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Alexander McQueen Label To Live On

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PARIS — The French owners of the late designer Alexander McQueen's label promise to continue his legacy, saying that would be the best tribute to a man they called a genius, a poet and a friend.

Francois-Henri Pinault, head of the French luxury group PPR which controls McQueen's companies through its Gucci Group, said the company will ensure McQueen's label continues and will build on the brand.

Pinault called McQueen, who killed himself last week, a "genius," a "friend" and a "poet" who was "hurt and lost in a world whose superficiality and lack of ideals he couldn't accept."

McQueen hanged himself Feb. 11 in his apartment on the eve of his mother's funeral, a coroner's inquest said Wednesday. McQueen had left several messages on the social networking site Twitter about his grief at his mother's recent death.

Robert Polet, chief of the Gucci Group, said the collection the designer was working on before his death will be shown at Paris fashion week next month.

Polet said he spoke with McQueen a few weeks ago when the two men decided that the label had acquired solid brand recognition that went beyond the name of the designer.

"'That will be my legacy'," McQueen said, according to Polet. "'That's something I will always leave behind'."

Sales of McQueen pieces are reported to have surged since his death. Draper's a trade publication, said that sales of the designer's clothing and accessories soared 1,400 percent at the end of last week.

The designer rose to fame in the 1990s, and was known for his daring and edgy style and skillful tailoring. He is credited with helping to revive the once-moribund British fashion industry and dressed celebrities from Cameron Diaz to Lady Gaga.

His work is considered so unique that some were voicing serious doubts about whether his company thrive without his inspiration. Some brands – such as Versace – have thrived after their founder's departure while others don't, and analysts say it is almost impossible to predict what will happen.

"Lee is of course irreplaceable," said Polet, referring to McQueen's first name, dropped from his professional moniker.

It's "premature" to talk about a new design team, Polet told The Associated Press. He said he is uncomfortable talking about business arrangements when McQueen's family and friends are still in mourning and before the designer's funeral.

He said McQueen's team are preparing his last collection which they will unveil during Paris fashion week March 3-11.

A British coroner's inquest said Wednesday that the fashion designer, grieving from the death of his mother, died by asphyxiation and hanging, leaving a note behind.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. McQueen was 40 at the time. The designer's death came just ahead of the funeral of his mother who died Feb. 2.

McQueen's death has cast a shadow over London Fashion Week, which opens on Friday. A tribute to the designer was to be held.

McQueen was named British Designer of the Year four times and awarded the title of CBE – Commander of the Order of the British Empire – by Queen Elizabeth II.

His outrageous pieces never sold in great numbers, but he became one of fashion's best-known brands.

"The fashion world has lost one of her most extraordinary sons. I have also lost a friend, a person of exceptional sensitivity which he hid behind a screen of provocation," said Pinault as he led an emotional tribute including a minute's silence before the annual presentation of PPR's financial results.

In 2001, Gucci bought a majority stake in the Alexander McQueen label, which did not break even until 2007.

Despite a challenging environment, PPR said retail sales at Alexander McQueen – one of Gucci's smaller brands – rose by 15 percent in 2009.

McQueen is most famous for his dramatic and often uncategorizable creations: sculptural cocktail dresses in psychedelic patterns; headwear made of trash; 10-inch (25 centimeter) heels shaped like lobster claws.

But his brand has also been broadening its appeal, branching out of women's ready-to-wear clothes and accessories to meanswear, shoes and leather goods.

It operates out of five directly controlled stores in London, Milan, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles as well as in numerous boutiques in department stores and high-end specialist shops, and online.

In 2010, PPR said the brand will continue to pursue license agreements which open it to a wider international public such as ready-to-wear denim marketed under the McQ label and a recently signed agreement for underwear and swimwear with Albisetti SpA.

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