Animal print has had a prevalent stance within the fashion industry since prehistoric times, yet perhaps for different reasons. Cavemen first began to use animal skins as a way to keep warm. Now we (thankfully) have heating, why are prints still such a big part within fashion? The reasons behind it have changed over time, yet the same prints still reappear in a cyclical nature. The exotic and expensive nature of fur was once considered a symbol of wealth (and therefore power). Eventually, in the 20th century, animal print was a growing fashion statement.
There is still an underlying stigma behind the idea of a real fur coat symbolising wealth. After all, a chinchilla fur coat can cost anywhere between $10,000 to 100,000! In addition, they are also often worn by celebrities, who have a huge stance in the fashion industry due to aspiring fans. In essence, real animal fur still gives strong connotations of expense and luxury.
Arguably, some may say that the idea of a fur coat is simply cruel and a flaunt of wealth that reflects our rich ancestors. However, it is a rarity to see many full, real fur pieces due to growing ethical concerns within the fashion industry. There was a 41% drop-in sales of women's fur in 2018 in the UK alone. The rise of veganism has also pushed this further, making people more ethically aware of both animal welfare and environmental damage. Yet, natural animal fibres such as wool, cultivated silk and cashmere are all popular materials in every day fashion. Animal fur is biodegraded in every day productions that we perhaps aren't aware of.
This poses question as to whether the animal fur should be used at all, no matter how minor. With fast fashion on the rise, this is a growing concern as mass production firms may pay little attention to the treatment and sourcing of animals. Chanel and Burberry have already removed real animal fur from production and sales floors, giving hope for other brands to follow suit.
The Psychology of Animal Print
With this positive ethical stance that brands are striving for, the animal print trend still stands. So why does this particular unique concept never fade like other trends do?
The concept of making affluent statements with fur doesn't stand with the new print. However, prints still manage to make timeless statements in themselves. Such vibrant patterns still manage to turn an outfit into a chic piece. It is possible that we affiliate with these animals by romanticising them, thus drawing us towards such statements. For example, leopards are sleek and powerful. This article talks about how leopards are "impossible to domesticate", and makes people feel sexy and confident. Feeling such a way within clothing allows us to project them externally, thus making women feel empowered. Arguably, that is what fashion is all about- to become imaginative and relate to certain outfits in order to feel amazing and express personality. Over the past year, this has been extremely prevalent with rising talks about women empowerment and the #MeToo movement. This correlates with the increase in trend of animal print.
Furthermore, there are studies to show the deeper, subconscious reasons behind animal print. According to this article, there is a misattribution of arousal when wearing animal print. This means that the usual fear we would feel at seeing a predator such as a leopard is mistaken for arousal when in fashion form. When seeing leopard print, for example, this triggers connotations of the fight or flight response we would usually get from seeing such wild animal. This would normally increase blood pressure and shortness of breath, which closely correlates with feelings of arousal. Therefore, over time, the feeling of fear has misattributed to arousal, hence feeling sexy and empowered when wearing animal print.
Becoming Creative with Animal Print
With animal print becoming more powerful than ever, it is now here to stay. It has branched out from clothing to accessories, and even adapted in colours. Huge fashion favourites such as Balenciaga incorporated leopard print into their 2020 show. All the while it is much more sustainable than when it came as fur, and much more accessible too.
Animal print has shown to always be an evolving fashion favourite. It is timeless, yet also a way to express our personality. Whilst the psychology behind it may seem obscure, the subconscious can play tricks!