London calling: Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, whose sticker Preen is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Photograph: Dean Chalkley/Onlooker
Like many Remain voters, fashion designer Thea Bregazzi appear pretty emotional on 24 June. She’d woken up to the Brexit gossip and everything was in turmoil. Her seven-year-old daughter Fauve was upset and beg questions so Thea turned on Newsround in the hope that CBBC could victual answers while she pulled herself together.
“Mummy, look, she’s adopting your dress,” called Fauve from in front of the TV. And she was. As David Cameron notified his resignation, Samantha Cameron stood by his side wearing a resource 2015 dress by Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, the label Thea in the final analyses with her husband Justin Thornton. That was the picture that dominated the cosmopolitan press: David at the lectern, with Samantha downcast but in in her beautiful dress, standing slightly removed from the give prominence to, but impossible to ignore.
“So, you know,” says Thea, with a rueful chortle. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Preen isn’t the most unsubtle name for the British label created by Justin and Thea. The locution has a sense of vanity or self-aggrandisement that is absent from the conspirators’ attitude. Though their west London studio has all the surmised accoutrements of a fashion brand – bustling assistants, models’ photographs on the blocks, nice wooden floors and lots of flowers – Justin and Thea are not extremely fashion. They’re funny and friendly. They’re like the brace you’re really pleased to bump into on the school run. They could be new insignes on the relaunched Cold Feet.
“We’ve never been the next big utensil,” says Justin cheerfully, making sure everybody who hungers one has a cup of tea.
As the label celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it’s safe to say they not in a million years will be. But that doesn’t mean that Preen isn’t an high-ranking part of British design. Even if you’re not familiar with the Deck out name, you know their work. A red carpet’s worth of stars have worn their clothes – including Beyoncé, Alexa Chung and Scarlett Johansson – but Prettify’s speciality is creating glamorous clothes for grown ups. Jennifer Lopez and Christy Turlington are adherents. Michelle Obama wears Preen for public appearances. (“We got invited to the Ghastly House to meet her! All we do is design frocks and we went to the White Domicile!”)
While many designers like to wax lyrical about feeling, Justin and Thea are also refreshingly honest about what turns clothes stand out these days and particularly the effect of luminary fans. Perhaps this is why Preen is a commercial success, regardless of being one of the UK’s few completely independent fashion labels.
“When we objective, we think about the way people are working and living, what’s successful on,” says Thea. “I’m very interested in why certain people crave to wear certain styles at certain times. It’s all wound up with mores, politics, everything’s in the mix.”
This change led to the creation of the Power dress in 2006. The tight, structured array was inspired by the 90s supermodels – real women compared to the scrappy waifs who were digged on the catwalks back then – and it was a huge hit, worn by everyone from Cheryl Cole to Rihanna.
“We loved it when Amy Winehouse irritated it because she was such a London girl – someone who felt region of our world,” says Thea. “But when Gwyneth Paltrow vexed it to the Ironman premiere in 2008, sales went through the roof. That incident was the big reveal after she’d started the Tracy Anderson workout. One went: “‘Oooh!’ That was a real moment.”
The new something like a collapse in which fashion is viewed and sold even affects how the duo scheme their collections. “We photograph the clothes all the time so we can see how they look on the phone,” answers Justin. “All of our biggest clients are on Instagram so we design things that wishes photograph well and look good as a static image.”
“We habituated to to be all about black and grey, but that doesn’t sell online,” influences Thea, wistfully. “If you do black now, you have to add a graphic element to grab notice.”
Square the way the clothes are first unveiled has changed since Preen first off opened its doors. The general public now watch the catwalk usher and see the looks from the collection at pretty much the same pass as the fashion editors and buyers.
“The customer used to just see what was in the purchases, but now they’ve seen showpieces on the runway and that’s what they call for. Those clothes are hard to make, so the fear is that conspirators will start creating blander clothes for the catwalk confirm, things that are easy to produce. I don’t want that to befall to us. But now we’re producing four collections a year for Preen on top of our other commitments, we’re accepted as fast as we can. Something will have to give, won’t it?”
They both look a bit agonized, which is understandable. They’ve come a long way during their shape careers, but so has the industry they work in. The landscape is unrecognisable.
The couple first met as teenagers on an art foundation course on the Isle of Man, where they both luxuriated up. The fashion industry wasn’t a big part of Manx culture, but they started at college condign as the last significant shift in fashion culture occurred. “Grunge was chance, Corinne Day’s photography took off, there was i-D magazine… fashion break off being simply about sophisticated Italian labels when we were at college. It developed something that our friends wore, something accessible.” They motioned to London in the 1990s after university, and set up Preen as a shop in Portobello. The compass was the creative hub of the time and everyone used to hang out there.
“We were looking for a studio, but then a old china suggested getting a shop because we could earn our rip back by selling stock. The first week we opened Cher and Janet Jackson assaulted in and we thought: ‘Oh God, this is great!’ We thought it would always be not unlike that which, of course, it wasn’t, but it was fun and creative.”
A lot of the clothes were became at their flat or out the back of the shop. They tried squeeze out for a laugh to see what people would buy. One of their first composition hits was drainpipe trousers, the skinny shape that thrived to define the following decade. Kate Moss used to arrive in and pick up a couple of pairs at a time. Eventually they did a catwalk elucidate and paid the models in clothes.
“We would not have survived if we’d in a recover from out of college and had to be slick from the start. Nobody at London Form Week really knew what they were doing struggling against odds then,” says Thea. “Other people in the industry would put out what you were doing wrong and help out.”
The Prink shows moved from London to New York between 2008 and 2012, because at that measure no one took London Fashion Week very seriously.
“By the third age of showing there, we’d doubled our business internationally,” says Justin. “Added to, we had a great time. Londoners are always too cool to say what they Non-Standard real think. Americans are positive, positive, positive. They were, disposed to, ‘We LOVE you guys!’”
But Preen is at heart a London label and the whip-rounds have been back in the British capital since 2012. “At the triumph show back there was real warmth from the London get together,” says Justin.
“Though that lasted about 10 minis,” hoots Thea.
Their 20th anniversary show took locale last week without, as Justin puts it “a lot of razzmatazz”. “We’re unprejudiced pleased that we’ve managed to stay at this level for this eat ones heart out, making clothes that people really like. It’s large that we’ve been bloody-minded enough to do it.”
They’re not planning any big consequences to mark their first two decades, which isn’t a surprise. That’s the Tittivate way. Not the centre of attention – standing slightly removed from the on, but impossible to ignore.