Fashion: Very fetching

Attractive, discreet, the perfect accessory - and they won't pooh- pooh your latest collection. Tamasin Doe reveals why a dog is a designer's best friend. Photographs by John Stoddart
She's a lucky, bitch, that Pluto. She wears a

satiny coat and little beige boots. Her black

nails are the colour of Vinyl by Hard Candy. She hangs out with the In crowd. She's got a great figure and a hundred admirers who live around Notting Hill. Pluto is a fashion dog and she is an exceptional beast with an exceptional life.

Better than the personal assistant, fashion dogs never snap back. They are always beautiful and never answer to the name "Lucky" (one eye, half a tail, three legs). You won't find a Muttley here because he would moult, leaving a mohair pile where there shouldn't be one. The ideal London fashion dog, it appears, wears its hair short and has a cool demeanour (forget the fashion lore about a perky Pekinese that lives in its own monogrammed Vuitton carry-case, or the hysterical toy poodle dyed this year's colour - it only happens in Paris).

No, during an outbreak of hissy fits it's the steady gaze of a stoic poodle that tranquillises these designers. The pad of paws around a studio can bliss out a designer in a way that their Feng Shui consultant simply can't. It's the feel of warm, living fur and the unconditional adoration of an attractive, superior creature that soothes the creative brow. It is, they say, like having Leo or Kate as best friend, only better because you can sit next to them in swimwear.

And only whisper the words "child substitute", because it isn't necessarily so. They say. And never call them handbag mutts - a fashion dog isn't only for one season, it's for an entire lifetime of emotional nurturing. Of the owners by the dog, that is, because in the sometimes rabid domain of fashion, these creatures are a humanising presence. The only payola they expect for their loyalty is affection and a daily plate of meaty chunks (although Tom Ford at Gucci has launched a range of dog accessories in honour of his pooch).

When Philip Treacy is weary from the horridness of it all, he stares into Mr Pig's eyes and the misery melts away. "Fashion is cruel, dogs aren't ... Pig is perfect in every way; he's loyal, he's smart, he's intuitive ... and I adore him as much as he adores me." Mr Pig expects a place at Mr Treacy's pillow and his own Pig to keep him company (a friend gave him a stuffed Piglet for a bed partner). Mr Pig also has his own fan club (in Japan) and model Kristen McMenamy "luuuuvs him". While it sounds like its time for Mr Pig to go solo, Treacy is being possessive. He will never, ever let him go

Bella Freud & Pluto (right) Bella Freud is a part-time dog owner. "I share Pluto with my Dad," she explains - dad being the artist Lucian Freud, who named Pluto and drew the whippet for her company logo. Pluto is 10 and, like designer Bella, he is a lean machine. Neither dog nor owner are effusive or full of yap. In fact, Pluto is described as "a cattish type of dog". Instead of going for the postman, he is wont to skulk around the studio until he finds a comfy bit of fur on which to snooze. Oh, and his portrait by Freud Snr, hangs in the Tate.

Philip Treacy & Mr Pig (below) Mr Pig, a five-year-old Jack Russell, was a gift to milliner Philip Treacy. He's become a good "couture dog" who likes sleeping on luxury, whether it's a bit of Versace cashmere or Valentino lambswool. He's also the studio's resident security guard, says Treacy, "although he doesn't quite realise just how small he is". Like his owner, "he's very loyal, and doesn't suffer fools gladly". Mr Pig has the dubious honour of having label-maven Isabella Blow as his surrogate aunt. "He bites occasionally and there have been a few casualties," says Phillip. "Not least a pair of Isabella's Manolo Blahnik stilletos."

Katharine Hamnett & Lola

Katharine Hamnett describes her two-year-old lurcher as "a gypsy poaching dog", who allegedly had a curious childhood: "A dog delivered her and the cats brought her up." One catfight too many, however, has made Lola a vicious scratcher, who "has a tendency to go for the jugular", but, admits veteran designer Hamnett, "so do I". Hamnett has a grand tour scheduled, including Paris, Las Vegas, and Venice, so it's no surprise that her Spring/Summer 1999 T-shirt slogan will be "Passports for Pets".

Sherald Lamden & Babe (left) Seraph is Sherald Lamden's design label. Babe is her English bull terrier. She called him Babe, "because they're known as butch, and I wanted to get the machismo out of the dog" - and although he's fed on vegetarian nibbles, he still goes for cycle couriers. Babe is Lamden's fourth bull terrier, and on the streets of Tottenham where she was brought up, "a little bit of tough is a great deterrent". Dog and owner are no-nonsense: "I never fuss about a collar and never treat him like a five-year-old boy."

Jimmy Collins & Mildred (below) Jimmy Collins, creator of hip streetwear label YMC, is still enjoying a honeymoon period with his 14-month-old British bulldog, Millie. Together just a few weeks, they make a comic roly-poly double act who, according to Jimmy's girlfriend, Sophie, even snore in unison. "A good three days" were spent trying to name her. He wanted something grannyish and, passing on Winifred, Daisy and Molly, chose Mildred (Millie for short) because a friend of his has a dog called George.

Andrew Fionda & Barney Barney, says his owner Andrew Fionda, of design duo Pearce Fionda, "is like a human. He's not really an animal - he's my permanent partner." Although Barnie, a Tibetan terrier, is most often found asleep in one of the studio's leather Chesterfields, when Lili Maltese (model wife of society boy Henry Dent-Brocklehurst) was being fitted for her wedding dress, he was, apparently, "running riot". Occasionally obstreperous, if tied to a lamp-post while Andrew buys a pint of milk, "he screams as if he's being strangled". Interviews by Morwenna White