Alexander McQueen label to be sustained, French owner PPR says

French owner PPR says late designer's new collection will be shown in Paris as planned, and his brand will be maintained

The British fashion world expressed its relief today as the French owners of Alexander McQueen's eponymous label vowed to sustain the "genius" of the late designer despite his suicide last week.

Francois-Henri Pinault, the chairman of the luxury group PPR that holds a controlling stake in the creator's company, said the decision to continue the fashion house had been made "swiftly" following news of the 40-year-old's death at his London home.

"It would be the best tribute we could pay him," said Pinault, adding that the label founded in 2001 continued to hold "significant potential" for the future. Demand for McQueen's clothes has rocketed since his death, with Liberty, a long-time stockist, reporting a 1,400% increase in sales.

The enfant terrible of contemporary fashion was found dead last Thursday, weeks before he was due to unveil his eagerly awaited latest collection on the Paris catwalk. An inquest in London yesterday heard that he had hanged himself in a wardrobe at his home in the West End.

At a press conference to outline PPR's annual results, Pinault insisted that the continuation of the McQueen brand was the only fitting option for a man he described as a "poet … of extreme sensitivity", "a pure genius" and a "human being whom we already miss so much".

"Fashion has lost one of its extraordinary people. He was one of the falling stars that comes across our generation," he told journalists.

His colleague Robert Polet, the chief of PPR's Gucci Group subsidiary, confirmed that McQueen's last collection would be shown as planned during Paris fashion week next month.

Until today's announcement, the future of the loss-making McQueen label had been the subject of much debate. Despite winning the respect of the fashion establishment and attracting the custom of A-list celebrities such as Kate Moss and Lady Gaga, the business only managed to break even in 2007, and was hit hard by the recession, which plunged it back into the red. Recent audits reported liabilities of more than £32m.

Polet, however, dismissed concerns over the fate of the label and insisted that Gucci Group would ensure its survival. He said he had spoken to the designer several weeks earlier and that the two men had decided that they had "transitioned from being the name of a designer to putting in place the building blocks of a brand".

"That means it will be my legacy," McQueen, whose real first name was Lee, had said. "That's something I will always leave behind."

News that the brainchild of the four-time winner of the British Designer of the Year award will be sustained after his death will come as a boost to London fashion week, which opens tomorrow. "It's obviously great news that the label is to be continued," said Gemma Ebelis of the British Fashion Council. "He was a fantastic designer who will continue to inspire … for many years to come."

Observers said it was still too early to begin speculating as to who will take McQueen's place at the company's helm. "Lee is of course irreplaceable," said Polet.


Lizzy Davies in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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