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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Leopard Love

There's no denying that fashion is currently having a bit of a love-in with leopard print. Or maybe that should be re-kindled romance, since leopard print is by no means a new and innovative style staple, but rather one that re-surfaces every so often. The old saying goes that a leopard never changes its spots, and even though this print is nothing new it can be argued that every time this little comeback queen roars back into fashion she brings a few new ways to be worn.

Daisy Lowe in leopard print Agent Provocateur

This season is no exception, with leopard incorporated into some big trends and must-have accessories.

First things first. Don't be afraid to wear leopard print. I overhear a lot of girls in shops admiring spotted pieces and muttering longingly "I wish I could pull off something like this". Well, you can! And this season is the time to dip your toe into this printed pool, as it has never been easier to wear leopard - whether making one big statement or a subtle flash. Let's have a look at what's on offer this Autumn/ Winter to show that leopard can be classy, not brassy.

Earlier this year on the runways of Milan, Dolce & Gabbana showed us several ways to wear leopard - on silk bodys (£580) for an updated underwear-as-outerwear look, colourful leopard print cocktail dresses (around £1300) and many more feminine, luxurious pieces. Biba at House of Fraser have made leopard print a prominent pattern of their new collection - I especially love their Portobello faux fur coat, simply gorgeous and a good example of the iconic leopard print coat. French Connection also offer a good take on the faux fur coat for a not bad £120.

Elsewhere on the high street, H&M have cleverly adorned basic wardrobe staples (such as cardigans and jersey tops) and on-trend pieces (the maxi dress and jumpsuit) with leopard print. The basics have the potential to help animal-print newbies introduce it into their wardrobes easily, while fashionistas can nail two trends at once by wearing it on the trickier pieces. Over at Topshop it's very much the same, leopard is making an impact on everything from these Harem pants (£38) to luggage. And party girls everywhere will love this bandeau dress:

Dress by Topshop, £26

APC's leopard-print cotton cardigan (£145) shows us that leopard needn't mean brown. There are ways to explore leopard print in other shades - another example is this rather excellent acid yellow skirt by Evil Twin at Urban Outfitters (£61).

Not quite ready for this level of commitment to the cheetah cause? Fair enough. There are plenty of accessories to experiment with and make a subtle tribute to leopard this season. These leather & ponyskin gloves by John Lewis (£40) will give a hint of leopard without making a huge statement.

Animal-print has made quite a few appearances on bags by Mulberry recently, appearing on their faithful Bayswater and newer Lily designs. Shoe-wise there is a lot of choice and something for every style of shoe and price range, with ladylike courts from Kurt Geiger, Next's satin platforms (£25), and Zara's moccasins (£39.99). For the ultimate in leopard luxe, Jimmy Choo's Wheel - a slip on, flat 'smoking slipper' - will set you back about £295. For a leopard quick-fix I love printed tights and this super cute Mega Bow ring by Accessorize, which at a mere six quid will give your outfit a fast fashion update.

But what to wear your leopard print with? Most people fall into two camps here - print-clashers and 'one key statement piece' lovers. Personally, I like to wear mine with blocks of shades such as black and grey or a slogan tee (I like this Ashish for Topshop one) for a high impact. Leopard on leopard may be the new double denim but I'm not so keen on either, sorry! Black does not need to mean boring, a punky handbag (like Alexander McQueen's Novak bag, £1265) or a leather biker jacket toughens things up for a punchy take on leopard print.

My own love-affair with leopard print started when I was still at primary school. The Spice Girls where everywhere and Mel B (whose image was synonymous with leopard print) was my favourite. Although I didn't start wearing it until I was older (something that I think now was a good idea, as children in animal print is something I find a little strange), it was at that point I knew I what I liked. A bit later, when discovering punk I came across leopard print again - this time on Debbie Harry:

To me, leopard print (as well as looking cool) symbolises being feminine and a bit of a rebel. It's always been around and I think it will always come and go from style, but it's always been something I genuinely like and will continue to wear even when not on-trend. Anyone that knows me will tell you there is barely a day that passes when I don't wear something in leopard print, and like Scary and Debbie all those years ago, I like to think I too have incorporated it into a personal signature look. Just don't call me Bet Lynch (yet), OK?

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