Last updated: May 27, 2010 6:06 pm

PPR and Gucci name McQueen successor

PPR, the French conglomerate, reconfirmed its commitment to the luxury industry on Thursday after appointing a creative director for the Alexander McQueen brand.

The French group said Sarah Burton, former head of women’s wear design for the house, would take up the role, which has been vacant since the eponymous founder’s suicide last February.

Though Gucci Group, PPR’s luxury subsidiary, bought McQueen in 2000, it only became profitable in 2007, and many in the industry felt that without its charismatic namesake the group would have to close the brand.

Jonathan Akeroyd, chief executive, said that was never a possibility.

“We have so much momentum in this brand, we felt there was no question it needed to continue,” he said.

However, Michael Boroian, president of the headhunters Sterling International, said: “Generally speaking, when you have a brand created by a designer of Mr McQueen’s personal stature and vision, but the brand is relatively young, it is extremely hard for anyone else to step into his position.

“On the other hand, as an owner, you don’t want to be seen as abandoning a brand.”

Mr Akeroyd dismissed the idea that an outside “star” designer was necessary to attract consumer attention: Ms Burton had worked under Mr McQueen for 14 years.

“Sarah was our first and really only choice. She has been part of the process of building the brand and knows how Lee [McQueen] worked.

“We have such a unique point of view, it would seem strange to have someone come in from outside,” he said.

Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Sanford Bernstein, said he thought the move was a smart choice and in line with Gucci Group’s strategy for managing its brands.

“The group learnt after Tom Ford left Gucci that it was more important to focus on the brand than an overwhelmingly visible designer; Sarah Burton is not someone who wants the limelight,” Mr Solca said.

At the same time as the McQueen announcement, Italian house Brioni, which has been without a single creative director for a few seasons, announced the appointment of Italian designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua as creative director.

The day before, Hermes announced that its artistic director, Jean-Paul Gaultier, would be replaced by the less well-known French designer Christophe Lemaire.

And on Monday it was announced that English designer Giles Deacon would replace Estrella Archs at the helm of French house Emanuel Ungaro.

Ms Burton’s debut will take place during the October women’s ready-to-wear shows in Paris.

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