Hearing Date Set in Balenciaga Case

Lawyers for Nicolas Ghesquière have until Oct. 15 to prepare their arguments fending off a case brought against the designer by his former employer.

PARIS — Lawyers for designer Nicolas Ghesquière have until Oct. 15 to prepare their arguments fending off a case brought against him by Balenciaga, his former employer, for remarks by the designer that the fashion house deemed harmful.

This story first appeared in the September 4, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Court documents obtained by WWD show Balenciaga is seeking damages of 7 million euros, or $9.2 million at current exchange, along with publication of the judgment in a variety of French fashion and business publications.

The civil case got under way here on Tuesday when the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris set that date for Ghesquière’s counsel to table its defense. Stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé is also named in the civil suit.

Court documents say the French fashion designer was paid 6.6 million euros, or $8.7 million at current exchange, as compensation for breaking his latest employment contracts, signed in 2010 and 2012. The star designer, who was given an equity stake when then-parent Gucci Group bought Balenciaga in 2001, received 32 million euros, or $42.3 million, for the purchase of his 10 percent stake in the company.

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Last November, Balenciaga and Ghesquière revealed a “joint decision to end their working relationship,” effective the end of that month.

The separation agreement was signed on Oct. 17 and stipulated that Ghesquière refrain from declarations that could hurt the image of Balenciaga; the then-PPR, now known as Kering, and its shareholders and collaborators, the documents say.

“Balenciaga didn’t want its designer to justify his departure by criticizing the house that employed him,” the suit says. “In general, the parties, knowing the hypersensitivity of the fashion industry to changes in creative direction, were forbidden from commenting on the break in order to avoid any detrimental effect on their economic interests or their image.”

In a telephone interview, Thierry Lévy, Balenciaga’s lawyer, claimed an interview with Ghesquière and Sauvé published in upstart London-based fashion magazine System earlier this year amounts to a violation of that contract.

The suit mentions multiple quotes by Ghesquire from the cover story, which ran over 30 pages and was published in English. One of them reads: “…I began to feel as though I was sucked dry, like they wanted to steal my identity while trying to homogenize things.”

Legal representatives for Ghesquière and Sauvé were present at the session Tuesday but declined comment.

A full hearing is expected to take place early next year, with a decision not expected until spring 2014.

American designer Alexander Wang succeeded Ghesquière at the creative helm and is slated to show his spring collection for Balenciaga on the runway here on Sept. 26.

Ghesquière has yet to indicate his future intentions or comment on speculation he has held talks with Kering’s luxury rival LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to either launch a signature brand or helm one of its flagship brands.