2022 is the year of the tiger print, but how to wear it? Experts explain

A tiger stripe look from Salvatore Ferragamo’s spring/summer 2022 collection. The luxury brand is one of many to embrace animal prints this year.
PHOTO: Vogue

The biggest stars of hit documentary Tiger King are having a comeback - but not on Netflix.

The Year of the Tiger is nearly upon us, and luxury fashion brands have immortalised the animal in creations to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The tiger is depicted in full form on ready-to-wear and accessories at Gucci and Saint Laurent, while tiger stripes and prints reign supreme at Balenciaga and Burberry.

Other labels, including Jil Sander, Salvatore Ferragamo and Proenza Schouler, also feature tiger prints in their catwalk collections.

shirt in tiger print crepe de chine
A Year of the Tiger shirt by Saint Laurent. PHOTO: Yves Saint Laurent
Models show Saint Laurent’s Year of the Tiger collection. PHOTO: Yves Saint Laurent

"Designers have taken a bolder approach by experimenting with tiger motifs and embroideries this season," says Lupe Puerta, founder and CEO of The Floorr, a digital fashion platform curated by retail insiders and top stylists.

"This can look incredibly chic, especially when done on printed fabrics, or if the motifs are smaller and more subtle and applied on luxe fabrics like silk. That way you can also layer the piece with something more toned down for an elegant look."

A bag for the Year of the Tiger by Burberry. PHOTO: Burberry
A look from Proenza Schouler’s spring/summer 2022 collection. PHOTO: Vogue

Animal-print clothing has come a long way from the 1980s, when it was considered tacky and - dare we say it - vulgar.

Since then, high-profile designers such as Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli have made it their signature, with different permutations appearing each season.

Today it forms an essential part of every stylish woman's wardrobe. Fashion insiders extol its versatility; former J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons once declared leopard [print] a neutral, while former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld is often seen wearing an animal print item.

Celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Cardi B and Priyanka Chopra have recently been spotted on the red carpet in animal-print ensembles.

"Animal prints are no longer a novelty but re-created season on season in different varieties by so many designers," says Elizabeth von der Goltz, chief commercial officer at online luxury retailer Matchesfashion.

"Leopard is now what I call a classic. It is always in no matter what. Personally, I add leopard into my day-to-day basic wardrobe to add a pop to any look."

While animal prints are considered a staple, they can often be intimidating to wear. Puerta says there are no steadfast rules to follow, although she has a few tips for women wanting to rock the look.

"There's a misconception that animal prints are just for maximalists , but the trick is to own the look and feel confident wearing it. If you are doing the whole head-to-toe look, make sure your accessories are on the minimalistic side," she says.

Boots by Isabel Marant at Matchesfashion. PHOTO: Matchesfashion

"It's also fun to experiment with colours - in fact, I prefer coloured [animal prints] to neutral tones. Choose pink or red, or if you prefer darker colours, match it with colour block separates such as pink trousers or even red shoes. Colourways take your look up a notch and have a high fashion vibe," she says.

For the uninitiated, it's best to experiment with one animal print item first, be it a piece of ready-to-wear such as a blouse or more subtle accessories like belts or eyewear.

Don't be fooled into thinking that animal prints are just for special occasions - they can also work in more conservative settings such as the workplace. It's an easy look to pull off when styled correctly.

How to wear animal prints according to the fashion platform The Floorr.
How to wear animal prints according to the fashion platform The Floorr. PHOTO: The Floorr

"In this scenario, I suggest women use animal print more as an accent than as a focal point," says Goltz. "Try an animal print blouse under a solid suit or blazer, or an elegant animal print shoe or handbag with a black dress.

"If it's a more statement animal print piece like a coat or jacket, wear it with a tonal neutral look underneath."

All that's left is to choose a print that suits you.

Image 0 of Balenciaga tiger-print mid-length silk skirt
A Balenciaga skirt for the Year of the Tiger. PHOTO: Farfetch

While leopard is a perennial favourite, there are plenty of other options floating around including zebra, cheetah, snake, giraffe and, of course, tiger. Goltz, however, has a final word of warning before you unleash your inner beast.

"Sometimes, more is more looks great, but I wouldn't recommend wearing or clashing different types of animal prints all together."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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