BEAST OF BURDEN
Fashion redefines the animal print.
In the fashion world, animals cause controversy, with any discussion of a paneled snakeskin skirt or a zebra skin handbag quickly turning heated. Yet this isn’t a case of animal rights, vegetarianism, or even a debate about leather. The conflict is simple – animal prints have different cultural meanings for fashion enthusiasts across the globe. For Londoners, a leopard-print coat evokes trashy TV dramas and the punk rock styling of Nancy, Sid Vicious’s girlfriend, while in France the mood is more classic, with elegant leopard-print cuffs and matching handbags at the ready instead.
Fall/winter 2015-16 has been the unifier of animal print. Marc Jacobs, Maison Margiela and Prada all used it as a flag of boundary-pushing modernity, creating a minimal palette that slips easily into the wardrobes of astute fashion followers across the globe. The result? The Parisian who may have refrained from her Italian counterpart’s take on the trend is now coveting the same structured funnel dress. And if, like Amazonian women of legend, you are already using animal prints to bare your fashion teeth, looks from this season will be your calling card from day until night.
Until the ‘60s, animal goods were widely worn to signify wealth and prowess, with a fur coat signifying to all that you had the good stuff in droves. But when the mass manufacturing of animal print took off, it became the go-to of high street designers looking to add a dose of glamour to their collections. Quickly, snakeskin went from a luxury investment to an everyday print, cheaply copied. But now, designers are referencing this tackiness and turning it into attitude-laden looks. Never before have they featured animal print so exhaustively on their runways.
Miu Miu premiered thick panels of snakeskin on skirts, coats and separates, with these simple details bringing animal skins right into fall/winter’s austere aesthetic. Over at Céline, there wasn’t a snake in sight as zebra was the print of choice. Used to breathe life into utilitarian silhouettes, and paired with box-fresh trainers, the look was trademark of Phoebe Philo’s fashion moxie.
For all-out glamour, leopard print was an obvious favorite. At Burberry Prorsum, Joni Mitchell’s aesthetic was infused into a floor-length, leopard-print dress that wouldn’t look out of place in Glastonbury circa 1975. Always one to mix it up, Marc Jacobs went full Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry A Millionaire with a boxy jacket complete with fur-lined lapels. Maison Margiela featured jackets too, thick, fuzzy leopard-print styles ideal for the imminent party season. With the support of such prestigious fashion houses, the most outrageous of animal prints was instantaneously transformed from a tacky design quirk into the best way of exemplifying your fashion prowess.
–Grace Elena Banks