Balenciaga to sue former creative director

Thursday, 05 September 2013
French fashion house Balenciaga is suing Nicolas Ghesquière, its former creative director, for 9.2 million dollars for breach of contract. Balenciaga, which is owned by the luxury group, stated Ghesquière violated a 'separation agreement' upon leaving the company. Such agreements are generally put in place to protect brands from any negative publicity surrounding high profile departures.

Nicolas Ghesquière, in an interview with System magazine, spoke openly about his experiences at the French fashion house and his published comments were not appreciated by the Kering owners.

Ghesquière stated Balenciaga "sucked me dry"

Ghesquière stated in the magazine's April edition: 'I began to feel as though I was sucked dry, like they wanted to steal my identity while trying to homogenize things. It just wasn't fulfilling anymore.'

According to WWD, 'Balenciaga didn’t want its designer to justify his departure by criticizing the house that employed him,' the court document states.

'In general, the parties, knowing the hypersensitivity of the fashion industry to changes in creative direction, were forbidden from commenting on the break in order to avoid any detrimental effect on their economic interests or their image.'

Lawyers for Mr Ghesquière have until October 15 to prepare their arguments against the case.

Although freedom of expression exists in French law, instances where an employee or former employee tarnishes or potentially imperils an enterprise allows them to seek damages.

The situation has proven that fashion houses rule with an iron fist and take little responsibilities for their creatives when it comes to them nearing boiling point.

When Balenciaga announced Mr Ghesquière's departure from the brand in November, the move was labeled a 'joint decision' by François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of PPR, the company that owned the brand at the time.

But judging by Mr Ghesquière's revealing interview with System magazine, the separation may not have been amicable.

'I had a marvelous studio and design team who were close to me,' he said. But it started becoming a bureaucracy and gradually became more corporate, until it was no longer even linked to fashion.'

He also asserted that the company 'became so dehumanized. Everything became an asset for the brand, trying to make it ever more corporate - it was all about branding.'

Mr Ghesquière was made Balenciaga's creative director in 1997, after he began working at the house at age 23. In 2000, he was named the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards Avant-Garde Designer of the Year, and he won the CFDA International Designer of the Year award a year later.

Court documents reveal that Mr Ghesquière was paid approximately 8.7 million dollars as compensation for the breaking of his employment contract, as well as 42.3 million dollars for the sale of his 10per cent stake in the company.

Balenciaga has since replaced Mr Ghesquière with Alexander Wang.

Image: Nicolas Ghesquière System magazine

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