The London Portobello Road couple Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton deserve respect for the way they've grown up and out of the grungy deconstructionism of the nineties, where they started. Their Preen collections now look almost unrecognizably clean and polished, though still reaching for an experimental kind of expression; and their instincts tend to take them in the right general direction, too. This season, like so many others, they've been working on loose, swingy volumes that fall from the shoulder to swirl around the knee.
That worked well for trapeze-shape jersey dresses with looped hemlines, an artier version of the peasant smock that's turning up all over as a London trend. Preen's coats and jackets, which often come with dramatically sliced lapels and soft gathers and flounces, also had a certain distinction. Unfortunately, their theoretical explorations of loops and folds ended up in some heavy encounters with chunky gray tweed, where the fabric won, and wearability sank out of sight. Never mind. Preen's development is interesting to watch, and all credit is due to them for surviving the toughest of fashion times as resolute independents.