It's amazing how few British designers manage to lift their eyes to the modern London horizon, and feel great about it. But there was a rare, serene sensation of nowness running through Preen's spring show. In the spiraling atrium of the new mayor's City Hall, with a sunny view of the Tower of London across the Thames, Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton sent out a cool collection of drapey, dusty pinks and pearly beiges that ramped up their reputation to another level.

It looked as if the down-and-dirty, ragpicker experimentalism of this pair's early career had been put through the laundry several thousand times and emerged cleaner, softer, and infinitely more refined. What they learned from cutting up old sweatshirts and discovering a million ways to torture an old man's suit hasn't been lost. Now it's being channeled into sophisticated, lightly layered shirts, cool, cuffed shorts, and wrapped dresses, cocktail bustiers, and cummerbunds made from stretch jersey. Their deft handling of luxurious materials like washed satin marked another step forward. If there's a criticism, it's that Preen doesn't need to show so many looks. After ten minutes, they'd already won their argument for grown-up cool, hands down.