Heartfelt tributes were paid to the lasting legacy of designer Alexander McQueen as London Fashion Week officially opened in the capital today.

The 40-year-old British designer was found hanged in his wardrobe at his Mayfair home last week on the eve of the funeral of his mother Joyce.

While McQueen had not attended London Fashion Week since 2001, he was one of Britain's most feted fashion exports.

His parent company PPR announced yesterday the McQueen label will continue despite his death.

Launching the event at Somerset House this morning, British Fashion Council (BFC) chairman Harold Tillman spoke of the designer's "extraordinary impact" on the international fashion industry, before inviting attendees to hold a minute's silence to remember "this great talent".

He said: "I ask you to join me in sharing both respect and reverence for the passing of one of our greatest British designers Lee McQueen.

His impact on London and this international fashion industry has been extraordinary. And he will be sorely missed.

"I know that we will all remember his incredible achievements and what he did for fashion here in London."

Praising McQueen's raw talent, he added: "He proved that this industry and this city is one of opportunity, he left school with one O-Level and, with a good mix of determination, hard work and genius, he became and will remain one of London's leading lights.

"He has inspired so many to follow and establish their own collection and has influenced many designers.

"To ensure London, his home city, continues to grow as a global fashion centre will be a fitting tribute to this brilliant man."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's wife Sarah Brown spoke of her admiration and awe at the designers due to exhibit their collections at the event.

She said: "I have no doubt this will be a creative and inspiring London Fashion Week and also a reflective time with the passing of Lee McQueen."

Fashion journalists, buyers and designers from around the globe will descend on London for the series of catwalk shows which run until February 24.

Dublin-born Paul Costelloe was the first designer unveiling his new collection at the bi-annual event.

He drew on the "Assassination of Jesse James" as his defining inspiration with his collection featuring tweed, leather and period-inspired silhouettes.