Nicolas Ghesquière was born in Comines, Nord-Pas de Calais, France. He was the son of a Francophone Belgian golf-course owner and manager in the 9,000 inhabitants Poitevine town of Loudun and a French mother who enjoyed fashion. From a young age Ghesquière enjoyed and practised sports (horse riding, fencing and swimming) and many of his collections use that inspiration, most notably his scuba minidresses and most recently his equestrian inspired Fall/Winter 2006 Ready-To-Wear collection.
Raised in the small town of Loudun in western France (in the Poitevin-speaking part), Ghesquière announced at the age of 12 that he wanted to be a designer, though he now admits this was partly from an adolescent desire to do something different from his parents and to alleviate country boredom. So that's by the age of 12 that Nicolas was dreamily sketching dress designs in his school books, making dresses out of his mother's curtains and making earrings out of his grandmother's chandelier crystals.
He diligently did internships during his school holidays. At 14, he got an internship with French designer Agnès B for which he was paid in clothes. His next apprenticeship was with Corinne Cobson, afterwards he decided that fashion was too hard work and came home to finish his schooling.
After completing his studies, Nicolas worked from 1990-1992 as an assistant to designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. He then worked at Pôles, designing their knit wear line followed by a series of inauspicious assignments with different companies including the Italian house of Callaghan.
In 1997, at the young age of 25, Ghesquière was the surprise choice to head Balenciaga. Consistently reinventing himself by moving in new directions, he turned Balenciaga completely around. An aspect of the designer's devotion to the house's legacy is his respect for Cristóbal Balenciaga's unyielding elegance and inventiveness. However, even though the Balenciaga archives are stored in Ghesquière's atelier, he can gain entry to the locked room only by special appointment with an off-site custodian.
The Gucci Group (PPR) bought Balenciaga in 2001. Ghesquière who wanted to stay and expand Balenciaga could only be bought through the house. "It is a happy relationship," Ghesquière says. "It has worked because they wanted me to explain what I wanted to do with Balenciaga, not the other way around." Ghesquière's collections are ineffably cool and cutting-edge, but they have also had a huge commercial impact; not so much in terms of what he sells himself (his is a rarefied, high-end designer product) but through his influence on other designers.
He's often called a designer's designer and compared to Yves Saint-Laurent in his ability to feel and shape fashion. In October 2000, he was named avant-garde designer of the year at the VHI/Vogue Fashion Awards and a year later, he was named Womenswear Designer of the Year by the CFDA. Most recently Ghesquière was featured in Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2005, the only fashion designer in this year's edition (with exception of Ralph Lauren and Sean Combs, who were not featured for their fashion).
One of his former boyfriends is the make-up artist James Kaliardos.