Animal Inspired Clothing Design Hits the Runways

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

October 2, 2006

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Every few years or so, feline prints and fur make a comeback in interior and clothing design. This season they are appearing in fabric and upholstery in the form of wild prints and fur trim. Learn some of the pluses and minuses of designing with animal-inspired textiles and trimmings.

It's a rare career in fashion that doesn't periodically find inspiration in the wilder side of nature. Not long after Polo Ralph Lauren swore off the use of real fur sometime earlier this year, zebra prints and sable seem to be all the rage in clothing design.

Vogue's September 2006 issue featured a 14-page photo spread of warmly-dressed models sporting all manner of fur. There were silver fox fur-trimmed peacoats with attached muffs, floppy fur trapper hats paired with little black dresses, and fur leg warmers with hooded leopard-print coats.

While clothing designers like Stella McCartney (and big brands like Polo Ralph Lauren) have eliminated fur from their designs for moral reasons, it seems a good number of the most notable designers are forging ahead shamelessly with this luxury detail, including Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrera, and Micheal Kors (whose designs were feature in the Vogue spread).

Fashion School, Your Career in Fashion, and Fur
As a fashion school student, you'll have to sort through the moral issues for yourself. Learn about the fur trade and its practices--do you think their treatment of animals is cruel and unethical?

You'll also have to square your ethical stance with consumer demand. During your career in fashion, you may have to design with fur to carry out a head designer's vision. Will you be comfortable doing that?

In the meantime, fur is still wildly popular and in demand, it seems, so as a fashion school student, you may be interested in learning how to work with it. Fur can be beautiful, obviously, but it can also be difficult to elegantly incorporate in a design. And it requires very special care for those who wear it. These are things you'll need to consider if you use fur during your career as a clothing designer.

One thing you don't have to shy away from, however, is the use of fur prints. There are no obvious ethical issues here, only the temptation to go too far and cross the ever present line that separates innovation from vulgarity.

About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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