WE think of top models such as Kate Moss and Georgia Jagger as the faces of cutting-edge fashion and for setting style trends young women go on to copy. .
Closer to the truth is this group of serious-minded and severely styled middle-aged fashion stylists and editors when it comes to deciding what each season's hit styles will be. They may look like the style police should call on them -- yet, in spite of their wacky appearances, they are the fashion experts who decide which clothes appear in popular shows and movies with a fashion edge such as the Sex and the City movies, or the TV series Glee.
They may also look like candidates for a make-over show -- as in 'before' photos -- yet in spite of their out-there clothes and often bizarre styles, they dictate which designer's clothes go on the covers of the top- selling fashion magazines.
These are the style queens whose radical personal appearances can shock by being just a little too much on the crazy side, and yet they hold some of the most powerful positions in the world of fashion and image.
So who are the women who, with a click of their fingers, can decide that brown is the new black?
Appearance: Designer Vivienne Westwood's younger cousin, maybe.
Reputation: Credited with bringing fashion to the masses like no other, when her work on Sex and the City had everyone waiting to see what Carrie Bradshaw would be wearing next.
The 60-year-old American costume designer, stylist and fashion designer was also costume designer on the feature film The Devil Wears Prada, and has dressed the characters in the TV series Ugly Betty.
She has claimed credit for inventing the modern legging for women's fashion in the 1970s -- and is owner of Patricia Field, a boutique located at 302 Bowery, in Manhattan.
Appearance: The head tattoo the designer sported as she arrived at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles earlier this month had us thinking Hallowe'en had come early.
Reputation: Award-winning costume designer famed for her eye-catching creations on the hit TV show Glee. Whatever she dresses the show's characters in invariably ends up available in high street stores. Best known for sporting a boyish blonde quiff along the lines of what the actress Tilda Swinton would wear, the sixtysomething clothes designer recently grabbed the headlines with the thick strands of black pseudo hair she has had inked all over her head.
She has designed clothes for, or styled the TV series Nip/Tuck and the movies Running with Scissors and Surviving Picasso.
Appearance: Academic, looks like a woman who teaches a dry subject, geography perhaps.
Reputation: Creative director at American Vogue, she stole the show from her boss and editor Anna Wintour in the behind-the-scenes documentary about the magazine, The September Issue. We're now keyed into Coddington's influence on what makes it into the shops each season, and our interest has been picked up by Random House publishers who has signed a €1.2m deal with the style director.
Her memoirs are expected to cover her modelling days in '60s London, the car accident that changed her career and her path through fashion's ranks from a stylist and editor at British Vogue and onto American Vogue.
Appearance: Barbie's super-slim aunt.
Reputation: The world's bestknown stylist, Zoe's current client list includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Kate Beckinsale, Debra Messing, Demi Moore, Liv Tyler, Eva Mendes and Anne Hathaway.
With the help of reality TV star Nicole Richie, she pioneered the boho-chic look -- consisting of oversized jewellery, loose-fitting dresses and shirts worn on a slim frame.
However, her size-zero frame has been criticised for encouraging excessive weight loss in her celebrity clients. The 40-year-old gave birth to her first child, a son, earlier this year.
Appearance: An architect anyone? Her love of structural tailoring and designer glasses echoes a look popular with female architects.
Reputation: Has been styling for more than two decades, and frequently partners with top fashion photographers such as Craig McDean and Patrick Demarchelier. Currently, she is senior fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, and in addition styles campaigns for designers such as Valentino, Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. She also acts as chief fashion consultant for the Versace women's collection.