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In conversation with Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi of Preen.

Over two decades, Preen has evolved from a small boutique in London’s Notting Hill to a globally loved brand stocked across 5 continents and an industry insider favourite.



 

 

 

 

  

Do you always design with Thea in mind specifically?

Our aesthetic is one born of two halves, there's two of us and we like the idea of taking two different elements and fusing them together. It's always been about that dichotomy between the masculine and feminine - an exploration of the push and pull between them.
I think that's a key thing, but it's developed into a more streamlined, more grown-up aesthetic in our work.

We just think of our group of friends and what they want to wear.
It’s part of our job to make things for “every” women as well, but letting our own sense of style shine is also key.

How did you two first meet?

We first met on an art foundation course on the Isle of Man, where we both grew up. The fashion industry wasn’t a big part of Manx culture, but we started at college just as the last significant shift in fashion culture occurred.
Grunge was happening, Corinne Day’s photography took off.
We moved to London in the 1990s after university and set up Preen as a shop in Portobello. The area was the creative hub of the time and everyone used to hang out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you find working together as a husband and wife team?

It’s great! We get to share meeting interesting people, work on great projects, see amazing places and do exciting things. You can never truly get away from work – that's the challenge of working with one another. We are always together.  But then that's the beauty of it too!

Not many people get to do all that we do together. We also get to work as a tag team in terms of looking after the kids and so we're definitely lucky in that respect.

 

In 2014 you launched a childrenswear collection. Was this inspired by having your own children?

The girls have definitely inspired a spin-off in our Preen mini collection.
Each super-sweet piece in the mini line – from embroidered cardigans to delicately pretty organza dresses – is a scaled down or adapted version of items from the main collection.

 

 

 

 

Talk us through your process for each collection?

Each collection is different, because we’re not the type of designers who just draw things and then make them.
We work through our ideas and research. These things can come from lots of different places. Sometimes we’re inspired by travels, or an exhibition, a picture, or someone we see on the streets. We’ll do sketches and talk a lot, do more drawings and research and then we will come together with ideas and debate what we’re going to do.

We will work on a model and test out some looks on the body to see what’s right for the silhouette. The pattern cutting is done in the studio, it might happen that they are making the top part of a dress first, it’s put on a mannequin and you decide you actually prefer it as a top.

Having everything made in our studio allows you to have that flexibility. Sometimes you imagine what something is going to look like in a certain fabric only to have it take on a completely different aesthetic once realised. That in itself will profoundly shape the design process. We’re very focused but we're aware of how necessary it is to allow new influences or elements to materialise during the process.


There are elements of a punky attitude in the patchwork knits and the red and black tartan, ginghams that are layered with scarlet cashmeres and sheer tulles. Camouflage coats are layered over army-green silk devoré and trimmed with shearling collars.

Dresses come in the most delicate of pink crinkle chiffon softly wrapped over disco sequins, or scarlet red organza’s pleated and puffed to form bold silhouettes, and tough gothic lace falls from hems of body skimming sequins.

 

Finally, if you could dress any woman in the world who would it be and why?

Justin would probably say Lauren Hutton, but she’s already worn us! 

(Justin): and you would probably say Julie Christie!”  

Well I do love her...especially in Darling! Actually, her in that film wearing Preen would be the an absolute dream.
Not to be too specific! ✹

 


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