PARIS, France - Balenciaga's designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, one of the most acclaimed of his generation, is leaving the French fashion house after 15 years at its helm, the PPR luxury group announced on Monday.
The news went down like a bombshell in planet fashion with the designer's name instantly becoming a top worldwide Twitter trend, unleashing a swirl of speculation over the 41-year-old's next step and his succession at Balenciaga.
"The Balenciaga fashion house and Nicolas Ghesquiere have announced their joint decision to end their working relationship as of 30 November 2012," a PPR statement said.
"With an incomparable creative talent, Nicolas has brought to Balenciaga an artistic contribution essential to the unique influence of the house," the statement quoted PPR chief executive Francois-Henri Pinault as saying.
Contacted by AFP, Balenciaga gave no reason for the designer's departure, but stressed it was "the fruit of a long reflexion between the head of the brand and Nicolas Ghesquiere."
PPR, which has owned Balenciaga since 2001, said it would announce the name of his successor at a later date.
The house was founded in 1919 by the Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga, considered a pivotal influence on 20th century fashion. The designer closed it down in 1968, four years before he died, and it lay dormant until 1986.
Taking over as artistic director 11 years later, in 1997, Ghesquiere put the house back on the fashion map.
He won fans the world over for his radical designs, striking a high note at Paris Fashion Week in September with a playful, couture-inspired look.
In 2001 he was named "International Designer of the Year", beating out competition from Karl Lagerfeld and the late Alexander McQueen.
"Thank you Nicolas for bringing back all Cristobal Balenciaga's values and creativity," read a tweet on Balenciaga's official account.
"Let the guessing begin. Who is going to fill this massive, gaping hole in the fashion industry?" tweeted Meenal Mistry, fashion writer for the Wall Street Journal.
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