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Partners in real life as well as in business, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi took their inspiration from a little closer to home this season. “We’re from the Isle of Man, and witchcraft is a normal thing, there’s a lot of practising witches,” said Thornton backstage. “People go to witchdoctors for ailments,” he continued. “It’s very weird but it’s quite cute.”
Cue a spring summer collection that focused on white witches and paganism: the love for Mother Nature found its way on to a petal strewn runway, across dresses and then caressed the lips and faces of the models — real, pressed petals were applied on top of lipstick and to the foreheads and décolletage, by London-based florist Flora Starkey. Hair was plaited into small braids wound with leather binding. It made sense that the designers looked back to their roots: the brand is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. “It’s supposed to be the religion of the earth,” said Bregazzi.
It was incredibly pretty. The pentagram appeared across whisper-thin chiffon dresses and on pins fixed to lapels. It also appeared in graffiti form across a smart, cropped leather jacket, adding a tough contrast to the femininity — something that Preen has became renowned for. Thornton and Bregazzi often like their woman to have a badass side, but these witches were not that — the symbol of witchcraft was reworked with florals that covered gauzy dresses with a handkerchief hem.
Space-age sequins added a slightly sci-fi feel to Mother Earth — a genre the designers are continually inspired by (they have spoken at length about their love for Star Wars). Sparkles covered dresses and skirts in metallic silver, and was worked into embroidered pentagrams on sheer black gowns. Meanwhile, embossed floral dresses glittered with iridescence. “We wanted a magical theme to the collection,” says Thornton.
There were gothic elements too: the first half mixed more boyish garments — ripped jeans, deconstructed polo shirts and oversized masculine blazers — with hyper femininity, like the huge lace frills on the jeans and T-shirts that were tied up with ribbons and bows. Edwardian blouses in delicate tulles had ruffles that rippled like feathers, and whimsical pentagram fabrics were worked into asymmetric handkerchief skirts worn with huge platforms by Ugg, finished with a bow. The fabrics were designed to move like the wind: “we cut it raw when we made it and we tried to let it naturally decay,” said Bregazzi.
They also looked to the pastel goths of Tokyo — inspiration that culminated in powder pink and candied yellow chiffons. “They say they’re pastel on the outside and black on the inside,” said Bregazzi. A woman of contrasts: how very Preen.