Animal Instincts

While snakeskin and leopard-print pieces might have captured the fashion world's collective imagination as of late, we've noticed that top tastemakers have another way of showing their affinity for animals. Rather than focusing on patterns, ladies like Mary-Kate Olsen, Liv Tyler, and industry insiders are opting for more literal depictions and wearing everything from cows to cats on their sleeves and skirts! They're listening to their animal instincts--and so should you!

To see the best runway examples of this trend, we suggest checking out the Balenciaga Pre-Fall 11 collection and the Marc by Marc Jacobs F/W 11 show. At the former, we spotted one animal-graphic piece--a German Shepherd-emblazoned Cashmere Sweater ($925, 212.206.0872)--that designer Nicolas Ghesquière paired with a Wool and Silk Skirt ($765, 212.206.0872), Leather Belt ($575, similar styles available at 212.206.0872), and Bronze Leather Stilettos ($675, 212.206.0872). While Ghesquière limited himself to a single item, Marc Jacobs designed numerous animal pieces for the Marc by Marc F/W 11 show. Our favourite look, as seen in the large image above, centres on the Panthera Lurex Jacquard Skirt ($358, available at Marc by Marc Jacobs stores) in Normandy Blue Multi and is accented with the Bellini Stripe Blouse ($428, available at Neiman Marcus soon) and the Airmail Suede Clutch ($328, available at soon) in Log Cabin. Additionally, Jacobs showed deer-emblazoned bags on the runway, though sadly these purses were not produced. It's worth noting that both collections styled the animal-instinct pieces the same way: with streamlined, dark separates that use texture (sheer details, nubby fabric) to add interest.

Off the runways, we've noticed that most fashion-forward dressers are wearing these animal-festooned items in slightly more playful ways. For example, one of our favourite editors--Taylor Tomasi Hill, Marie Claire's Style and Accessories Director--was snapped during NYFW a few months ago wearing a subtle take on this trend. She paired a Burberry Prorsum Cashmere Sweater with Embroidered Cow Detail ($2195, 212.407.7100) with a Sportmax collar and a vintage Fenton skirt, resulting in a sleek and chic look. About a month later Liv Tyler also tried the trend, this time in Paris at the Givenchy F/W 11 show. The stunning actress selected two pieces from the Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci F/W 11 menswear collection, specifically the Rottweiler Printed Sweatshirt ($440) and Smocking Jacket ($2915, available at Barneys New York soon).

In addition to these darker neutral pieces, we also appreciate the lighter animal-instinct items seen on Mary-Kate Olsen and model Le Call. The former was snapped leaving Nobu in Tribeca last month wearing a vintage sweater with an oversized fox print, leather leggings by The Row, and a Marni bag. The sweater is such an interesting choice and its gigantic graphics give Olsen's whole look a touch of humour. We also appreciate the Deyrolle Pour Opening Ceremony Long Skirt ($280) in Cat Sand that Le Call picked for a Byrdie Bell-hosted lunch celebrating NAHM, a collection by Alexandria Hilfiger and Nary Manivong. Since the print is obviously the centrepiece of the outfit, Le Call wisely opted for a simple, bisque sweater--purchased at the Brooklyn Flea Market--and understated accessories.

In the hopes that you, too, might be ready to pounce on this trend, we've gone ahead and rounded up a handful of animal-instinct items for your shopping pleasure. The easiest way to try this look is to go for a sweater or t-shirt with a single, oversized graphic, like Marcus Lupfer's Giraffe Sequin Sweater ($553), Stella McCartney's Printed Cotton Sweater ($265), or Forever 21's Chalkboard Zebra Top ($13). If you'd prefer a top with a smaller print, check out BCBGeneration's A-Line Shirred Elephant Print Tank ($88) and Topshop's Cream Cat Print Oversize Shirt ($76). (We also like the Two by Two Scarf ($95) from Kate Spade.) Or if you're not feeling like buying clothes, you can go for some animal accessories instead, like By Paige's Fox Loafers ($149.95) or Courtney Simmelkjaer's Elephant Pendant ($92). Whatever you pick up, know that this trend will stay strong through autumn, so you're making a smart and chic shopping decision!

Photo of Le Call, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency; Photos of Liv Tyler and Mary-Kate Olsen, courtesy of Splash; Balenciaga runway photo, courtesy of Balenciaga; Marc by Marc backstage photo, courtesy of First View; Marc by Marc Jacobs runway photo, courtesy of KCD