Alarm clocks went off at an unprecedented 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, in time for a 9 a.m. appointment at London's Natural History Museum — specifically in a glass-walled, light-filled walkway at the side of the building. Though we were half-asleep when we took our seats, it was undeniably a stunning setting for Preen to show its spring 2013 collection.
The occasion marked a welcome return to London Fashion Week for design duo Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi — they decamped to New York in 2007. The move back was both a professional and personal decision: "We've done it partly because 2012 is such a great year for London, partly because London Fashion Week is now so much more international than it was when we left ... but mostly because our baby is due any day soon, so Thea can't travel," explained Thornton. "It's an amalgamation of reasons, but we've been talking to the British Fashion Council for a few seasons and considering it."
The pair was able to work in their London studio right up to showtime. "It's been brilliant, actually. I think when we go to New York we see it like a bit of travel and fun — this has felt more like old times, in a way."
The collection was as sharp and wearable as ever, and packed with texture — snakeskin and rose prints, sheer blouses, reflective fabrics and glittering silver florals. The orderly pastel patchwork that dominated Preen's spring 2012 collection evolved into something moodier: contrasting prints closely juxtaposed in more unpredictable ways.
"Patchwork's always a major inspiration for us and we've always pieced things together. What we wanted to do here was take luxury classics like stingray, python, crocodile, and armadillo, photograph them and print them,” Thornton said. "The film Buffalo '66 was a major inspiration — Vincent Gallo's toughness in snakeskin cowboy boots and leather jacket, and Christina Ricci's cute femininity. That's why we put the prints onto chiffons and georgettes, so that the collection became more soft and feminine."
When asked whether they plan to attend other shows this week, Thornton glanced across the room at Bregazzi's bump and smiled. "I think we might be at hospital tomorrow."
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