Victorian Florals and the Abstract Expressionists at Preen’s Fall Show

Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi's unlikely mix of design references (which ranged from Victorian scrapbooks to Jackson Pollock) came together with surprising success for fall.

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For a label as aesthetically modern as Preen, were surprised to hear designers Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi cite old-fashioned references. "We began by looking at Victorian scrapbooking and decoupage," Thea told us backstage. "And also the works of Beatrix Potter -- not the little animals, but the botanical sketches."
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"We also wanted to inject something more graphic and linear," added Justin. "So we looked at the abstract expressionists like Jaspar Jones and Jackson Pollock." While that may sound like a gumbo pot of inspiration -- Victorian florals, abstract expressionists and even "sporty stripes," Thea pointed out -- the disparate elements came together quite successfully on the runway.
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The Victorian decoupage reference was immediately noticeable in patchwork details on the cleanly-cut skirts and knee-skimming dresses that opened the show. "Pressed flowers were important to the Victorians," Justin told us. "You can see that we've tried to layer them one on top of the other."
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Thornton cited Rothko as the inspiration for the collection's color-blocked looks. Indeed, the most convincing looks seemed to be those with a strong graphical element, like this printed silk blouse.
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Racing stripes and pops of super-saturated color added some vigor and interest to the otherwise earthy color palette.
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As always, Preen offered plenty for professional gals to love this season, from perfectly-tailored blazers to trim, peg-leg rousers (these feature black stripes down either side).
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Distinctive knits with unusual, abstract motifs have become something of a brand signature for Preen in recent seasons, and they continued to be a highlight for fall 2012. Here, a botanical embroidered turtleneck with a graphic, windowpane-like motif.
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Even the smallest of details can transform a simple look into something editorial-ready. Here, a silvery, beaded detail adds a dressed-up appeal to a simple black sweater.
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Peplum tunics cropped up throughout the collection. Here, the silhouette was paired with skinny black trousers and clunky platforms.
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Drawstring skirts with big cargo pockets were a new style for Preen. Somehow, the look never felt too casual.
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Certain pattern pairings worked better than others. This graphic turtleneck top and Victorian-print floral skirt felt sophisticated and bold, while other combinations read a little muddled.
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Sweeping brush-strikes and color-blocking gave this look a kind of MoMA-chic feel.
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Pops of acid green and unusual geometric panelling made this one of the standout looks of the collection.
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More feminine looks, like a romantic butterfly-print blouse, added some softness to the line-up.
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Evening was an especially strong category for Preen this season. This interesting decoupaged cocktail dress featured panels of a swirling grey print, shimmery silver beading, sheer silk and ruffled lace.
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