Friday, March 02, 2007

Was Nicolas Ghesquiere Misunderstood?

First of all, I have to give you an update on Nina Ricci. According to WWD, Nina Ricci had a handshake agreement with Reese Witherspoon to dress the actress in all media appearances exclusively. Good for Olivier Theyskens!

Now let's turn to another young and talented designer, Nicolas Ghesquiere. Many people didn't like the his FW07 collection. Some common reactions are, "it's not directional", "not Balenciaga", "big disappointment from the previous seasons". Is it?

My instinct told me that that was not the case but it needs prove. So I opened my Balenciaga book and did my homework. Not only did it confirm my thoughts, it showed me how consistent the FW07 collection is with his pre-SS06 collections.

Pictures from 1998 and 1999 collections are missing from, but luckily a few are published in the Balenciaga book. Among journalists' reviews, surprisingly, the word futurism appeared many times. There was even one dress with huge padded shoulders that looks exactly like the SS07 "alien outfit". It was Ghesquiere's idea, or imagination, back in 1998, but better executed.

Then I saw pleats, patchworks, lean and mean pants, and cocoon dresses from the collections years before volume became a mainstream trend. Ghesquiere once commented that he was sure that his technique was different from Balenciaga's although he was trying to make some clothes with volume as Balenciaga did. That was before he accessed the archives. Collections from 1998 to 2005 were all based on his imagination, his view, and his interpretation on fashion especially street fashion.

Then here comes the SS06 collection. Ghesquiere studied the archives and learned Balenciaga's techniques to be able to replicate those stunning dresses. He also made those silk jackets with peeked shoulders which then became a Balenciaga signature.

He explored more on volume in FW06 before he returned to his nature and presented the "futurism" collection for SS07. It was the first time he disassociated himself from the history - don't get my wrong, apparently he learned the techniques he needed, and then he moved on.

Now let's look at the FW07 collection. Pants and jackets were still wonderful as usual. What truly amazed me were those dresses. They looked like a mess in the first second, and then it reminded me of the patchwork dresses he did years ago. The way the patterns worked together, the way the colors interacted, and the way the graphics made visual impact were extremely well thought and executed (minus the turquoise leggings). The styling is overdone and distracting, but when you look at the indivicual pieces closely and compare them with Ghesquiere's previous collections especially before SS06, it was a HUGE step forward. He has reinvented himself.

Olivier Theyskens once said that his collections were going to be like chapters in a book and they were going to develop gradually. This is exactly what Ghesquiere is doing. SS06 and FW06 were the necessary steps to learn techniques and the Balenciaga spirit (restrained structure and relaxed volume). Don't misunderstand him by those two collections. Ghesquiere is not going to sit on piles of archives but move forward.