Harriet Walker: At Balenciaga, Ghesquière was our tour guide on a weird trip

Ready to Wear

Just as the fashion crowd thought things were set to calm down a bit – after the departure of John Galliano, the return of Jil Sander, the apotheosis of Raf Simons and the um-well-we're-not-sure-yet of Hedi Slimane – Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière announces he's off, and sets the rumour mill spinning again, like a waterwheel after a downpour.

When this designer leaves Paris's most prestigious and progressive house at the end of the month, there will be a directionally shaped silhouette at the heart of the industry. His 15 years at the atelier widely agreed to have been founded by the greatest couturier of all time (M. Cristobal first opened his salon in 1967) have seen sea changes in fashions and fads, many of which originated with Ghesquiere in the first instance.

Difficult dimensions and puzzling proportions; neoprene; hyper-real prints; moulding, bagging, anti-fit. But a few examples of Ghesquière's reinventions of contemporary womenswear. Boho-tech? That was him. Shrunken blazers? Those too. The rise of the keffiyeh scarf? That began on the Balenciaga catwalk for autumn 2008 before all those gap-year kids got hold of them.

For me, that was a defining collection: I'd just got my first proper job in fashion (where I was actually paid and didn't have to also work in a pub every night), and the iconography was everywhere, from magazines to the cobbled-together version that I wore.

The jacket, cut so sharp it could have been whipped up by Zorro using a Sabatier. Jodhpurs bagged out on the hip, far from conventionally flattering, and a techy-traveller scarf. And glorious Pierre Hardy heels that looked like they were made from Meccano.

Balenciaga's USP has always been one of startling elegance, of sophistication in the face of sci-fi. This season, boxy retro shell-tops boasted the slogan "join a weird trip".

We have done, Nicolas – thanks for being such a great tour guide.

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