The Telltale Signs of Cheap- and Expensive-Looking Leopard Prints

Right now on everyone's wish list, a phenomenal amount of leopard print is present. From the Réalisation skirt that has taken Instagram by storm this summer to Victoria Beckham's leopard-printed coat that has landed both into stores and our hearts, the fashion kingdom is currently ruled by cats. ASOS has a leopard-printed maxi dress that's selling like crazy. & Other Stories, Rixo, Ganni and Raey are all an extended part of the Réalisation skirt craze—offering up silky, slinky, billowing midis in various iterations of leopard print for those who just can't get enough.

It's the first big trend of A/W 18, but it's also one of those trends that can look cheap. There's no getting around it: Some leopard prints look expensive and some look trashy, and often that has nothing to do with the price point. I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when the Who What Wear team started calling in and experimenting with animal-printed pieces for our regular We Try Before You Buy franchise. Then, a few days later, I had a delightful lunch with the super-cool Vienna-based designer Petar Petrov, who spoke to me about how he and his team are currently on the quest for a fabulous-looking leopard fabric. Finding a chic, top-quality, expensive-looking leopard print is really tough for designers. And when a trend explodes like this—with high-street stores fast to act upon it—there will be some bad versions lurking out there. But how can we define the bad from the good? I reached out to some experts—a print-designer friend, the WWW crew and the clever girls at Rixo London—to get to the bottom of it.