There’s much more to gloves than simply keeping your hands warm. As the world’s leading fashion designers are showing, they also make the perfect summer accessory.

Gloves may have been all the rage on the international fashion circuit this February, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to wait until the autumn to lay your hands on the latest styles.

Not since the world’s leading designers latched on to the idea that gloves also make sense as a summer accessory have we seen such a profusion of styles, all of them designed specifically for the season.

Take Chanel’s presentation for summer ’04. Black leather gloves with striped white inserts may not be the most obvious way to go about accessorising a Wimbledon white tennis-style dress. But that’s what the Paris fashion house has done. And boy does it work.

With the incorporation of a white handbag, the resultant ensemble is so much more the sum of its parts. But then that’s what gloves tend to do for an outfit!

Gloves are given equal prominence in Armani’s summer collection. Here, they have been teamed with a series of full-length outfits that have more than a hint of the 1930s sporting heroine about them. Fingerless leather gloves provide a key element of the look, complementing the athletic yet feminine theme established by the collection’s signature swimming cap. It’s a bold statement and one that is lent an added element of charisma by the sportif white and blue stripe that distinguishes some of the gloves.

Retro not your thing? Then cast your eyes over the look that Spanish fashion house Castelbajac has gone for this summer. Here, punkish, cartoony designs are infused with a riot of acid pinks, neon oranges and white to create a collection that tantalises the senses. Gloves are an integral feature of all the designs, providing not just counterpoint to the main garment, but also an arresting visual statement in their own right. From bright, sporty golf-type gloves to ultra-feminine white fingerless items, the Castelbajac collection has them all!

By way of a complete contrast, France’s Lanvin has gone all the way with the sophisticated, night-time look, with a black pencil skirt, ice blue satin blouse and shear tights. While restrained, through the addition of full-length, pale brown ruffled suede gloves, the outfit also manages to look thoroughly sexy at the same time.

And so we come to Hermes’ take on what the bright young things of Paris, Milan and London will be wearing later this year. And the big news is…… the ’50s are back! In this exquisitely designed collection, trench coats, sensible shoes and slacks combine with billowing, chiffony blouses to create a look that is effortless in its elegance. Naturally, gloves provide the finishing touch; in this case black or nail varnish red wrist-length items in the softest, buttery leather.

For a touch of hippy chic, check out the spring/summer collection from Italy’s Burani. Bringing together a sequin boob-tube dress and flower print skirt, it has a strong ethnic appeal that is taken into an altogether different dimension by the addition of fishnet open wrist gloves.

Fast forward to the future and that’s where you’ll find the inspiration for Prada’s collection for summer ’04. In one of the season’s most breathtaking colour combinations, the Milanese fashion house has come over all Buck Rogers with a gold lamé trench coat with denim blue fall down gloves. It’s a combination to die for!

So there you have it. In all their different styles, lengths and colours, gloves are looking all set to become the fashion accessory of summer ’04. How can you resist?