It takes a clear vision and a strong will to lead the finicky and fickle fashion pack around by the nose, but that seems to be what Frenchman Nicolas Ghesquière, 36, has been doing ever since he took over the house of Balenciaga in 1997. Every season, his runway shows provide direction and ideas to each level of the fashion business, from the designer market right down to the mass market. When other designers embraced neutral gray for fall 2007, for example, Ghesquière turned out a collection of brightly printed scarf dresses and preppy khaki pants paired with skinny blue blazers.
Plucked literally from the back rooms of the fabled French house where he was designing a line of uniforms for a Japanese licensing partner, Ghesquière quickly found his niche with a clever combination of 1980s shapes, street-savvy accessories and a signature moody palette. His runway references have given a nod to everything from the house's 1960s archives to the sci-fi movie Tron. Add to his street cred the fact that Ghesquière has even created an enduring It bag, the now famous Lariat, a hippie-style satchel that was introduced in 2001 and continues to outperform the competition, no doubt abetted by its popularity among Hollywood hipsters like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
The soft-spoken Ghesquière was born in the small town of Loudon, France, where his father managed a golf course and his mother subscribed to glossy fashion magazines, many of which inspired the young Nicolas to learn to sketch. After an internship at agnès b. in Paris, he landed a job with Jean Paul Gaultier and later got his big break with Balenciaga as a licensee designer.
Today, with actresses like Chloë Sevigny and Cate Blanchett wearing his trendy clothing, Ghesquière still maintains a relatively low profile, preferring to keep his focus on perpetuating his unique vision.
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