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From Leopard Print Wallpaper To Leopards In the Wild


Whether it’s Tarzan and Jane, Norma Desmond, Cher’s famous character “LaVerne”, Fred Flintstone, or Theda Bara, the human race has been engaged in a long-term love affair with animal skin patterns.

The trend comes and goes, but never really goes, as fashion and interior designers alike perpetually pay homage to the earth’s exquisite jungle and prairie animals.  Ubiquitious leopard and cheetah and zebra skin patterns adorn the rich, the poor, and everything in between.  Guaranteed chic.  Guaranteed trash.  Always.

I tend to tire easily of trends, especially cliche, over-used ones.  For some reason I have never tired of this one.  And I am not alone.  In fact, I will upholster that fauteiul chair in a tiny faux leopard fabric any chance I get, and know that it will bring vibrant life to a formerly “blah” room.

Fancying myself as a sort of environmentalist, or at the very least an animal-lover, the thought of a real animal skin used in clothing or interiors is abhorent.  As a kid, the sight of “Pink Panther”’s Claudia Cardinale sprawled in drunken stupor on a tiger skin made me sad.  The humor intended in the scene was eclipsed by the poor deceased creature into whose ear the besotted Cardinale coyly whispered.  Such beauty destroyed merely to be transformed into an expensive floor ornament is unthinkable now, but quite acceptable in 1967.

The allure of animal skins may have roots in our primitive past, but for most of us nowadays, the rule stands that the celebration takes place via textiles only, give or take an occasional pair of foxy leopard sunglasses.

Hundreds of fabrics are available, printed and woven patterns, thick “ruggy” jacquards, printed pannes and velvets, silks, cottons, wools - sequined, embroidered, polyurethaned - you name it.  It’s the trend that never really goes away.  It may fade momentarily, but it will return shortly thereafter to enjoy yet another incarnation with a new generation of consumers.

A business associate showed up one day in a faux-leopard Jackie Kennedy-like pillbox hat, a matching leopard purse, and a wool coat with a faux-leopard collar.  She looked like a brunette Barbie Doll to me, but she was so happy with her ensemble I kept the thought to myself.  Delighted with her new acquisition, she explained that all had belonged to her grandmother (circa 1961), and she felt like a “million bucks” in her vintage attire.

Soon after, I passed a faux-leopard saddle-pack on a Harley parked in front of the bank; and not long after that, I marveled at a most extravagant Roman apartment in a photo article on the great fashion designer, Valentino, in which an entire room was upholstered in faux leopard skin. 

There’s something about those leopards.

Perhaps one day we shall all have had our fill of those spotty fur friends, but I sincerely doubt that the day will come anytime soon.

Maybe my next leap into leopard skins will be needlepoint footstools...

-Karen Saloomey

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