Animal Instincts

I have just returned from a post-New Year visit to Edinburgh. As usual, the jaunt turned into an unexpected thrust into the fashion world – starting with a trip to the Zoo!

During my trip, something hit home about all of these beautiful, albeit whiffy, animals, and that was the way in which their fur shone and changed with every move and their muscular frames and characteristic horns, antlers and trunks displayed mother nature’s very best gift of beauty.

The magnificence behind each animal’s design reminded me of something that had left not only me, but also The World gobsmacked. The ‘It’s A Jungle Out There’ 1997 Fall show at London Fashion Week by none other than Lee Alexander McQueen.

I recalled how the models creeped, thumped and marched down the runway at Borough Market in London. Alek Wek was adorned in the softest animal hide that had been tailored into a structured jacket with ostentatious shoulders. Her wild gold hair and feline make-up adding to the effect.

Stella Tennant’s frame was poured into a black leather midi dress that exposed a red pair of knickers through tears in the fabric to give the illusion of torn skin. Her hair had seen the best part of 42 cans of Elnett as it was styled into the shape of a lion’s mane. A real pride of the pack.

It isn’t surprising to note that McQueen often looked to the National Geographic magazine for inspiration in his collections – particularly with this one.

Returning back to my hotel on Princes Street, I settled down with a glass of white and reached for my phone, eager to see the images of the show again. One click lead to another and before I knew it, I was on Edinburgh’s Centre for Art’s website that amazingly, was exhibiting the costumes designed by world renowned Massachusetts born theatre designer, Julie Taymor for THE LION KING.

The exhibition did not disappoint.


On show were the works of a genius. The only female to pick-up a Tony Award for direction (the Oscars of musical theatre), Taymor had done to the extreme for stage that McQueen had done for his show.

For those familiar with the Disney classic will remember the beauty of the female cub Nala, who’s costume for the stage is created using bold golden batik prints on fabric with intricate embroidery and beading to suggest the different elements of her cat-like texture.

The costumery for the other animals, particularly the zebras and birds, are created using the incredible imagination of Taymor, making use of natural and earthy textiles like hessian and silk to give the audience the sense that they really are watching animals, only with human-like features.

Those in the North East will now be able to view the costumes themselves as The Lion King musical has now announced a stint in Sunderland in September this year, we only hope that the exhibition will follow too!

McQueen was known for taking the characteristics of animals, particularly the Thompson’s Gazelle and replicating the stripes, the frame and antlers into his work. It has never been more apparent how the designs of theatre and the runway move in such parallel circles.

Taymor said: “The fun part for me was how do you create the image of the Savannah? I love finding highly theatrical means to create a naturalistic landscape,” similar to the corrugated iron and sand blasted runway created by McQueen to give the image of an urban jungle.

On leaving, like any other fashionista ‘worth her stripes’, I wanted in. I wanted to rid myself of the glum rainy weather in search of a wardrobe that would leave me with a safari smile.

So how wonderful, in the very postmodern way in which fashion works, that I was able to find exactly what I was looking for in the Spring 2014 shows of Valentino, Givenchy and of course, McQueen. All using embroidery, tribal jewellery and graphic prints.

Roberto Cavalli swished with fringes, Emilio Pucci shouts out with monochrome batik prints, Junya Watanabe’s collection was filled with feathers and heavy African landscape prints were seen at Armani, Hermes and Marc Jacobs.

Sadly, if like me, your American Express (I don’t even think I’d be accepted for one) limit is around 25 quid, you can always settle for our faves from the High Street:


(Left) Mango leopard print skirt, £69.99

(Centre Left) H&M elastic belt, £7.99

(Centre Right) Topshop tribal necklace, £16.50

(Right) Urban Outfitters Bitching and Junk Food leggings, £70


(Left) Topshop Yukka Yukka print trousers, £40

(Centre Left) Topshop Leaf and bird bikini, £34

(Centre Right) Topshop print shirt, £42

(Right) Friend of min Alice Springs leather dress, £200

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