The Balenciaga v. Nicolas Ghesquière Proceedings Underway This Week

Nicolas Ghesquière and Balenciaga are slated to appear in court this upcoming week. The Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, a civil court, will hear oral arguments in the case on Tuesday. You may recall that Balenciaga filed a $9.5 million suit against Ghesquière, who now serves as creative director at Louis Vuitton, in September for breach of contract, stemming from a string of interviews he gave to London-based fashion magazine System.

Balenciaga alleges that Ghesquière failed to express himself with "reserve and delicacy," according to court documents. Ghesquière, who was appointed creative director at Paris-based Balenciaga in 1997, is credited with putting the Balenciaga name back on the map, spending 15 years there. However, after "differences" between the designer and the fashion house came to a head in late 2012, the company agreed to pay Ghesquière $8.8 million in compensation for terminating his contract. In return, the designer agreed in writing not to publicly make statements that could harm the reputation of his former employer or its parent company, Kering, according to the documents.

According to its complaint, Balenciaga alleged that it "did not want the designer to justify his departure with criticism of the house that employed him … More generally, the parties, aware of the hyper-sensitivity of the fashion industry... were forbidden from commenting on the rupture in order to avoid any interpretation harmful to their economic interests and image." Balenciaga deems the remarks that Ghesquière made in an April 2013 interview with System magazine were harmful (think: “I was being sucked dry, like they wanted to steal my identity while trying to homogenise things” and Balenciaga has plans to “open up a load of stores in really mediocre spaces”). Of the interview at issue, Balenciaga asserts in its complaint: "From the very first interview, Nicolas Ghesquière formulated an opinion which constituted a direct attack" on his former employer and its parent company.

This is essentially, although somewhat indirectly, a battle of the two biggest fashion players, as Kering owns Balenciaga and its rival LVMH owns Louis Vuitton, where Ghesquière is currently serving as creative director.