Colgate Couture: Embrace the Animal Kingdom

The fall and winter months are my favorite for fashion because it is totally acceptable to rotate monochromatic sweaters, coats and pants with endless layering options. But for those who are experiencing a wardrobe slump during these cooler months, I have the best antidote for your condition: catch a case of jungle fever and embrace all things animal. In my opinion, it is due time that leopard spots finally be recognized as a neutral item in any girl’s wardrobe, so this look goes way beyond just animal prints. Zebra stripes and faux fur are overlooked in favor of designs that feature the animals themselves. Footwear designer Charlotte Olympia set thousands of fashionistas’ hearts a-fluttering with her velvet slippers stitched to resemble a kitten’s face, which is even cut to feature little feline ears. The $595 price tag has not stopped the aptlynamed “Kitty Flats” from selling out on Olympia’s website for months, as well as inspiring dozens of lower-priced interpretations of the design. Marc Jacobs experienced similar levels of covet- worthiness when he debuted his mouse ballet flats a few years ago. The basic design, which Jacobs has updated numerous times to reflect seasonal trends like glitter, studs, floral patterns, velvet, jelly rubber and both patent and metallic leather, features an adorable rodent face somewhat similar to the Olympia design. The main difference is that Jacobs does not embroider the face onto the shoe like Olympia does, but actually stitches on each piece to compose its face: leather flaps for the ears and nose, beads for the eyes, and white whiskers at the toe of the shoe. In its various incarnations the Marc Jacobs flat costs upwards of $250, a price much more reasonable than the Charlotte Olympia loafer, which costs more than twice as much. Continuing in the range of high-end designers is luxe French brand Givenchy. As part of the label’s Fall 2011 collection, the house menswear designer Riccardo Tisci debuted a design of a growling Rottweiler on t-shirts, pullovers and hoodies. However, these were hardly average casual items, as the tee and sweatshirt retailed for $300 and $610 respectively. Perhaps even more absurd than the fact that a simple cotton tee would cost multiple hundreds of dollars was the immediate and seemingly universal embrace of the design among celebrities and members of the fashion industry. Seriously, not since “Lassie” has there been a canine so beloved by so many – and old Lassie didn’t look like she was possibly infected with rabies and ready to tear off the faces of any townsperson who might have the misfortune to pet her. The Givenchy design has been worn by everyone from music superstars like Kanye West, Usher and Rihanna to fashion plates like Eva Mendes, Liv Tyler and Nicole Richie. Givench has since expanded the Rottweiler collection to include scarves, bags and phone cases emblazoned with Tisci’s now-classic image, as well as new designs like a t-shirt with various canines snarling at the collar to form a kind of angry wreath and a pullover that shows a Rottweiler framed around a circle of Swarovski crystal appliqu?es, costing an almost comical price of $725. If these Givenchy items are a tad too costly for you, as indeed their retail prices are beyond the limited bank accounts of most liberal arts students, check out street fashion web boutique Romwe. The site offers a totally Givenchy-esque black sweatshirt that features a similarly angry face of a dog, plus optional details like crystal embellishments and tulle trim, for the far more reasonable price of $55. On the accessories front, Kenneth Jay Lane has long been associated with creating brightly colored and ornately-designed costume jewelry of various animals, favoring exotic creatures like panthers, giraffes and elephants. J.Crew has more recently followed in Lane’s footsteps with a set of enameled bangles, featuring looks like interlocking leopards’ heads and jewel-encrusted zebras, all for under $100. UK label Topshop is the ultimate place to get the trend on a budget. Scoop up earrings of fox heads, unicorns and wolves so fierce they would put up a good fight against Givenchy’s Rottweilers – but the best part is that they are all available for under $20. Similarly priced chains like Zara and ASOS also have plenty of animal-themed items and are the best bets for experimenting with this fun trend without investing your bank account in a pair of loafers and a t-shirt. With so many styles to choose from, dare to take a walk on the wild side.