Alexander McQueen gambles on McQ

Today, Alexander McQueen announced it was taking control of its second line, McQ, after the current spring/summer 2011 collection. For the last five years since its launch, McQ has been produced under license by an Italian firm, SINV SpA. Its current creative director, Pina Ferlisi, will continue in that role, under the guidance of Sarah Burton, current creative director of the main line. This is interesting, for a few reasons.

Sarah Burton -- Getty Images

Sarah Burton -- Getty Images

First, I think it demonstrates how pleased PPR, which owns Gucci Group, which owns McQueen, was by Ms Burton’s performance last week during the Paris women’s wear shows, where she presented her first collection as creative director after the death of Mr McQueen. Though she had been the chief designer of his women’s wear collection for years, there were still many who thought the line should be shuttered after Mr McQueen’s death – that no one could replace him – or that only another, equally famous, designer could take the helm. The PPR folks went for continuity instead, and despite the pressure on her, last week Ms Burton came through, with a collection that was clearly part of the McQueen legacy, albeit lighter and less angry.

Alexander McQueen show at Paris Fashion Week -- Getty Images
Alexander McQueen show at Paris Fashion Week — Getty Images

The reviews were good, and the execs must have felt they made the right choice. More significantly, though, it indicates that McQ, and McQueen itself, may be on solid financial footing. When PPR took control of Gucci Group in 2004, most of the smaller brands, McQueen among them, were losing money; one of the Group’s core strategies for tipping these brands into profitability was judicious use of licensing (which at that point had been roundly vilified by fashion). It worked – McQueen was in the black in 2007. I guess they feel confident enough now to trade a dependable source of income for one that is potentially even bigger, recession notwithstanding.

Dolce & Gabbana did the same thing with D&G in 2007, and in 2008 and 2009 registered 7% growth. If any other brands follow suit, we might well have a trend on our hands.

Related reading:

Alexander McQueen memorial stops the juggernaut of LFW – FT Material World