PARIS — The guessing game begins: Who will be the new designers at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent?

On Tuesday, as the fashion world digested the news of Tom Ford’s departure as creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, speculation in Europe immediately centered on Alexander McQueen as a leading contender to take up the reins at Gucci, the engine of the multibrand group.

A McQueen spokeswoman declined to comment and insisted that it was business as usual at the London-based house, which is 51 percent owned by Gucci.

But even luxury analysts bandied about McQueen’s name as if it were a done deal, even though the designer is known to be intensely loyal to Ford and Gucci Group’s president and chief executive officer Domenico De Sole.

“He is today the key designer of Gucci Group,” said Jean-Jacques Picart, an industry consultant here. “To me, he seems more suitable for Gucci than YSL. He has a kind of violence in his design, which is very dynamic and perfect for leather goods, which are the backbone of Gucci.”

According to sources, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute intends to name two designers to replace Ford. As for Yves Saint Laurent, the search is likely to involve such names as Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf, Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane and Nicolas Ghesquière of Gucci-owned Balenciaga.

Still other observers suggested that PPR may look first within its own ranks to find successors. Stefano Pilati is viewed by some as a potential candidate to move up to the top slot at YSL. Currently women’s design director, he joined YSL in March 2000 from Prada Group, where he designed for the Miu Miu brand.

To be sure, PPR has to move quickly. But in an unusual twist, Ford and De Sole could play a role in helping to chose their own successors. “If asked, we’d be delighted to be helpful,” De Sole said during a conference call Tuesday. “It would be absurd in this context not to use Domenico and Tom’s knowledge and skills,” added PPR chief executive Serge Weinberg.

Peppered with questions about his intentions regarding design successors, Weinberg was tight-lipped, saying only: “We will inform the market when the agreements with successors will be reached.”

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