Update your look in an instant with one of this season's key accessories

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Are you the type who can name the latest It bag with ease? Or, madam, are you simply concerned with cultivating your individual style? Even people with the remotest interest in fashion seem to have a healthy – and indeed quite possibly marginally unhealthy – obsession with accessories. But such interest rarely comes cheap. For that reason, the sensible shopper will invest in just one key piece this season – a pair of shoes, a bag, a belt or even the latest eyewear, say.

Over the past few seasons the world's most feted designers have been pushing the boundaries of what is possible in footwear. For autumn, Nicolas Ghesquière gave the world the Meccano shoe – a primary-hued sandal that owed more to the toy cupboard than the traditional last. John Galliano's towering, fondant-bright platforms at Dior, meanwhile, made even Vivienne Westwood's rocking-horse shoes seem moderate. Six months down the line, this has been taken a step further. Whimsical charm – think Alice in Wonderland meets the Arthur Rackham flower fairies – is the order of the day with the new season's shoes.

Handbags, meanwhile, may still be big and brash, often with a tongue-in-cheek element – look closely at Balenciaga's latest and you will notice big brass eyes, a black leather nose and even a grinning mouth, for example. More minimal designs are fashionable too, from understated clutch bags to satchels that are rather too chic for school.

Candlestick shoes by Miu Miu

Fantasy has found its place in fashion once more with many designers taking surrealism as their inspiration for spring/summer. Marc Jacobs went so far as to "misplace" the heels on the shoes of his collection, preferring them to protrude sideways from the ball of the foot, leaving the elevated heel unaided. This is unlikely to prove the most comfortable shoe to travel in. A more elegant expression on a similar theme comes from Miuccia Prada for her Miu Miu label. Her heels, shaped as candlesticks, tea-cup arms and sceptres constructed in an array of shiny sweet wrapper colours, are the stuff that fashion dreams are made of.

Marni hat

Those brave enough to wear the by now iconic Prada turban and the Marc Jacobs cloche from last season will no doubt be interested to discover what the new collections have to offer in the head gear department. In Paris, Junya Watanabe chose to balance a small but perfectly formed raffia trilby on top of his models matted and mirrored hair. Over in Italy, meanwhile, Consuelo Castiglioni teamed moomin-esque pointed ruffled and tasselled beanies with her loose-fitting shifts. The latter in particular is a hat aimed squarely at the brave.

Stella McCartney shoe

Choosing not to wear leather is no mean feat: plastic often looks cheap, and can be, well, just a tad sweaty, not to put too fine a point on it. Stella McCartney saved the day for fashion-loving vegetarians when she refused to work with leather or fur in her 2001 collection. This season, the designer has gone back to nature and produced a floral and African-themed collection. Central to this are these hand-carved glass-beaded sandals. Practice before stepping out in them on safari is advised, though. Even the models looked nervous coming down the catwalk in these vertiginous platforms.

YSL Muse Two bag

Far more than a seasonal It bag, an Yves Saint Laurent – much like the clothes that go with it – is always a safe investment. Anyone who chooses to carry one can rest safe in the knowledge that they will be the envy of those interested in fashion and classic design. The Muse has evolved since its inception and this season's Muse Two will stay chic for years.

Margiela sunglasses

Perhaps it is Mr Margiela's obsession with protecting his own identity that has prompted his decision to introduce sunglasses for the very first time. Whatever the reason behind the move, the line, appositely named Incognito, is produced in Italy by Marcolin, the company responsible for eyewear collections by Tom Ford and Roberto Cavalli, among others. There is only one model in four colours available for women. Created out of a solid piece of reflective polycarbonate, it is designed to look like a censorship strip masking the eyes of the wearer.

Chloe clutch bag

Clutch bags, impractical as they are, are the thing to see and be seen carrying this season. Designers are lining up with their versions: super-sized strapless Baguettes at Fendi; boxy rigid jewel shapes at Chanel; rectangular floral batik designs at Dries Van Noten. At Chloé, the theme is origami. Chloé has long been a label coveted for handbags – this, after all, is the home of the best-selling Paddington – and this season's offering, with its myriad pleats and folds, is just as desirable as any of its predecessors.

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