With the surprising news yesterday morning that Balenciaga would be parting ways with Nicholas Ghesquiere, its creative director for 15 years and a man widely considered to be among the most talented (if not the most talented) designers in the entire industry, it seemed only fair that we look back on Ghesquiere’s inimitable legacy at the French house. Ghesquiere’s influence on the entirety of fashion is undeniable (the Balenciaga Did It First Tumblr is a pretty damning roundup of how other major designers have borrowed, both subtly and not-so-subtly, from Ghesquiere’s body of work), but naturally, our loyalties lie with his brilliant handbags.
The Balenciaga Motorcycle Bags, then known as the Balenciaga Le Dix, made their runway debut in 2001 at the urging of models in the brand’s show, who loved Nicolas’ first bag design for the brand. Balenciaga’s corporate leaders weren’t so convinced, but the bags debuted anyway and a star was born. Since then, those first bags (known as the Flat Brass bags because of – you guessed it – their flat studded hardware) have been turned into dozens on top of dozens of shapes, colors, materials and prints and created a huge windfall for a designer whose challenging, forward-thinking ready-to-wear creations tend to be a bit of a hard sell to the average fashion customer. Below, revisit some of Ghesquire’s greatest handbag triumphs from his incredible stint at Balenciaga. If we left out your favorite bag, let us know in the comments.
Of course, we’ll start at the beginning: The Balenciaga Flat Brass Classique is the bag that started it all. Images of these bags from back in the day are almost impossible to come by, but here’s a personal photo from one of our Forum members who’s lucky enough to own an original. Another enthusiast (and still-frequent carrier) of the flat brass design? Kate Moss.
Even though the bags started out in black and brown, brights have been a Balenciaga staple since shortly thereafter. Long before it was fashionable, Balenciaga turned out bags in every shade from bubblegum pink to sunflower yellow, and the particularly good colors quickly became tough to find and profitable to flip on sites like eBay. Of them all, this gorgeous apple green from 2005 still looks just as fresh and crisp as it did almost eight years ago. (Gulp.)
Another place that Balenciaga was ahead of the handbag curve? Prints. They’re commonplace now, but when the Balenciaga Floral City Bag came out in 2008, it seemed untenably bold. The bags didn’t sell all that well back then, but that’s the curse of being able to see the future like Ghesquiere apparently can. He was ready for it before we caught up.
The bold stripes of the Balenciage Damask Courier from 2006 were a little easier to take, even back then – this bag wasn’t just a favorite of Nicole Richie’s, but of bag buyers in general.
If nothing else (and there is plenty else), the legacy of Ghesquiere at Balenciaga is one of thinking forward. The holographic leather trend for Resort and Spring 2013 that feels incredibly modern and cool and fresh for designer accessories? Balenciaga did a matte croc version way back in 2009.
A couple of years ago, Balenciaga started adding its Motorcycle Bag details to a series of straw hobos and totes for warmer weather. The greatest result of that idea? The beachy, luxe Balenciaga Panier Tote.
Just by looking at the picture, I bet you can guess what I’ll say about the Balenciaga Lune Tote. Yes, it came years before the Celine Luggage Tote, and it has much the same feel – modern, but with a few old-world details. The gussets flare, too, if you want them to.
The only bag I ever regretted selling was my Balenciaga Holiday 2005 Pewter First Bag. I eBayed it back when I was still in college, and if I had it now, I’d never let it go. The metallics from Fall 2004 and Holiday 2005 were a big hit among Bal fans.
And of course, my personal favorite: My Balenciaga Giant Day Bag in violet from Spring 2007, from my What’s In Her Bag feature. I’ve likely logged more hours with this bag on my shoulder than any in my collection, and the colors on the front and back are mismatched enough to prove it.