After 15 years as the Creative Director of Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière is parting ways with the fashion house. In his last interview for the brand, we talk exclusively to Ghesquière about his new scent, his controversial muse Kristen Stewart, and why strange is beautiful.
A striking similarity between the house of Balenciaga’s recently-departed Creative Director, Nicolas Ghesquière, and his muse, Twilight star Kristen Stewart, is immediately apparent: their ability to ignite a frenzy of rumors. Both Stewart and Ghesquière have had their stories splashed across media headlines recently; Ghesquière, for his sudden and shocking announcement to leave Balenciaga after 15 years as Creative Director, opting to offer the world very little information regarding his departure, and Stewart, for her extracurricular affairs that have put her at the center of an awkward love triangle between longtime boyfriend and Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson and her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders.
So it is no wonder that the highly anticipated Florabotanica, featuring Stewart as the face of the fragrance, explores the more experimental, rebellious, and dangerous side of Balenciaga. The name derives from the Latin phrase meaning botanical flower, chosen by Ghesquière to evoke an image in which the beauty of nature mingles with a dark side of life to create a captivating landscape. Ghesquière put it best himself when he told us, “In this garden, the flower is not romantic and naïve but naughty and dangerous.” The rebellious flower is a personal symbol for the designer; it is interwoven into every aspect of the scent, from the selection of ingredients and the outrageous bottle design to the larger advertising campaign with its explosive floral pattern.
With hints of wild mint, Turkish rose essence, caladium foila, vetiver, and white amber notes, Ghesquière describes Florabotanica as less classic and more experimental, poetic, and audacious than previous Balenciaga fragrances. The secret, he says, is the perfect mix of classicism and experimentation. The fragrance is “very new and modern, but at the same time elegant and subtle. The inspirations were, as always, Balenciaga values and DNA.”
As for the eye-catching bottle, it was specially designed with concepts of aesthetics and science in mind. “I have been inspired by lab phials containing flower extracts and inserted it into graphic flacons. The bottle is a collage in a way. We really thought of a botanical garden, a laboratory, and what could be the matrix of the bottle that would receive the extract of the flower.” Ghesquière explains that the fanciful packaging, which seems to be taken straight out of a surrealist painter’s daydream, was inspired by a former Balenciaga collection from years ago called ‘The Flower Collection’. “Most of the dresses were floral in an architectural way,” he explains, “and I think this is expressed in the fragrance.”
So what does it take to become the muse of a floral rebellion? You would need to be mysterious, youthful, confident, seductive, whimsical, edgy – and, of course, deviant.
“Kristen embodies the modernity of the new Balenciaga fragrance with her unique sensibility and intelligence."
Cue Kristen Stewart as a natural embodiment of Ghesquière’s botanical, rock and roll fantasy. Since they first met in 2006, Ghesquière knew that he wanted to collaborate with Stewart, immediately understanding that she shares the “radical spirit of Balenciaga”. “Kristen was the obvious choice for the fragrance,” he declares. “She is young and has her own rebel style and sense of fashion. She also has a seductive and poetic side”. Stewart, who became a household name after being cast as Bella Swan in the Twilight saga, is often described by the media as both eccentric and, quite frankly, strange. “Kristen embodies the modernity of the new Balenciaga fragrance with her unique sensibility and intelligence. From her early appearance in Panic Room to her independent choice of Welcome to the Rileys, I have always sensed her progressive character,” says Ghesquière.
The concept of strangeness seems to be a motif of Ghesquière’s career, something that has fascinated him since his first days at Balenciaga, where he preferred his models to be interesting-looking rather than classically beautiful. True to form, he explains that Florabotanica “refers to beauty but in a strange way”.
Ghesquière’s radical decision to depart Balenciaga at such a prime moment for the brand – without clear future plans – is as complicated and unpredictable as his fragrance. One might speculate that it is life imitating art. We imagine him walking through the enchanted botanical garden for which his perfume is named, as he wanders into unknown territories without regret or hesitation to see where his next adventure will lead.
Photos: Courtesy of BALENCIAGA