Preen have returned home and what a homecoming show did they just put on to celebrate! The truth is they'd never really left in the first place, continuing to be based in London while showing in New York to an international audience, but showing here again means something, to Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi and us. It means that a slick, daring and yet ultra-sophisticated collection like their Spring/Summer 2013 is not out of place in dirty ol' London.
Talking of place, they chose the Natural History Museum - not the skeleton-populated dramatic Victorian part but the modern, C.F. Møller-designed Darwin Centre. In this white, clean space out walked skins so shiny and new the scientists next door would have begged to dissect. There is such a thing as a Preen DNA; the Victoriana frills, the prim blouses, the fauna-tastic prints, and it was all here but stronger and more adventurous. The navy and white spiderweb of a print on the opening look, a blouse and pencil skirt with a vertical white panel, lightly suggested a looser silhouette was to follow, the sleeves cut wider than usual, the skirt not body-tight. Another skirt sat just below-the-knee with a bouncy frill and a spaghetti-strap dress in a stingray-like print felt confident and, yes, sexy! Skin showed through lace panels and diaphanous organza, a white corset peeks underneath a white shirt and then came the snakeskin and things, reader, got hot!
Whereas other designers dive into print, Preen try to make it feel new, fresh and, very Preen. Here snakeskin was dissected in panels, mixed with stripes and flashes of brilliant yellow and pink and when it appeared on leather it looked as shiny and wet as on the guys in the Reptile House at London Zoo. There were boxy leather jackets to die for, pencil skirts, slashed to the front to reveal a shorter part, and iridescent silk shirts. It was mixed with overblown images of pink roses and it instantly felt sweeter and modern against white.
Let's not forget the tailoring that many a Preen client relies on. The cut was looser, freer both on the jackets and the trousers and navy, once again, reigned supreme, although a rose look stuck to mind. So did the image of Cara Delevigne breezing past us in a bias cut kaftanesque dress, stripes slicing diagonally, midriff exposed, frilled hem kicking away. This was a whole new animal from Preen.