Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton deserve credit for cleaning up their act. No more showing in death-trap underground venues; now, it's more like hyper-modern financial-center locations with stunning panoramic views of the City of London. Sensitive to the changing fashion climate, this couple have been steering Preen clear of gritty street deconstructionism, toward something softer and more evolved. Example: They're still doing their thing with upside-down scrappy bits of recycled sweatshirting, but those pieces now resolve themselves into gentle wrap dresses, skirts with floppy volumes, and cascading details of chopped-up ribbing in the back of jackets that might almost be called frills. The fabrics have been upgraded as well, to include silk jersey, linen, and cashmere.
At the heart of this collection was their take on Africa (a trend that's been rising all summer from Portobello Road market, where Preen is based), with a glance toward Holly Hobbie. That meant a splashy micro-print got worked into some bunchy cotton dresses, and others turned out as abstract, collaged, folksy trapezes. It led them very near territory that has already been explored by the advance guard of Nicolas Ghesquière, Sophia Kokosalaki, and Hussein Chalayan, but there was enough to give the collection an integrity of its own.