The lawsuit involving Balenciaga and their former head designer, Nicolas Ghesquière, is moving from the courtroom to mediation. The French court was going to originally hand down its decision today, but at the suggestion of the president of the Tribunal de Grande Instance, the parties have decided to settle out of court.
The lawsuit involves Balenciaga suing Ghesquière for defamation and violation of a clause in their separation agreement — signed by both parties at the time of Ghesquière’s departure — which stated that the designer was prohibited from making any disparaging remarks about the fashion house.
Balenciaga is claiming that the remarks that Ghesquière made in an interview with British fashion magazine, System, were disparaging to Balenciaga and defamed the French fashion house. The designer was quoted in the interview comparing the house of Balenciaga to Chanel and Prada, claiming that while the designers of those brands had business partners who helped to build the brands to the massive fashion houses that they are, he “never had a partner” and “was doing everything by myself.”
Ghesqiuère’s lawyers defended the designer by saying that the comments made by him were not criticism of the brand alone, but rather of the industry as a whole. They further argued that Balenciaga failed to provide proof of prejudice and that the damages they are seeking are vindictive.
For these remarks and other similar comments that appeared in the magazine, Balenciaga claimed that the designer violated his separation agreement and is seeking damages of nearly $9.4 million.
Balenciaga’s lawyer, Hugo Lévy of Thierry Lévy & Associés told WWD that the move to mediation does not mean that there is any change in Balenciaga’s claim. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the fashion house will continue to pursue its claim before the tribunal.
Balenciaga is now being designed by renowned womenswear designer, Alexander Wang, and Ghesquière has replaced Marc Jacobs as head designer at Louis Vuitton.
There seems to have been a great deal of tension between the two parties since Ghesquière’s departure several years ago. Understandably so, considering that a large part of a luxury brand’s identity and brand worth is the reputation that it has in the industry, and if someone who used to design for the house makes disparaging remarks, it can hurt the brand’s value. So, having Ghesquière, who undeniably revived the couture house and brought it into the 21st century, making such remarks can really hurt the brand and its ability to stay relevant in an industry that’s always looking for the newest thing.
It will be interesting to see if the two sides can mediate successfully and what the outcome will be.
source: “Balenciaga v. Ghesqiuère Case Heads to Mediation,” Women’s Wear Daily.