Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton are generally thought of as gritty Portobello deconstructionists, so it might come as a surprise to find them quoting that classic of French-movie style, Belle de Jour, as the inspiration for Preen' s fall season. Still, even though it's probably the most clichéd fashion reference of all time, the designers applied the haute bourgeois aesthetic in their own way, and it put a refreshingly polished accent on their usual streetwise repertoire.
The jolt of sophistication began with a long, high-belted, skinny camel coat with a pointy standing collar, followed by a pair of smart beige trousers and a matching cashmere sweater. The designers gently advanced that calm sense of normality by piecing fragments of shearling into other asymmetric camel coats or by fusing tweed into lapels. Their signature jerseys (descended from sweatshirts, somewhere along the way) appeared as flared, slinky dresses, falling below the knee and sprouting bits of rib-knit in odd places. For evening, there were bunchy baby dolls, whose tiered frills were assembled from cutoff shirt collars. Though their neat, to the body aviator shearlings came over as too near Balenciaga to be completely original, for the most part, this collection earned Preen new respect as designers who are gaining real maturity.