Fashion: A feather in my cap

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The Independent Culture
Philip Treacy's famously intricate hats and Erik Halley's gothic, feather-based accessories were simply made for each other, says Melanie Rickey

Right: red feather hat, to order, from Philip Treacy, 69 Elizabeth Street, SW1 (enq: 0171 259 9605); black strapless 'top' made using length of fabric

Main picture, right: 'dragonfly' hatpin, pounds 85, by Erik Halley, from Erickson Beamon, 38 Elizabeth Street, SW1 (enq: 0171 259 0202); black 'top', as before

DANGEROUS-LOOKING spikes. A hat born out of Grimm's Tales by way of Robin Hood. A pin that acts as a perch for a dragonfly. These otherworldly accessories may look as if they have been made by the same deft hand (a fairy? an elf?), but are in fact the work of two separate, and very individual, designers.

The hats are, of course, by Irish milliner Philip Treacy, 30. Now a world-renowned craftsman, his bold designs are sported by the rich, the eccentric and the beautiful, from Boy George (does he ever take off that exaggerated black fedora?), to Honor Fraser and Isabella Blow. These are people who can get away with wearing Treacy's more outrageous and expensive creations; but mere mortals with a taste for the unusual can find his ready-to-wear line in department stores, or look for the commercial range he has designed for Debenhams (though prices will still be anything up to pounds 400).

While not yet as well-known to the man or woman in the street as the master milliner, Frenchman Erik Halley has been called the 'Philip Treacy of accessories'. The man behind the silk roses and the dragonfly hatpin shown here, Halley, 28, abandoned a career in menswear design four years ago to indulge his obsession with feathers: dying, painting and flocking them to create filigree neckpieces, pins and earrings. Mixed with porcupine quills or even, on occasion, optic fibres, these pieces have a distinctly gothic, belle epoque feel that perfectly complements much late-Nineties fashion - one reason why Alexander McQueen, Chanel and, most recently, Jeremy Scott have all used Halley accessories in their catwalk shows. Like Treacy, his work is available through a few well-chosen retailers, or - if you fancy owning the accessory or hat of your dreams - they both work to commission. The question is, are your dreams wild enough?

Main picture, left: silver 'wave' hat, to order only, by Philip Treacy, as before

Above: silk roses, pounds 50, by Erik Halley, from Erickson Beamon, as before, and Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1 (enq: 0171 629 1234); black 'top', as before. To order direct from Erik Halley, call 00 331 44 79 04 35

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