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Perspectives Furniture Follows Fashion

Furniture Follows Fashion

By Ed Bertha

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Jeff Bacon, who manages Bacon’s Furniture and Design of Sarasota. He said something that really provoked great interest and curiosity: “Furniture follows fashion”. Interesting indeed: all design students are taught “Form follows function”, and perhaps I didn’t give much thought to the significant impact the fashion industry has on the furniture industry. But it seemed logical. I am sure events such as Manhattan’s Fashion Week are those to which fashionistas pay great attention so they can be the first to sport the new, trendy and sometimes avant-garde whims in apparel.

Kerrie Lehnert Kitchens by Kerrie

Some trends stick; others are short lived and may not even leave the runway. The furniture industry pays close attention. This is obvious with the revival of the animal-print craze: the kitschy patterns were possibly revitalized by the Paris Hiltons and Carrie Bradshaws of the world some years ago. The prints are still in vogue today and the patterns are found in mainstream furniture stores on arm chairs, area rugs, table top veneers and more.

Animal skins were perhaps one of the first statements in clothing. As early as 5 million years ago, man wore animal pelts not only to protect him from natural elements but to enrich spiritual rituals and lure animals while hunting. Even then, animal skins were observed as having some greater power than other clothing materials in a time when their primary purpose was protection. Wearing the hides of animals, particularly patterned pelts, continued throughout history and transitioned during royalty as decoration for rugs and chair upholstery. As time moved on, the pelts continued to be a sign of some greater success, be it hunting, royalty or wealth.

Kerrie Lehnert Kitchens by Kerrie

It was really in the 1940’s and 50’s that animal prints transitioned into the commercial sector of the fashion industry, which is commonly credited to Christian Dior. Dior, most known to have adopted the Jaguar print into his fashion line, transitioned it as a pattern in everything from exquisite handbags, gloves and scarves to other clothing items. He set the world up to recognize this pattern as a symbol of luxury and status. Meanwhile real furs were still coveted for jackets and coats and there was not a clear distinction between the harmless prints and the actual pelts.

Kerrie Lehnert Kitchens by Kerrie

The 1960’s certainly revolutionized the fashion industry. This was the time shortly after the women’s movement that masses of women really began to protest the use of animal furs in fashion. Protests included anti-fur signs and buttons, and publicly damaging fur jackets. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a breeding of leopards and ocelots with domestic cats created exotic pets with wild cat markings.

Kerrie Lehnert Kitchens by Kerrie

Faux prints have existed throughout time but they became very common in the 1970s. Prior to that time, animal prints were more of a status symbol than a fashion statement. Now in current day, the prints, while still fashionable, are very mainstream and commonly found.

Kerrie Lehnert Kitchens by Kerrie

Taking the initial introduction of animal prints from fashion designers decades ago, animal prints have clearly established themselves in the furniture industry. We have seen animal prints go in and out of fashion, but with a strong resurgence in the furniture sector, perhaps animal prints have become a staple pattern such as a plaid, broçade or damask. Animal prints have now become an accepted pattern and not just as a fashion statement in the fashion and furniture world.

Copyright © 2012 REAL Magazine
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