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The Art and Science of Nicolas Ghesquière

Some designers are showmen; others are realists. Nicolas Ghesquière is a scientist who conducts experiments with fashion, distills it down to a concentrated essence and uncorks it for a rapt audience every season in a seven- to 10-minute runway...

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Not surprisingly, Ghesquière describes his nature as “quite impatient,” which might explain why he reached Gucci Group’s business deadline to break even two years early. Ditto for the atelier. Ghesquière likes to see his ideas realized quickly, so he usually starts building shapes himself, pinning fabric on the mannequin. His process is one of deduction and refinement, working toward the final look. “It’s a very controlled process: I work outfit by outfit,” he says. “It’s not like we launch the clothes in five different fabrics and then choose the best one.”

While his black dresses and kimono-sleeve jackets in tweed or flannel broadcast an austere-but-wearable message, the second half of his show was decidedly more experimental. His draped velvet and taffeta tops are an allusion to the Spanish painters Francisco Goya and Francisco de Zurbarán, while Whiteread’s eerie resin sculptures inspired Ghesquière to experiment with latex, plastic and other “artificial” materials in various combinations with couture fabrics. Chinese screens inspired the finale suite of latex dresses hand-painted with nature scenes.

For these, he was keen to avoid all implications of fetish in his use of latex, which is why he lined all the dresses with pale green or pink silk. Instead, his intention was to make latex and plastic noble and luxurious with craft techniques. Indeed, they look expensive—and they are, retailing from $46,000 up to $86,000 apiece. “We sold some in some quantities. That’s the luxury of having your own stores. There is a customer for exceptional pieces, more and more, actually,” he says. “You don’t know what’s going to be wearable—that’s the beauty of fashion.”
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