The flowerpot-shaped hat at Christian Dior Couture? Stephen Jones. The feline eye masks at Luella's last London show? Linda Farrow. The cage-like corset at Alexander McQueen's spring 2008 show? Shaun Leane.
And that's just the beginning. Jewelry designers Judy Blame, Johnny Rocket, Julia Belmacz; Shoe designers Manolo Blahnik, Jonathan Kelsey, Mehmet Kurdash of Gina, Nicholas Kirkwood, and leather artisans Paul Seville and Stephen Collins, all work regularly with major international fashion houses.
"In Britain, we think tangentially, we understand the conceptual approach," said Jones, who is also a regular exhibitor during London Fashion Week. This season he's making hats for Giles, Basso & Brooke, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and Giambattista Valli. "I think we also really value accessories here."
"We've always been good with craft in London," said Blame, who works with Gareth Pugh, Comme des Garçons and Marc Jacobs. "I do see it as a craft. Accessories don't go out of fashion."
For many houses, accessories are becoming increasingly important, providing added drama as well as being a powerful commercial force. "We've worked with Stephen [Jones] for three years. He just takes the idea to another level," said Christopher Brooke of Basso & Brooke. "We work with our manufacturer to create good commercial pieces, and we put wearable dresses on the catwalk, but [the hats] make them aspirational. They elevate them."
Accessories designers say working for the runway allows them to stretch their boundaries and experiment, while at the same time build their own businesses and reputation. "It's like advertising, but with an international brand name. It works for everybody," said Philip Treacy.
Jewelry designer Leane, who has worked with Alexander McQueen and Givenchy, agrees. "I was doing all the couture shows. Consumers and retailers began to ask where they could buy pieces," he said. "In 1998, I started my own label, taking the styles I created for the catwalk and [making] commercial collections."