The untameable evolution of the leopard print
Being one of the most produced – perhaps even overproduced – patterns next to camo print, leopard has been evoking sartorial controversy for over a decade. First to introduce leopard in couture, as a printable pattern instead of fur, was Christian Dior. During his ‘The New Look’ spring/summer presentation in 1947, he showed this legendary motif which he dubbed ‘Jungle’. With the help of Lyon-based silk manufacturer Bianchini-Férier, who created the fabric, he used the print to design three revolutionary silhouettes titled 'Africaine', 'Jungle' and 'Reynold'. Once the leopard print gained a thorough acquaintance with its new luxury fashion habitat, it set off a chain reaction of respected women making their appearance in silhouettes similar to the ones Dior had created. Famous actresses like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis appeared on the silver screen in dresses and coats covered with feline-inspired spots, setting an empowering example for women at the time. Their boldness was striking enough to trigger one respected designer after the other to follow suit.
Throughout the fifties and sixties Balmain and Yves Saint Laurent, among others, generously adopted the print in their collections, applying it to numerous different pieces of clothing and even adorning footwear and handbags. For Italian houses such as Roberto Cavalli and Dolce&Gabbana, who have always been known to epitomise sensuality and sexiness, the leopard print was almost like a gift sent from above as it has a habit of conveying a distinct feminine confidence to whoever wears it. The pattern contributed to the success of these designers in the late twentieth century and still forms a signature in their collections to this day. Inevitably, high street brands also jumped on the bandwagon, and the creation of various leopard-printed fabrics skyrocketed and took mass-production-proportions. This all led to a certain uncontrollability - that reminds us of the wild creature we owe this graceful pattern to - which explains the ambiguous character the leopard print has today.