GRRR! “I’ve never met a leopard-print I didn’t like.” That was Diana Vreeland, the doyenne of style who has yet to be eclipsed though she’s been gone from us since 1989. Like her, I defer to no one in my commitment to things Panthera pardus (I just looked that up).
Now some fashion editors are suggesting that leopard-print is endangered, making way for . . . tiger. Really!? Well, yes, I’m seeing some tiger items, and they’re handsome (it’s a trickier pattern to accommodate), but I still like to think it’s spots all the way.
I’m clearly in sync with Hilary Alexander, who has just published Leopard: Fashion’s Most Powerful Print (Laurence King Publishing). The book is a trove of incredible images—Colette in 1909, Princess Grace of Monaco in 1959, Miss Piggy in 2011. Looking back at celebs in the 1960s—Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy—it’s a bit startling to recall how much chic was projected by wearing (surely unknowingly) an endangered animal as a trophy coat.
I’ve long suspected that animals, and their skins, won’t be completely out of the fashion equation until the aesthetic itself meets defeat. Faux fur is great, and has become incredibly good, but it keeps the look alive. And I think the cavewoman in all of us apparently still wants to strap on a hide (and, man, those fur coats are warm! No wonder animals walk around all year round without clothes on).
In the end, leopard will thrive as a classic print on clothing and even upholstery (look in the book!). Sure, this cat will make room for that other Big Cat (I’m partial to cheetah as well) and move aside for fashion flings with zebra. But as Jenna Lyons, former creative director of J.Crew, put it (page 89), “As far as I’m concerned, leopard-print is a neutral.” So there.
I poked around, high and low and the comfortable middle where most of us reside, and found a bunch of things to roar about.
LEFT: The Sienna Handbag in brown zebra-print hair calf with leather handles is $368 from J.McLaughlin. (There’s also a sweet Sienna Clutch, $138.) CENTER: J.McLaughlin’s Fairmont Coat would look great in the evening in black-and-gold zebra jacquard, $378. RIGHT: Back to the cats, the Glacier Neckwarmer in cheetah print is $78 at J.McLaughlin.
LEFT: The Grandin Road catalogue has gone waaaay into the animal kingdom. These $79 throws can be had in Snow Leopard, but also in Pheasant, Peacock and more. The pillows shown are $39. RIGHT: At Maison Alaïa, the spirit of Azzedine Alaïa lives on. The leopard print knitted hooded sweater is $3,260; the midi knitted skirt is $2,120. Both at Maison Alaïa.
LEFT: The Hair Calf Mini Hobo Bag from J.Crew sold overnight, before we could share it with you! But there’s an even more swashbuckling Hobo in leather and leopard-print hair calf, $378. (There’s the cute leopard Harper belt bag too, $128.) CENTER: The No. 2 Pencil Skirt has cotton and elastane for stretch. It’s $98. RIGHT: The Girl’s Reversible Puffer Vest is on sale for $54.99. They’re all at J.Crew.
Lands’ End is having fun in the wild this season. LEFT: The Women’s 100 Fleece Ruched Pattern EZ Touch Gloves, $14.95, have the fingertips touchscreens love. RIGHT: These are Lands’ End Women’s Suede Moc Slippers, $54.95. The lining is faux fur. NOT SHOWN: Talbots is not showing any leopard-print moc slippers, but for outdoor wear it has a very handsome Ryan Loafer in Classic Leopard hair calf. It’s $129.
Continuing Lands’ End’s walk on the wild side. LEFT: Women’s Flannel Sherpa Lined Long Robe, $89.95. The flannel is cotton, the fleece is poly. RIGHT: Women’s Knit Flannel Pajama Set with Ivory Cheetah-print bottoms, $54.95 (several other color and print combos as well).
Lands’ End offers fleece jackets, Half-Zips and pullovers. But this Quarter-Zip Fleece Pullover is the only one we found in leopard print ($39.95). There are more than a dozen solid colors and prints.
Supermodel Claudia Schiffer in Christian Dior claims the cover of Leopard: Fashion’s Most Powerful Print, but tucked inside is Miss Piggy (2011), opposite a serene Zsa Zsa Gabor (1965). / Laurence King Publishing.
Pages from Hilary Alexander’s Leopard: Fashion’s Most Powerful Print. The 1960s were dangerous for the Big Cats: Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy all sported their trophies. / Laurence King Publishing.