Preen founders and designers Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton really cut a mean dress—and the latest to prove it is Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, in a drop-dead gorgeous red creation during this week's tour of Canada.
Of course, these two talented London-based créateurs do far more than that each and every season (Preen's parkas are somewhat legendary, its wide-leg trousers are a dream to wear, and its tunique, kaleidoscopic prints never fail to induce a shopping frenzy), but over the past 20 years in an ever-changing business this special core skill has never wavered, and we've come to rely upon Thornton and Bregazzi for such.
Just under a decade ago, when I first started my career in the industry, I can clearly remember the fashion mood: Everything was fierce. We loved using the word fierce. Shoulderpads once again made themselves known and were even the norm in-store at Zara. All clothes were black, leather was omnipresent and nothing was complete without studs. It was a moment where dresses clung tightly to the wearer and bodycon was the height of cool.
Yes, Hervé Leger bandage dresses were immensely popular, but the hippest girls knew where to get their scultping-and-lifting fix: Preen. Almost overnight, the duo's Power Dress (I mean, what an apt name!) became the red carpet dream ticket. Most likely to be worn with Nicholas Kirkwood heels and tousled hair, this ultra-flattering frock ran the A-list gamut from Gwyneth Paltrow to Rihanna, Amy Winehouse to Agyness Deyn—it spanned styles and age-groups, occasions and seasons—and it will forever stay in my mind.
Gwyneth Paltrow wearing Preen by Thornton Bregazzi Power Dress, April 2008
"For us, they [the Power Dresses] were just what Thea and our friends wanted to wear; they captured the mood of the time. It was all about that supermodel re-invented look," says Justin. "I remember Thea wore a black one with a white cotton T-shirt under it for the after-party of our first show in New York, and everyone was going crazy for the way she had given the Power Dress a more casual, modern look."
Naomi Watts wearing Preen by Thornton Bregazzi Norma dress, April 2014
So when I realised that Preen were celebrating its 20th anniversary (FYI there is a great capsule collection on Net-a-Porter to commemorate this milestone), I couldn't think of a better time to discuss our changing dress tastes. In 2008, there was one look and it was bodycon and bodycon only, but in 2016 there are 101 looks—and that's what's so great about how "style" has moved on. You can choose your signature dress style on any given day and be safe in the guarantee that something standout will be waiting for you on a rail not so far away. And that's especially true should Thornton and Bregazzi be looking after your wardrobe.
"When Gwyneth Paltrow wore the black Power Dress, it changed things; we sold hundreds after that moment," explains Bregazzi and Thornton. "When Naomi Watts wore the lemon yellow devoré Norma dress from Pre-Fall 2014, it marked a real moment for us; that dress flew out of the stores, and we still get requests for it now."
Preen by Thornton Bregazzi A/W 16
So, taking a cue from Naomi Watts in the Norma dress, Preen's most recent smash hits in the dress department have been loose-fitting and somewhat bohemian—billowing chiffon, dropped waists and handkerchief hems—but one look at the autumn/winter runway and you'll see its dress line-up really does cater to all tastes: If you want bodycon, then direct yourself (and fast, because we've heard these are on many a shopping list) to the pink velvet, ruched number. If, however, you're still looking for something more louche, a range of voluminous silhouettes are on offer: "We have always incorporated both aspects of the modern woman in our collection, sometimes she wants to be sexy and others she just wants to feel effortless… We are continuing to develop and challenge ourselves; the black velvet dress Alexa Chung wore to the Brit Awards just after the A/W 16 show really marked a nod to cocktail dressing for us."
Just imagine a closet-full of this fashion label's frocks for every eventuality. Scroll through the gallery to see some of the most significant dress moments in the duo's history, and then keep going to shop some of their new-in styles. Happy birthday, Preen!
What: Pre-Grammy Launch, February 2009
Wear: Preen Power Dress
Who: Kristen Stewart
What: Snow White and The Huntsmen Press Conference, May 2012
Wear: Preen Pre-Fall 12 dress
Who: Michelle Obama
What: Press conference, June 2012
Wear: Preen S/S 12 dress
Courtesy of Preen by Thornton Bregazzi
Who: Jourdan Dunn
What: Miami Art Basel, December 2014
Wear: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi S/S15 dress
Who: Scarlett Johasson
What: G'Day USA Gala, January 2015
Wear: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi S/S 15 dress
Who: Jennifer Lopez
What: Jimmy Kimmel Live, March 2015
Wear: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi Dew dress in red
Who: Alicia Vikander
What: Ischia Global Film & Music Fest, July 2015
Wear: Preen by Thornton Bregazzi A/W15 Kaitlin dress