Nasty women. Throughout history, women who have been perceived as powerful or threatening were marginalised, mistreated, trash-talked and humiliated, and ultimately suppressed. Usually by their male counterparts, but in some cases, and sadly, by other women too. In medieval times, women accused of magic were labelled as witches, elevating their power to supernatural acts, but as punishment they were burned at the stake. For Spring 2017, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi celebrated the softness of women, creating the ultimate femme fatale in the form of a coven of flower witches, adorned in real flowers dotted around the eye, on the lips and randomly scattered on the face and down the neck. This collection comes at a super-critical time, where women’s reproductive rights are still very much a battle ground and the highest of glass ceilings remains unbroken. But I remain comforted by this representation of womanhood where a gathering of ethereal creatures dress in business witch casual, adorned in various iterations of frou frou denim jackets, ripped jeans patched with ruffles and Fred Perry-esque monogrammed polo shirts, with pentagrams inplace of brand logo.
Contributing to the success of Spring 2017, makeup artist Val Garland brought something special to the show with the careful application of real flower petals hand-picked by florist Flora Starkey. Over the past few seasons we’ve seen makeup artists cover the faces of models in everything from rhinestones to sequins, crystals and pearls but now things have become much more organic and for the first time, florals for spring were considered ground-breaking. Garland first covered her canvas in moisturizer to help the stiff petals wrap around each face, simultaneously giving the models dreamy, dewy complexions and to keep the precious petals from falling off, she used eyelash glue instead of gloss. The effect was as if the girls had freshly rolled in a bed of flowers and nothing short of breath-taking. While Garland’s approach was careful yet natural, one week earlier in New York at Rosie Assoulin’s show, crushed flowers adorned the models’ faces with the help of makeup artist James Kaliardos. In contrast, Kaliardos was a little more haphazard using clear M.A.C. Eye Gloss as an adhesive, he placed petals randomly over the face and neck, wrapping them around one eye, dotting them along the cheekbones, and scattering them along the forehead and down the neck.
“We grew up with witches” says Thea Bregazzi, reminiscing about the real-life witches of the Isle of Man who cured sore throats and other common ailments. Inspiration taken from witches, spell-casting, British working-class council-estate goths and hippy cults culminated in a breath-takingly magical collection, loaded with hex-appeal featuring floor-length dresses and bursting at the seams with ruffles. The latter were given a dusting of iridescent embroidery, aptly dubbed “crushed rainbow” with a myriad of long, floral-printed and velvet dresses infused with silver, chiffon, shirring and pentagrams. A personal favourite were the pieces frosted with the most amazing wedding cake ruffles, snaking around the bodice and hemline and swamping some skirts. Preen Spring 2017 strikes the perfect balance between feminine and spooky, and it’s no wonder that this has reached critical acclaim, and praised as Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s best collection yet. While one half of the collection was downright pretty in all pastels and Gothic romantic while the other half of the collection was the polar opposite in monochrome tones and much more straightforward- for the 21st century witch who sends her spells via Snapchat. It’s practical magic at its very best.
Celebrating over 20 years in the fashion industry, Thornton and Bregazzi announced backstage they are finally getting married, next year in July (congratulations). With the Isle of Man a constant source of inspiration for their work, the ceremony will undoubtedly take place in their mother country. If the 70s references and floral undertones from this collection are anything to go by, the occasion is sure to be as visually stunning and personal. As if planning their nuptials weren't enough, the couple have also pushed themselves to produce a trial capsule consisting of three se-now-buy-now looks, which were immediately available on the Preen website after the show. While increasingly more designers attempt to create collections trying to keep up with our insatiable appetite for clothes, Preen were one of the few designers at London Fashion Week this season to dabble in the direct to consumer market. It's a tumultuous time in fashion, but with such strong designs, Preen will undoubtedly weather the storm.