Ghesquière was born in Comines, Nord, the son of a Francophone Belgian golf-course owner and manager in the 7,500-inhabitant Poitevine town of Loudun and a French mother, who enjoyed fashion. He grew up in Loudun, Vienne. From a young age, Ghesquière enjoyed and practiced sports, such as horse riding, fencing, and swimming, and, in fact, many of his collections today use that inspiration, most notably his scuba mini dresses and recently his equestrian-inspired fall/winter 2006 ready-to-wear collection.
Reared in the small town of Loudun in western France's Poitevin-speaking area, At a young age, Ghesquière announced at 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. By the age of 12, Nicolas was dreamily sketching dress designs in his school books, making dresses out of his mother's curtains, and designing earrings out of his grandmother's chandelier crystals.
He diligently did internships during his school holidays. At 14, he assumed an internship with French designer agnès b, for which he was paid in clothes. His next apprenticeship was with Corinne Cobson. He decided afterward that fashion was difficult and returned home to finish his schooling.
After completing his studies, Nicolas worked from 1990 to 1992 as an assistant to designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. He went on to work at Pôles, designing its knitwear line followed by a series of inauspicious assignments with different companies, including the Italian house of Callaghan.
Through his contacts with Marie-Amélie Sauvé and Nathalie Marrec of Balenciaga, Ghesquière eventually landed a job doing the licensing for Balenciaga and designing for the Asian market. It was from there that he was chosen as the new designer for the house, which had had limited success since the 1970s. (The label's founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga, died in 1972.) Ghesquière held, as he then described it, "what many would call the worst position in fashion," designing suits and funeral clothes under a Balenciaga licence for Japan.
In 1997, at the young age of 25, Ghesquière was the surprise choice to head Paris fashion house Balenciaga, promoted to creative director of Balenciaga after his Dutch predecessor Josephus Thimister was fired following a highly unsuccessful show. At that time, Balenciaga was owned by Groupe Jacques Bogart, whose management realized Ghesquière's talent when he designed a small collection for one of its Japanese licensees.
He became known for his sense of contrast, such as pairing high-waisted skinny pants with a voluminous blouson or a tightly cut wool jumpsuit with billowing sleeves. His work soon turned Balenciaga into a critically acclaimed fashion house. An aspect of the designer's devotion to the house's legacy was his respect for Cristóbal Balenciaga's original design concepts. However, even though the Balenciaga archives are stored in Ghesquière's atelier, he was only able to gain entry to the locked room by special appointment with an off-site custodian. Throughout his time at Balenciaga, Ghesquière continuously collaborated with the same artists, particularly French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé. He has additionally cited actress Charlotte Gainsbourg as an influence during his time at the company.
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 said. "It has worked because they wanted me to explain what I wanted to do with Balenciaga, not the other way around." Ghesquière’s collections have had a considerable commercial impact, particularly through his influence on other designers. In November 2012, the PPR group announced his departure from Balanciaga after a 15-years collaboration.
He joined Louis Vuitton on 4 November 2013. In 2014, the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris announced a trial date for the lawsuit Balenciaga vs. Ghesquière. Kering-owned Balenciaga claimed that Ghesquière's comments in the magazine System had hurt the company's image. The highly publicized suit was mediated out of court.
On 5 March 2014, Ghesquiere had his first show under the LV brand.
In early 2017, a Danish model and Louis Vuitton exclusive named Ulrikke Høyer was allegedly told to starve for 24 hours before a Louis Vuitton show because she was "bloated" and was subsequently fired from the show, her story went viral and led to widespread backlash and criticism of unethical treatment of models. Ghesquiere and the Louis Vuitton team vehemently denied the claims but in September 2017 Louis Vuitton's parent company LVMH created a policy to no longer hire underage models and models who are a size 0 or deemed underweight.
In October 2000, Ghesquière 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. In 2006, he was among the TIME 100 Most Influential People. And Ghesquière was described as "fashion's most sought-after and influential figure" by American Vogue and was also cited as the International Designer of the Year in 2014 by the British Fashion Awards.
- Socha, Miles (4 November 2013). "Louis Vuitton Confirms Nicolas Ghesquière Hire". WWD. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- 032c.com. "The story of NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE and how BALENCIAGA became 21st Century Fashion". Retrieved 5 March 2014.
- nytimes.com (5 November 2012). "Nicolas Ghesquière to Leave Balenciaga". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
- Socha, Miles (4 February 2014). "Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquière Trial Date Set". WWD. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
- Socha, Miles (26 February 2014). "All Eyes on Nicolas Ghesquière's Debut at Louis Vuitton". WWD. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- TIME 100: Nicolas Ghesquiere Kate Betts, May 8, 2006