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PARIS — Lee Alexander McQueen made the transition from designer label and set the “building blocks of a brand” that will allow the business to continue, despite his suicide last week.
“We believe in the future of the brand,” Robert Polet, president and chief executive officer of Gucci Group, said at PPR SA’s annual results presentation here, which opened with a stirring video tribute to the late designer’s runway legacy as one of his favorite pieces of music, Handel’s “Sarabande,” swelled.
Polet said he had a conversation with the designer “a couple of weeks ago” about progress at the London-based fashion house, and “he was very proud of what has been built. He said, ‘That means that will be my legacy. That’s something I will always leave behind.’”
And although “Lee is irreplaceable,” Gucci Group decided a continuation of the business would be the best testimony to his talent, Polet said.
He declined to comment on any succession plan, but said a fall McQueen collection would be presented during Paris Fashion Week. It will be shown by invitation in a “private salon” format on March 9 and 10 at an undisclosed location.
“Lee was very proud of the people working in the company, and so am I,” Polet added.
According to sources, the design studio includes Sarah Burton, who was McQueen’s right hand on women’s wear for more than a dozen years, and the fall collection was well under way before the designer hung himself in the wardrobe of his London apartment on Feb. 11.
Opening the annual results meeting with a tribute of his own to McQueen, PPR chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault called the designer a “pure genius” and “poet.”
Gucci Group swept in 10 years ago and bought a 51 percent stake in McQueen’s company, bringing an end to the designer’s rocky stint as Givenchy’s couturier at rival luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
The acquisition set the stage for expansion via signature boutiques in 11 cities; a secondary line, called McQ, licensed to Italy’s SINV; men’s wear and leather goods, and collaborations with the likes of Samsonite, which recently wound up, and the mass retailer Target.
Last year, McQueen also ramped up his ongoing relationship with sport lifestyle brand Puma, expanding it from footwear to apparel and accessories.
McQueen’s business is included in PPR’s “other brands” division that also comprises Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Boucheron and Sergio Rossi, which saw fourth-quarter sales rise 6.7 percent to 130.4 million euros, or $192.6 million at average exchange.