Visiting a designer's studio is like reading their diary. It's so refreshing to see their mess, their empty coffee mugs, their scribbles on bulletin boards.
In mid-January, in the run-up to London Fashion Week, I was lucky enough to visit stylist and jewelry designer Judy Blame's home studio. Blame—who has worked with Comme des Garçons, Marc Jacobs, Gareth Pugh, and denim brand Superfine—lives in a red brick Victorian house in a quiet East London street. His living room is filled with odd and ends of furniture; remnants from his earlier career, including a bowler hat he made in the 1980s for Boy George; mid-process pieces for Pugh's fall show, and quirky touches like a teddy bear on a chair decorated with his trademark pearl buttons for eyes.
In the same week, with London-based photographer Marcus Dawes in tow, I also got a glimpse into hat designer Philip Treacy's workspace as he was putting final touches on Valentino Couture hat pieces. I also chatted with Shaun Leane, who was busy with jewelry items. Leane has worked with Marc Jacobs and Givenchy, and regularly collaborates on Alexander McQueen's jewelry.
Clearly London is a hub for accessories designers, who are behind the trinkets, the bags and shoes of most international designer collections. Stephen Jones works with John Galliano on virtually every project, as well as with Basso & Brooke and Giles Deacon, among others. (He also just scored a major hit with his tri-corner hats for the Marc Jacobs fall show, held in New York last week). Linda Farrow designs and produces eyewear for Raf Simons, Luella and Matthew Williamson. Other U.K. talent includes jewelry designers 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.
Why is this city home to so many accessories geniuses? "We've always been good with craft in London," says Blame. "I do see it as a craft. Accessories don't go out of fashion."
For many, the lure is the creative process and the chance to work with the major stars of the fashion business. "Some things are a real labor of love. You don't spend a week working day and night on Mr. Valentino's hats for the money," says Treacy. "You do it because it's the pinnacle of what you do. Ultimately, we are all fashion animals. We give up our services in the name of elegance and beauty. It's a total truth."
For reviews and slideshows of London's latest looks—including a major push for volume, techno-embellishments, sleek tailoring and a disco redux—follow the links here.