Whether it's reptile, alligator, cheetah or zebra, fashion followers are wild about animal prints. The exotic look remains popular in apparel and home-decor design year after year, said Arlene Goldstein, Belk vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction.
"It's a touch of exotic that's chic and elegant," she said. And in fashion, "it's become a classic -- like the turtleneck and skinny pants."
Although cheetah and leopard prints are perennial favorites, snake prints are big for spring and fall, she said. Internationally known designers including Michael Kors, Giambattista Valli, Donna Karan and Anna Molinari have included animal prints in their 2012 spring lines.
While animal print can be interpreted in many classifications of fashion, from shoes to purses to jackets, wearers must remember that it's a bold statement piece.
"A touch is extremely dramatic and can go a long way," Goldstein said. "Animal prints are best used as an accent. Less is more. It's so prominent that it takes over. It's the focus."
The same rules apply in home decor.
Chappell Fowler, interior designer/owner of The Furniture Shoppe in Chattanooga, said animal prints and hides "are very stylish accents that will create a dramatic punch in any room."
She suggested a leopard print rug or pillow, a chair or a crocodile-embossed leather ottoman as ideal accent pieces.
"If you don't have an animal print in your home or wardrobe, run out and find one," she said.
Designer Joe Jumper, owner of The Clay Pot, a floral design and gift shop in Chattanooga, said animal prints should be used sparingly, perhaps to contrast with a neutral color scheme. Otherwise, they can overpower a room.
"Accent pillows or a rug are my favorite ways to incorporate animal prints into a room," Jumper said. "A cow rug can add a cool element to a room. They normally have simple patterns and don't distract from a room. They are great for a hip den or lodge look."
Shelley Black, a local Zumba fitness instructor and judicial assistant, is wild about exotic prints.
"I have animal prints in my wardrobe including zebra print shoes, leopard print shoes, leopard print coats, leopard print skirts, leopard print scarves and a zebra print suit. I have a Betsey Johnson necklace and ring with leopard print stones."
Black's home also reflects her passion for animal prints.
"In the center of the living room is a large black-and-white zebra print rug with hot pink trim, and on my black leather couch and chairs are hot pink and black zebra print throws," she said.
Black also has leopard print sheers and a coordinating rug in the dining room, as well as animal print accents in the kitchen and master bedroom.
"My eyes are drawn to animal prints," she said.