A cool Sunday morning, 9am, Natural History Museum: time and space were perfectly adjusted to Preen’s pristine collection, marking their return to London after five years of showing across the pond; and in their inimitably refined and modern way, Justin Thornton & Thea Bregazzi proved it was worth the wait. As the first dewy skinned model descended the dramatic staircase of the Darwin Centre, there was a wave of silence as the audience, seated on two very long rows, visibly sat up to pay attention. With a whisper of 90s minimalism, indicative of the decade the brand was born, they opened the show with a simple-shaped ensemble made exquisite by modernist patchworked paneling, combining textures varying from opaque to translucently sheer.
Their controlled insertions of reptilian and stingray prints and exotic skins echoed a museum’s restrained approach to exhibiting and containing nature’s wilderness; in striking but always justified asymmetrical compositions, the designers demonstrated an indisputable mastery in balancing form with fabric. Only the sheen on some of the peony and snake printed pieces took away a bit of the cool, matte minimalism of their otherwise perfectly balanced oeuvres, but nonetheless never let a look slip into flashy or too much.
The show notes’ mention of Buffalo 66, the darkly absurd cult classic of American cinema, was also particularly fitting: you could just see Christina Ricci’s deliciously girly character in Preen’s heart-shaped bodices and Breton-striped billowing tops as much as the sharp box-shaped leather jackets and structured trousers channeled the overt masculinity of Vincent Gallo. Indeed, this pairing was indicative of the partnership at the very heart of Preen; Thornton and Bregazzi, whose intelligently androgynous aesthetic season after season solidifies their well deserved power-couple status.
And with the increasing spread of loud and celebrity-driven fashion, it feels so good to have them back. One of the best shows so far.
- Maria Dimitrova