With the Paris autumn/winter 2012 couture collections still fresh in our minds, fashion has rarely looked so, well, civilized. From Raf Simon’s debut at Dior, which paired classic silhouettes from the house’s 50s heyday with modern cutaways and neon pops, to Karl Lagerfeld’s demurely nostalgic suits in glittering blush tweed, the designers reminded us that, at this most artisanal level, fashion is all about taking the raw human beast and turning it into a construction of beauty.
And then we turn to the street, and find that here fashion has rarely looked so, well, savage. Animal print, clunky tribal beads, lion motifs, great digitally enhanced lilies splashed across a body con slip. Inspired by the previous season’s catwalk hits – Giles’s furry jackets, Givenchy panther hats, Chloe snakeskin sheaths and kaleidoscopic hothouse blooms from Mary Katrantzou, Erdem and even minimalist Jil Sander – we’ve gone wild for the wild.
None more so than Negar Bahardoust, the young Iranian-born, London-based designer whose label Queen of the Wild has been turning heads in Canada’s luxury department store Holt Renfrew, Oxford Fashion Week, and Vogue Italia.
“I believe we’ve become too much of an industrialised nation,” Bahardoust explains. “We’re getting further and further away from nature and our true selves. That’s why I think a lot of designers are trying to go back into the wild for their inspiration and research.”
Bahardoust’s designs team strong, modern prints inspired by tropical plants, jungle landscapes and wild flowers with top-end Italian silk. From sleek pencil skirts to jumpsuits, drape dresses to bustiers, her silhouettes feel joyously Glamazon after the recent glut of pastels and demure forties shapes. Colours are saturated; reds and yellows prevail. These are clothes for a woman who wants to move, and wants people to watch her do it; a spirit which chimes with Bahardoust’s own nomadic lifestyle.
“I always feel freer when I’m travelling,” she admits. “That’s when the wild side of me comes out more. There have been quite a lot of adventures in my life up to now, but I can say one of the memorable ones was being in a gondola in the middle of water in Venice with a complete stranger looking at the sky at 4am. I’ve done solo skydiving too. I felt really happy flying down. It was such an amazing experience, I hope to have the guts to do it again.”
The wild is, quite obviously, no new trend. Adorning ourselves with the same things that animals and plants use to attract mates– bright colours, high contrasts, extravagant shapes, textured skins, dangling trims and glittering baubles – remains the most basic fashion no-brainer. However refined the palette or cut, you can find a feral reference in any piece of clothing; the things which hide and reveal our bodies cannot help but engage with those wildest of realities, sex and death.
But at the moment, it feels particularly right. Fed up with the interminable sensible, versatile investment pieces offered as panaceas to economic strife, not to mention newly empowered by a fierce and muscled Olympic spirit, we’re more than ready to let our hair down a bit.
When it comes to iconic wild women, Bahardoust loves Bjork and Juliet Lewis; with designers, she admires Altuzarra’s quintessential power dressing looks. But she’s non-prescriptive in her definition of what wild fashion is. “I think whatever a person feels comfortable and confident in will make her sexy,” she insists, “whether it’s hot pants or fully covered long dress. From my own collection I always feel great when wearing the printed silk jumpsuit.” Living in London, her typical climate is more urban drizzle than rainforest, but she still manages to find the odd nature fix. “I love a boat ride in the canal and half a day in Hampstead Heath always recharges my batteries.”
So dump those clichéd little-girl florals and flash your best predatory smile. This summer, it’s time for the wild things to come out and play.
This feature originally appeared in Futurespace