There's been much written about animal print & fashion over the years. And interestingly, there's a whole bunch of reason behind why humans have such a love for it. Before I started writing this I did a little research of my own: at what point did animal print, and leopard print in particular, become a go-to for fashion?
Some suggest the desire to wear print on our backs stems from pre-civilization humanity; evolution aside, humans began life as animals. And wild ones at that. Even now, stand a man next to an ape & the physical and behavioral similarities are quite apparent (although somebody did tell me the other day that the closest match to human DNA is actually the banana. Yes, I'm not sure how that one works either). Through the means of evolution, humans have amassed an inevitable yearning for nature and the great outdoors. We have a natural instinct to explore, travel and roam.
I agree this is a questionable theory. After all, while history shows that cavemen wore animal skins as a means of warmth & protection, survival is an obvious choice for someone living a basic existence. In many cases, animal skin has become less of a necessity and more of an indulgence. It was infact Dior who, in 1947, introduced animal print as part of his spring collection. As records go, this was the first time a designer had paraded print as a trend. It was no longer just a symbol of luxury; Dior instigated a new way of wearing print.
History is imperative for fashion. Trends form trends that, in this case, started as a way of life. But the main reason I sat down to write this article was to explore the demand for certain prints over others. Fashion has explored only a small selection of prints over the years, and even then many repeat season after season. Burberry Prorsum, Pucci & Tom Ford did mix it up a little for AW13 with zebra. Burberry even went as far as contrasting zebra with giraffe, creating a standout monochrome print. And again for AW14, Armani & Sportmax both played with snakekin (a perennial favourite) while Pucci explored fawn. Fashion has always been fascinated by Africa, safari and the trends that surround exotic climes. Perhaps this is why our print experimentation remains so confined to animals in that part of the world. Animals that many of us will never get to see.
Then again, designers have their own reasons for their choice of print. Roberto Cavalli was recently quoted saying animal print is the work of god. God is the original designer; he created our existence. This does pose an interesting argument however if we are to thank god for such ideas, can it be said we're copying?
There are so many animals that can act as inspiration. Yet who knows whether fashion will ever explore them. What is certain however is that leopard print has become a firm favourite in our wardrobes, but every trend needs updating. Perhaps certain species hold more desirable connotations than others; fashion needs to maintain its luxury appeal. But who's to say the monochrome spots on a killer whale or the brown fleck of a hyena coat won't one day influence a collection. As is the case with ever-changing fashions, we will simply have to wait and see.