the age of 25, so he had a lot to prove when he was appointed to lead the house in 1997. Quite masterfully, however, he delivered. He successfully melded his own innovations with those of the founding designer, and vastly expanded the brand’s commercial reach. His work soon turned Balenciaga into a critically acclaimed fashion house in the 2000s. The Gucci Group bought Balenciaga in 2001. On November 5, 2012, it was announced that Ghesquière was to leave his role as creative director of Balenciaga after 15 years in the role, being replaced by Alexander Wang.