PARIS (Reuters) - French retail giant PPR, one of the world's top luxury goods groups, plans to develop the Alexander McQueen fashion brand even after the suicide of its charismatic and rebellious founder.
Fashionistas have been snapping up McQueen's skull-encrusted bags and punky dresses since the designer's death earlier this month, but questions remain over the label's long-term success without his vision.
"Lee is irreplaceable of course," PPR Chief Executive Francois-Henri Pinault told reporters on Thursday, using McQueen's given first name.
"But even if it is among the smallest in the group, the company is in an excellent position," he added. PPR owns the McQueen brand as well as other hip labels such as Stella McCartney.
Pinault said McQueen's final collection would be shown during fashion week in March. Organisers said they were being flooded with calls asking about invites or offering condolences.
Trade magazine Drapers reported on Monday that sales of McQueen pieces soared 1,400 percent at the end of last week.
Online clothing retailer Net-A-Porter was offering a reptile-print silk dress in ice blue and rust from the collection at 2,845 pounds ($4,445). Items from previous collections -- including characteristically morbid designs featuring skulls and skeletons -- were already sold out.
On auction site eBay, a navy clutch with a skull clasp was offered at $2,025.
While Pinault and other executives at the group emphasized their belief in the future of the McQueen brand, the next months are likely to be tumultuous. Even the format for the Paris event -- originally scheduled for March 9 -- is still unclear.
"We don't know if there will be a catwalk show," a spokesman for the McQueen fashion shows in Paris said. "It could just be a presentation."
The last show put together by McQueen himself was staged in Paris in October, with dresses inspired by fantastical sea creatures, aliens and insects. Models in minidresses covered with dazzling prints walked on claw-shoes amid twisting robotic cameras.
Lady Gaga, the singer with a love of the extravagant, and other stars have already worn some pieces such as the claw-shoes, but the collection has only just hit the shops.
In Paris, luxury boutique Colette began selling the clothes on Tuesday, describing them as a "luxurious" inheritance.
"On the peak of his art, Alexander McQueen has passed away, it will be hard to succeed him," Colette said on its website.
Additional reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Robin Pomeroy