On a sun-dappled morning at London’s Freemasons Hall last week, Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton of Preen held a slumber party. As the poet Greta Bellamacina recited verses written for the occasion, models of all ages drifted lazily between two rooms and draped themselves across enormous antique beds, conveniently covered with quilts and cushions from the brand’s latest homewares collection, a sideline they developed at the beginning of the pandemic that has proven to be a surprise hit.
“We were thinking about those blurred boundaries between home and work, and how beds can feel a sanctuary sometimes, but at other times more like a prison,” said Bregazzi of the setup, which was loosely inspired by Robert Altman’s 1977 film 3 Women, a sinister fever dream set at a run-down California health spa in which Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall develop a psychosexual rivalry. “I think over the past few years, everyone’s relationships with their bedrooms has changed,” added Thornton.
Hence the pair looked to nightwear for inspiration this season, working with satins, silks, and laces in dustily romantic colors, before ruching and draping them to create warped, asymmetric silhouettes. They also took their party dresses down to the floor and decorated halter necks with smatterings of jewels and sequins for an additional touch of louche glamour, while a final, delightful styling detail came by way of heeled Mary Janes sprouting fluffy feathers, recalling the sex-kitten kitsch of a 1950s marabou mule.
Over the past few years, Thornton and Bregazzi have also been quietly evolving behind the scenes to make their collections as sustainable as possible, from printing techniques with low water wastage to increasing their use of deadstock fabrics. This time around, they used offcuts and cotton scraps hanging around their atelier to create charmingly wonky patchworked bralettes, here mostly strung over floral gowns and lacy slips. Still, the duo wear these credentials lightly. “We’re not really focusing so much on talking about it, as it’s kind of like second nature,” Thornton explained. “We’d never describe ourselves as a fully sustainable brand, but we’re always trying our best and looking for better options where we can find them.”
That ethos is best expressed in the simple fact that the decade-hopping inspirations behind Preen’s designs lend them an effortlessly timeless quality, with the sense that you could easily mix and match the pieces with similarly off-kilter separates from collections past. The show’s grande dame, the 93-year-old model Daphne Selfe, could appreciate that. “These are clothes to feel good in,” said Bregazzi, firmly. “And Daphne just loved it.”