But these days, the runways and groups of international street style purveyors have become an eccentric, chaotic, high fashion traveling zoo. Designers showed no restraint, and animal prints literally ran wild with designers using a variety of approaches, from bold singular prints head to toe to layering prints atop of another.
Versace toyed with zebra and bovine prints in a unifying black-and-white colorway to reimagine a neat, one-shoulder silk charmeuse mini dress and matching platform ankle boots. Gucci’s long-sleeve turtleneck maxi dress in a bold leopard print combined with vintage green logo loafers and red turban felt both monastic and offbeat contemporary. Roberto Cavalli combined a semi-sheer paneled turtleneck top which alternated strips of mesh and reptile print and tucked it into an ultra-high waisted, baby blue, snake embossed paper bag trouser.
Perhaps the grandest statement of all came from Paco Rabanne, whose looks included a red python trench coat layered under a calf-hair overcoat in leopard, all worn over skinny black trousers and a pointed-toe beige python boot. Another combination featured a button-up silk blouse with an exaggerated eyelash print, styled with a carnation pink cardigan dotted with jeweled buttons, leopard blazer and a printed stovepipe trouser covered in enormous exotic flowers. Although the Rabanne collection certainly weighted the most dramatic side of the seesaw down, the iterations and spectrum of the animal kingdom all seemed to announce that the season was meant to be bold, visually complex and colorful.
Of course, the question is always how to translate the euphoria and imagination of the runway to the car pool line, the office, the airplane. And interestingly for us in Texas, animal print can feel too literal, so we often tread lightly (like how we waited patiently as the Steinbeckian, unconquered Wild West trend passed several seasons ago). For the fashion-minded, animal print needs to be filtered to read more urban jungle and less actual jungle, more luxury and less Daniel Boone.
For starters, accessories are always an easy place to warm up. Try an oversized resin earring in an abstract leopard spot and mix it with enameled bangles in zebra or snake. Or use a skinny, tiger-striped belt with a python ankle boot while keeping the rest of your look neutral. Keep in mind that in the wild (not including Fashion Week), the coloring of an animal is meant as a type of camouflage, so a print can be thought of as a textured neutral, in its essence. Just as you would combine gray with black-and-white, animal prints worn together do seem to find a harmonious tone.
If you are already riding fast in the animal print wagon, it is time to turn the volume up. Take a tie-neck blouse in an oversized giraffe print and layer it underneath a blazer in a micro cheetah print. You can also keep your top half solid and try a pair of cropped flare trousers in python and pair with smoking slippers in a leopard calf hair. If you want to combine prints but the spectrum of colors is too broad, try picking a pair of prints that are in the same color categories such as gold-and-black or gray-and-white.
One of my favorite takes on the animal print this season is the abstracted one, which references it without being too overt. My favorites in this category are magnified prints done in tonal whites and grays or tonal embossed prints which look solid until closer inspection.
The season is clearly coming at us in all stripes (and spots), and the way things are going, you won’t even have to choose.