I had a parakeet in high school, but he wasn’t my pet so much as he was my mom’s frenemy. He’d squawk at her; she’d resort to insults. He’d kick birdseed everywhere; she’d fool him into thinking it was night by tossing a sheet over his cage at 3 pm.
I mention this episode of failure in pet ownership because I met up with my brother this weekend for a semi-annual tradition like no other: watching him watch the National Dog Show. It’s fantastic–this year, he reminisced about animal companions we never had, and I laughed/snorted when the dalmatians trotted around the ring.
With their short, spot-adorned white coats, dalmatians make for adorable Disney puppies and noble fire truck mascots. We were being attacked with utter cuteness, interrupted only by this laugh/snort moment: “Isn’t that a weird choice for a print?”
A week or two ago, I mentioned there being a shift this season away from color and toward animal patterns. There’s business reasoning to this: an uncertain economy breeds uncertain consumers, and uncertain consumers spend their money first on immediate needs, then on longer-lasting wants. Not so much on periwinkle bags.
This isn’t to say designers cut color entirely; rather, teams are steered in the direction of calmer palettes (darker reds, browns, purples) and prints with sustainable track records. Animal almost always rises to the top under these circumstances, much more so than color-dependent stripes. Take leopard: year after year, even if not a must-have, it’s never derided as “off-trend” or offensive.
By no means an obvious choice, dalmatian is an interesting alternative. Highly distinguishable from other animal prints–full spots that cluster more tightly than leopard–my thought is we’re drawn in by a sense of surrogate comfort. The day might get tough, the economy rough, but at our busiest–rushing out of the office for lunch or packing up after class–a visual cue born of unconditional love carries us home.