Preen Interview

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Twenty one years ago when I was living in London, I had the good fortune to be working for a British Fashion designer named Helen Storey. The London fashion scene in 1993 had it’s usual flamboyant flavor and I was privileged to be a part of it. Whilst working between Soho and the King’s Rd Helen Storey boutique, I became friends with Justin Thornton. Justin was designing a line for Helen called Second life, a revamping and redesign of older pieces.

I could tell that there was something special happening, a passion and a creativity that was yet to be unleashed. It was when I met Justin’s wife and fellow creative genius Thea Bregazzi, I was certain that success was just around the corner.

Preen launched in 1996 and their debut collection at London fashion week in 2001 received rave reviews.

Throughout the two decades that I have known Justin and Thea they have remained humble, sincere and as passionate as ever. This rare combination is the driving force behind their continued success.

I hope that you find the following interview as illuminating as I do, a little insight into the creative process at work.

Thank you Preen, my friends.

Faranak.

 

1. Who are your personal style icons? (aside from Thea, of course)

We see our style icons as a mixture of our friends and people we know. The modern woman. In terms of ‘Fashion Icon’ we do always tend to bring that little bit of ‘Annie Hall’ into our work. Finding the balance between femininity and Masculinity to create something that little bit extra special.

2. You’ve talked about how your daughter has soften your design in the past, what single person or event has had the largest impact on Preen’s aesthetic?

We do feel that the girls (aged 6 and 2) have really influenced us as designers. Children’s toys have been a real influence. The strength of colour, puzzles, bold shapes, the element of graphics found in toys all of which inspires our work, especially print. Having the girls also made us more determine to launch Mini Preen.

3. What is the main difference on how the two of you approach design?

The main difference between how myself and Thea work is that Thea is more literal, she loves researching and sketching her ideas onto paper where as I have a more physical, draping, graphic approach. We both noticed that one key element that links us together is colour. We recently held a dinner in our studio celebrating the launch of our online store (preenbythorntonbregazzi.com) and the newest project we are working on called ‘The Preen Archivists.’ We had a display of our most memorable pieces over the years, and you could really see how we have become more experimental with colour.

4. If you change one thing about your career, what would it be?

Nothing. We are really happy with where we are and what we have achieved in our career.

5. what is the one item of clothing every woman should have in her wardrobe?

An effortless tailored black suit.

6. How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?

No I don’t think we have found success or we would have given up already. We are always striving to grow and seek more challenges.

7. Finally what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?

Today there are more directions to take in order to ‘make it in fashion.’ I’ve always thought that good impressions last. You never know who will help you along the way. Also schemes such as FashionEast and NEWGEN have helped the greater public aware of young designers entering the industry today. Along with the amazing help the British Fashion Council provides.

Manitobah Mukluks

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FFF had a very special opportunity to watch the Aboriginal footwear company keep their tradition and artistry alive in person. The Winnipeg based company is looking to expand into mainstream fashion and their commitment to their vision has thus far made them into one of Canada’s success stories. Their Storyboot project creates a unique partnership with Aboriginal artisans and elders to create specialized, one-of-a-kind beadwork for their line of mukluks and moccasins. We were lucky enough to speak with former water polo Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, a spokesperson for the company about why this was such an important and worthwhile endeavor. As an ambassador for aboriginal youth, she has been travelling around different communities to speak about why tradition and heritage is so important in this company.

“Ultimately the significance of the mukluk is to preserve the history and tradition that has been part of our culture for thousands of years. We want to bring the traditional method of mukluk and moccasin making into contemporary footwear and mend it with technologies that would make it so that anyone could wear it in their everyday lives.”

While the moccasin and mukluks have been trendy for some time now – worn by celebrities and trendsetters alike; the company has maintained it’s commitment to enriching the heritage of the Aboriginal tradition by allowing each artisan to have their own narratives hand-sewn into their work. The artist receives all of the proceeds from the Storyboot collection. They work with many Aboriginal artisans, although we were very impressed with the work of Cree artist Rosa Scribe, who favours bold color and floral designs.

We were also fortunate to watch local Squamish artist Tyler Jacobs hand sew his beadwork. While he explained that his status as an Aboriginal artist has not been met without barriers, he is also proud of his heritage and wears it like a badge of honor.

“I’ve been beading since I was young, it’s always been something that we’ve done. It gets passed down from generation to generation. The designs from every band is different, every Nation is different. Beading is a very personal thing. You’re putting something of yourself into all of your pieces”.

Manitobah Mukluks at Holt Renfrew.