He's often called a designer's designer and compared to Yves Saint Laurent in his ability to feel and shape fashion. As the creative director for the iconic house of Balenciaga, French-born Nicolas Ghesquiere, 35, has spent the past nine years shaping his own fashion vision as well as that of the greater global fashion business. His ability to wow the front-row crowd with a heady blend of street style and historical reverence is unparalleled. His signature silhouette of skinny pants and blouson jacket, a vestige of Ghesquiere's obsession with the '80s (think Bow Wow Wow), is a virtual staple in fashion's contemporary market. His is that rarest combination of talents: untethered creativity plus commercial savvy.
The son of a golf-course manager in the small town of Loudon, France, he liked to sketch images from his mother's glossy magazines. By age 15, Ghesquiere had obtained an internship at agnes b. in Paris and at 21 was working for Jean Paul Gaultier. But his big break came in 1996 when the owners of the then unfashionable house of Balenciaga hired him to design a line of uniforms for a Japanese licensing partner. He was quickly promoted, and by 2000 his clothes were coveted by the likes of Chloe Sevigny, Nicole Kidman and the Olsen twins. It seems the label was a particularly good fit for the soft-spoken Ghesquiere. Just like Cristobal Balenciaga, he has a relentless sense of innovation. He knows what you're going to want to wear before you do.