Respect for Preen, which has made its mark on the map of London street chic, is on the rise. This collection, called Protection, had a tough attitude—almost Belgian in its intensity—but managed to march to its own beat. The basic idea was layering, all in a spectrum of urban gray and industrial metallics. The silhouette—if that’s not too pretentious a term for this form of gutter elegance—was put together from tight, belted tweed jackets worn as short coats, thick rib-knit, Lurex-flecked tunics, and double or triple layerings of blousons or billowing raincoats over frilled skirts. The unifying device of leather boots or leggings gave the look a skinny swagger, meaning that the attenuated body line never got lost among the tiers.

Bringing a low-key design interest to the staples of everyday dressing, Preen recast urban utilitywear as marly sweats, leg-hugging suede cargo pants and ribbed tanks, cut away and worn in multiples. So Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi can rethink cut and beat-up fabric with the best of them, but what sets them apart from the pack is knowing when to stop short of turning clothes into intellectual statements. This couple entered fashion not by staging showy runway coups but—with refreshing unconventionality—by building a business steadily from the small shop they opened in Portobello Green in 1996. That all means that Preen knows how to design stuff they’ll actually sell. With seven years under their belt, they’re almost setting a record for longevity in business among young London designers.