How much leopard print is too much leopard print?

A leopard look from Parisian label Sézane

People have strong feelings about leopard print. There are those devoted to it, those who won’t go near it – and then there are those who could be tempted, but don’t know where to begin, or how to wear it in a tasteful way.

One person in no doubt about her love for it is former Spice Girl Mel B. In a surprise to absolutely no one, she revealed herself, in a recent Instagram post, to be a fully paid-up member of the all-leopard-everything tribe. Chez Brown, it’s on everything from the sofa to hot water bottles to oven gloves. That it features in her wardrobe, too, goes without saying.

Of course, there’s no obligation to go the full Scary Spice, but if you’re on the fence, it is worth considering, given that leopard is having a bit of a moment right now.

It’s thanks in part to fashion’s love affair with the early 2000s, a period during which Kate Moss was rarely seen without a faux fur leopard coat, inspiring legions of women to follow suit.

Leopard print also feels appealing on the heels of the quiet luxury aesthetic. After so much stealth-wealth greige, a dose of something a little bit trashy (there, I said it) feels fresh. It’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, in the same vein as Phoebe Philo’s “Mum” necklace, or designer Crocs, and so it imbues your look with a little confidence.

Even the quiet luxury megabrands have been embracing it: leopard is to be expected at Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli – but it’s also at Max Mara, Celine and Jil Sander. And there’s appetite for it, you only need to see how rapidly the Adidas Originals x Wales Bonner leopard print Sambas sold out when they dropped at the end of last year.

But is there such a thing as too much leopard? And can it suit anyone? Hair colourist and trend expert Zoë Irwin is an avowed fan of the look, but says not all leopard prints are created equal. “I’ve worn it for so many years, and I have so many versions, but they all feel different,” she says. “It’s like having lots of floral prints.”

The key to success is to pick your shades carefully. The signature leopard print of Danish brand Ganni is one of her favourites: “As a colourist, one of the things that I appreciate is that some have got a real yellow to them, others are much paler. The background of the Ganni print is quite pale, so it works really, really well on a blonde, as well as brunettes.”

Irwin herself is blonde, so she’ll tread carefully with punchier iterations: “I’ve got a Stella McCartney tote bag which is more vivid – I know that wouldn’t work for me in a dress, so I tend to wear it as an accent with everything else plain.”

The obvious way to wear leopard is to keep the rest of your outfit understated, and there’s nothing wrong with that – but if you really want to mix it up, consider wearing it with other prints.

“We have used the exact same leopard print for the past nine years and incorporate it into a range of styles and shapes,” says Henrietta Rix, co-founder of Rixo. “It has such a bohemian charm to it when it’s done right… I wear it pared back with denim, but it works equally well with other prints – our Meg dress which combines polka dot with leopard print is a best-seller.”

Evidently, finding a good leopard print can be tricky – but Ganni and Rixo are good places to start. Sezane has excellent knitwear and shoes, while Raey’s maxi slip dresses layer beautifully.

The best thing about leopard print is that actually wearing it is not so complicated. Team it with denim, or stripes, or florals, or tailoring. Anything goes, really. This is a look you can truly make your own.

Three degrees of leopard print

Baby steps…

leopard print merch
leopard print merch

Leather animal print belt, £25.99, Zara; Nike Air Max 1 panelled suede trainers, £145, Selfridges; Leather Roméo bag, £265, Sezane 

On the prowl…

leopard print merch
leopard print merch

Viscose Meg midi dress, £295, Rixo; Leopard sleeveless knit, £130, Balzac Paris; Cotton twill Sidney skirt, £190, Cefinn 

Go wild…

leopard print merch
leopard print merch

Cotton poplin maxi dress, £235, Ganni; Viscose Floe blouse, £195, Ba&sh; Albaray belted trench coat with wool, £220, Marks & Spencer