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Animal Print: Is it Reinforcing our Dominance Over Nature?

Nothing says ‘power’ more than animal print

We’ve all seen that person dressed head-to-toe in animal print, asserting their dominance in full, impossible-to-miss view. On occasion, they’ll be wearing a fur coat to add to this power statement – and/or some killer boots (which says it all). There may not be many of these people around, but my point is that animal-print is hard to miss.

Of course, there is likely some deep psychology behind such a fashion choice, one that has been with humans since the dawn of time. Cavemen wore animal hides and fur, not just as a necessity for warmth, but a display of strength and power.

Later, kings and queens used animal-print and fur for rugs to display wealth and social status. It’s no wonder that animal print made it’s way into fashion and that people are still drawn to its allure. As a society, we are wealthier than ever, and the desire to display our wealth is arguably stronger. Maybe it’s time we redefined our values.

Fashion kills: unethical, immoral, and inhumane

It is no secret that fur and leather are widely regarded as unethical. Indeed, vegan clothing options are becoming more prevalent across the fashion industry. It has taken animal rights groups and designers such as Stella McCartney to raise awareness of the ethical issues regarding fur. And in recent years, other brands have joined the stand against it.

However, animals aren’t only exploited in the name of fashion for fur and leather; it may surprise you to learn just how unethical wool is. The barbaric treatment of sheep in the wool industry means that many of them fall ill or die through mistreatment.

Such practices involve being bred to have wrinkled skin in order to produce more wool. This can lead to death through heat exhaustion in the summertime. More horrifyingly, excessive skin and thick wool will encourage flies to lay eggs in the moist fur. Subsequently, this leads to maggots eating the sheep alive. In an attempt to prevent this, farmers will carry out a practise called “mulesing” and cut away huge chunks of the sheep’s skin without pain relief.

Before this upsets you further, there are ways you can help… PETA has supplied us with a guide on how to make more ethical choices when it comes to clothing purchases. These fabrics include linen, organic cotton, hemp, soybeans, and even seaweed and wood! Seriously. Not only free from animal cruelty, they’re eco-friendly too. Some even boast positive effects such as cell regeneration and detoxification of the body (check out seaweed).

Redefining the role of fashion

Fashion has played a long-standing role in the shaping of society. It has the power and ability to subtly facilitate social change. However, this tends to come from imitating the upper-class people of society. In other words, those with more money – because we want more money. Those with the power to influence (designers, celebrities, etc.) influence the upper-class. It is for this reason that we must consider the ways in which we wish the world to be influenced.

“Design is in everything we make, but it’s also between those things. It’s a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy.” Erik Adigard

The digital era we currently inhabit means that now, more than ever, people have the power to promote change and the platforms to do it from. If we wish to create a positive transition in the role of fashion, we should seek to inform ourselves of the ways in which we can use fashion to influence.

Of course, this reshaping is also within the designers’ power and influential ability. For example, in 2010, Alexander McQueen showcased reptilian patterns digitally printed onto dresses. The aim of the designs was to cast an apocalyptic forecast of the future ecological meltdown of the world. Humankind is made up of creatures that evolved from the sea, and we may be heading back to an underwater future as the ice cap dissolves.

The power of biomimicry

Biomimicry is the study of nature’s intricate and interconnected workings. It aims to mimic nature’s processes in order to solve design challenges sustainably and harmoniously.

In fashion, biomimetics aims at applying biological processes and organisms to material that reconnects our body to nature. Innovators are now doing incredibly impressive things for fashion with natural and sustainable resources. Such as using bacteria to dye fabrics, creating fibre from algae, and have even found a way to produce leather using mushrooms!

Not only are these creations mind-blowing (right?!), they’re sustainable, and use natural processes which better protect our bodies and enhance comfort.

These biomimetic innovations are inspirational in the way of appealing to our softer, more delicate, and caring nature. As well as reminding us of our fragility and impermanence. Something which is long overdue…

For too long, we have ‘ruled’ the earth, but it is the things that are man-made which have had the biggest, most catastrophic impact on it. We need now to be intelligent enough to understand that if we want to change the course of ecology for the better, it is up to us to start reconsidering what we already think we know and start making better decisions.

Raising awareness through fashion

It seems that the most natural and obvious way to go from here is to move away from the animal-print. Away from our caveman roots and the desire to assert our power, dominance, and wealth. We should move instead towards making – and providing – fashion choices which display our conscious awareness of the negative impact we continue to have on the planet.

Designers: please would you start creating prints which incorporate the intricate workings of the natural world? Help society to redefine its values and think twice about how important our ego / social status really is. Encourage us all to reconnect with nature. And to those with the influential power: would you please start showcasing these creations? Raise awareness before we do regress to an underwater existence!


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