The designer Nicolas Ghesquière has finally spoken out about exactly why he left Balenciaga – in an interview for the first issue of new fashion magazine System that has been dissected, digested and analysed the world over during the past week.
His reason? It’s remarkably simple: the old conflict between commercial and creative that seems to rage especially violently in the fashion world.
And well it should. Fashion’s ultimate goal is to sell – or at least, sell something. The justification for haute couture is the perfume it hawks and the publicity it generates.
In a way, couture is selling the name rather than the clothes – Valentino’s honorary chairman Giancarlo Giammetti once described the house’s couture collection as its “advertising budget”.
But even in haute couture, if you’re extraordinarily wealthy (the kind of rich where your surname appears on a can of beans or the reverse of a credit card and you have a Lichtenstein in the toilet) you can buy and wear the stuff. So fashion must be commercial, or it cannot exist – there are enough rag-trade rags-to-riches-to-rags stories to prove that.
Yet fashion equally must be creative. It isn’t just churning out identikit frocks – fashion is about change, perpetual change and innovation. It’s about pushing the limits and testing the waters. Otherwise we’d all be in potato sacks (and not those hand-painted Dolce & Gabbana ones).
Then again, when it comes to ready-to-wear, my argument is that it should at least be possible to wear and to sell. After a decade or two of arch fantasy and high-profile haute couture, designers seem to have finally figured that out.
Certainly, for all his innovation, Nicolas Ghesquière was aware. His chagrin with the Balenciaga suits was the fact that, despite 15 years of forward-thinking catwalk collections garnering rave reviews, his vision for Balenciaga never made it down to the final product on the store shelves.
There was a disconnect – Ghesquière wanted women to wear his designs, not just clothes bearing the Balenciaga label. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of Cristóbal Balenciaga himself – “I will not prostitute myself.”
Alexander Fury is the editor of 'LOVE' magazine