NEW YORK • You have seen it on Instagram, the racks of your favourite department store and your morning commute.
The silky, sultry leopard-print midi skirt is everywhere these days.
The trend's origins have been widely attributed to online retailer Realisation Par, which released its Naomi skirt, a bronze silk knee-length slip pelted with the animal's print, in March last year.
Its initial popularity was driven by influencers in New York and Los Angeles who had ascribed little-black-dress status to the skirt.
Now, there are innumerable copycats, from influencer-bait labels including Ganni and Reformation, as well as fast-fashion brands such as Zara, Topshop and Forever 21.
The skirt even inspired an anthropomorphic Instagram account, @leopardmidiskirt, which features photographs of women doing activities such as balancing a beer can on their butt or taking a bathroom selfie while wearing the skirt.
Ms Teale Talbot, a founder of Realisation Par, believes that the skirt's appeal can be pinned down to its versatility. "It's sexy, but not too sexy for work, and looks good on everyone. It suits all body shapes, and because it's made from silk and drapes just beautifully," she said.
While she admits that the brand did not "invent" the leopard-print skirt, she said she and her co-founder Alexandra Spencer "nailed the fabric, print and silhouette in a certain way that made it very wearable and caught people's attention".
Realisation Par was definitely onto something.
For New York Fashion Week in February last year, designers Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg and Victoria Beckham all pulled together a menagerie of leopard-print apparel.
Ms Sarah Tam, chief merchant officer at Rent The Runway, remembers the animal-print trend percolating in December 2017 and going into "full force" by February.
According to her, it was "perfect timing" when Realisation Par introduced its skirt in March because the brand invested in leopard-print fur coats, blouses, pants and skirts before its release.
While Rent The Runway does not carry the Realisation Par design, it stocks about a dozen styles of leopard-print skirt from brands such as Moon River and Sanctuary.
"This spring, we increased our stock by more than 700 per cent of animal prints. Our leopard-print skirt, in particular, is being utilised 40 per cent higher than our normal skirt," Ms Tam said.
In terms of sales and rentals, the leopard-print skirt became the company's most sought-after animal-print item for spring this year.
Mr Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser for NPD Group, a market research firm, has not seen leopard print at the forefront of fashion in more than a decade.
But he said that currently "the luxury market is looking for a way to capitalise on animal print and make it more their own".
He added that when luxury puts a trend on the runway and in stores, it is something the lower-end of the market can copy quickly.
"Adding the element of silk keeps it on the higher-end for the consumer," Mr Cohen said. "That's the thing you won't see a lot of the lower-end market run towards to, and that's how they separate themselves these days."