Tigers are a global symbol. They represent strength and ferocity, used often as a mascot for designs, brands and sporting teams. But this majestic wild animal is more than just a design on a garment, or a logo on a bottle. They’re precious animals that are dangerously close to extinction.
There may have been 100,000 tigers roaming this planet about a century ago, but due to habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade, the wild tiger population has now dwindled to around 3,900.
This year, WWF joined forces with Tiger Beer and French fashion label KENZO to raise awareness of the plight of tigers and help support our conservation work to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 – the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.
Together with KENZO’s co-creative directors, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, Tiger Beer handpicked four emerging artists to create Rare Stripes – a limited edition collection of garments.
The collection is inspired by the incredible stories of eight individual tigers in the wild.
Before embarking on the project, the co-creative directors and four artists travelled to Cambodia, where tigers are now functionally extinct. There, they met a WWF wildlife specialist in an effort to better understand these majestic big cats and the dangers they face.
“A world without tigers is unimaginable, but that’s the reality we could be facing if we do nothing about it now” – Humberto Leon, Co-Creative Director, KENZO
Read the stories of the eight wild tigers that inspired the artists behind the unique designs of the Rare Stripes collection.
Illustrator and Printmaker, Cambodia
“I think the symbolism of the tiger is very powerful in illustration and fashion, but we don’t really connect to their plight in nature and how they’re endangered.”
Julienne was given the story of The Last Tiger of Cambodia to transform into a unique design. The Last Tiger of Cambodia was last seen on camera trap in 2007. Today, there are no longer any breeding populations of tigers left in Cambodia. The last image was symbolic to the Cambodian people as it raised the need to secure forested landscapes where tigers can once again live and thrive.
It was announced by the Cambodian Ministry of Environment in September 2017 that tigers will be reintroduced to the country with the help of WWF.
“My tiger was caught on camera traps twice, and it was only at night, so I want that to set the scene of my design.”
Machali is the legendary tigress of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India. Born in 1997, as a cub she was already showing signs of becoming a formidable predator. She was documented to have killed a full-grown crocodile, and often defended her cubs from bigger male tigers, always emerging victorious. Her ferocity won her the title “Queen of Ranthambore”. She passed away peacefully at age 19.
“I think that ferocity in her really resonated with me because that’s the embodiment of what a true wild tiger is.”
Illustrator and Designer, Singapore
“I feel that tigers are individuals. They have feelings and they have such distinct personalities, just like us.”
Esther’s first tiger is Uporny. He was first spotted in November 2014 on the outskirts of town by residents from the Vyazemskoye Village in Russia. After three dogs in the village were killed by tigers, the locals contacted a group set up by WWF that addresses human-tiger conflicts. It was then that a pale and severely malnourished tiger was captured and brought to a government-run rehabilitation centre. Uporny earned his name for refusing to leave his transport cage and enter his new enclosure. Uporny means stubborn in Russian.
Uporny’s health improved quickly and he eagerly accepted food. He was fitted with a GPS collar which measured his body temperature and location.
“For the artwork, the collar was an important part of the story”
Unfortunately, in March 2017, researchers found that the GPS marker had not moved for a month and recorded a dramatic drop in the cat’s body temperature. He was found dead in the Gur River Valley with wounds to his head and back as the result of a fight with another stronger predator, most likely a brown bear or another tiger.
Krishna was born in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to the “Queen of Ranthambore”, Machali. She was a shy and reserved cub in contrast to her sister, Satara. By the time Krishna was ready to venture out on her own, she was left with territory that had few watering holes and low prey density, proving to be a challenge as she grew into adulthood.
Fortunately, Krishna made an amazing comeback. By 2010, she had the largest territory among all the tigresses of Ranthambore, including her own sister. The once shy Krishna is now frequently sighted with her cubs, leading them to become one of the most iconic tiger families in history.
“I hope through my artworks, people will feel a connection to them and realise how fragile the species is.”
Visual and Digital Artist, Malaysia
“Art is a powerful tool and I hope that by contributing my work into this project, I can be part of the solution”
Sean was given the story of tigress, Kamrita to design into a work of art. Kamrita was the face for WWF’s tiger conservation campaign and a symbol of hope for her whole species, with many people adopting her symbolically to help fund anti-poaching efforts. This tigress - from the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal - was easily recognisable with her distinctive stripe pattern, incomplete rings on her tail and thick stripes on her flanks. She lived a full life as a loving mother to at least five cubs.
Vladik was Sean’s other tiger. In October 2016, Vladik caused a media sensation in Russia when he was first sighted in the port city of Vladivostok. He was difficult to track down without snow to reveal his pug marks (footprints). A warning was given to the citizens of Vladivostok not to approach or run if they saw Vladik, as that could provoke an attack.
“I painted a portrait of him, really wanting to show his emotion when he was sighted.”
Once he was captured safely, the residents of the city gave him the name Vladik, after the city. After rehabilitation, he was released into Bikin National Park in May 2017 with the help of WWF and Amur Tiger Centre.
Contemporary Artist and Sculpture, USA
“I think that nature is the best artist of all.”
Meryl’s first tiger, Nameless, was found in the Belum-Temengor forests of Malaysia. He was found by WWF’s field-team with his paw brutally caught in a snare trap set by poachers. Based on the wounds, Nameless had struggled hard to free himself, but the attempts only tightened the noose around his paw and led to further injuries.
Though he was given emergency treatment, he eventually succumbed to the serious infections caused by his injuries, passing away weeks after.
“What I'm trying to do is celebrate the beauty of nature, and I think when people see that, they will feel reconnected to nature in some way. I hope that when people see the Rare Stripes collection, it makes them think about the real tiger behind the symbol.”
Filippa was found exhausted as an orphaned five-month-old cub in a garden in the village of Filippovka in Russia. Covered in dog bites and dying from starvation, she nearly fell victim to other wildlife including stray dogs and boars. Sadly, she was not given the chance to learn vital survival skills like hunting from her mother.
After 14 months at a rehabilitation center, she made a full recovery and learned to hunt by herself. In April 2016, WWF and the Amur Tiger Centre transported her to a protected wildlife sanctuary where she was released into the wild.
The Rare Stripes collection launched globally on 21 July, with a limited quantity made available to an international consumer audience. 100% of proceeds from the sale of the collection will go to WWF in support of doubling the world’s wild tiger population.
Click here for more information about the Tiger Beer + Kenzo + WWF partnership.