How Leopard Print Reclaimed Lux – From Cheap to Chic


Chelsea Harper, Journalism Undergraduate, University of Roehampton

As Hilary Alexander puts it in her new book, leopard print simply is ‘fashion’s most powerful print’. It provokes confidence, luxury and dominance; it gives a sense of seduction, whilst providing you with a pattern that is aesthetically and visually pleasing, making it one of the most successful and talked about fashion trends to date.

And it’s not just leopard print’s appearance that makes it so interesting, it’s its history too – kings, queens and tribesmen have been dominating this look long before it hit the catwalks.

But leopard print hasn’t always had an easy ride, being open to criticism and divided opinions, and as Camilla Morton, fashion journalist, puts it, leopard print seems to get a “bad rep”. It’s no secret that the print has often been criticised as looking cheap or trashy, and according to Morton, this is due to its association with popular culture. Leopard print has been adopted by everyone from the likes of characters such as Bet Lynch from Coronation Street to the Flintstones, and music stars including the Spice Girls, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé.

The other difficulty with leopard is that getting it right, often requires a lot more effort and commitment. Leopard print tends to be a “really difficult print to re-produce" admits Morton, so when the fashion world was introduced to mass-marketing and production, it was easy to produce a poor-looking leopard piece.

Yet when we get it right, there is no stopping leopard print’s success. And nowadays it is associated with the more luxurious side of fashion; just look at the likes of Tom Ford and Victoria Beckham, whose leopard print outfits are now the sell-out look of her season.

Arguably, however, the success of the leopard lies within what it says about the woman and how it makes her feel. “Leopard is a very empowering print to wear because I think women that wear leopard say ‘I do want people to notice me and I do have something interesting to say because I’m sure of myself’” says Morton. “...I think you can use leopard to make you feel empowered and leopard is the little print that makes you or gives you a bit of swagger in your step” she adds.

Leopard print can give a woman the boost of confidence she needs, no matter how subtle. Just think about how adding a simple leopard print hairband or shoe can change the way you look and feel.

More interestingly, the evolvement of leopard print can be seen on the runway last season at Versace, portraying a jazzier style of leopard. It has also been mixed with other patterns, and as Audrey Hepburn once demonstrated, it goes perfectly with red.

Examining how leopard print has evolved, and the endless ways you can style it, proves it is here to stay. “A bit like the little black dress”, Morton admits: “they’re two items that never go out of fashion.” Leopard print is a statement piece, and deserves its lux title, because no matter what changes the fashion world may face, it will always be the essential, iconic piece within a woman’s wardrobe.