Environmentalism and feminism appeared on Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s mood board for Fall 2018. Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi’s London Fashion Week show was a further exploration into their study of feminism.
Their mission is to untangle the barbed wire that fashion has woven around feminism. To cite feminism in a fashion collection is to immediately attract qualms. How can clothing be feminist? How is a collection feminist if the models in the show are all mostly white, thin, teenage girls? The validity of those arguments is incontrovertible. And while Thornton and Bregazzi would likely cede to such complaints, they want to impart a message, teach a lesson. They have two young children—perhaps they’re shaping their work according to what they want to teach their offsprings.
They looked at the Jeju haenyeo, or female divers, a group of South Korean eco-feminists. (They were immortalised in a popular 2013 short film ‘Haenyeo: Women of the Sea.’) The Jeju haenyeo tradition is centuries old. It is of the few predominately matriarchal societies in the world and celebrated globally. UNESCO added it to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The designers discovered it at a photography exhibition at the National Maritime Museum last year, according to Vogue's Sarah Mower. They interpreted the source material literally. Neoprene and full-body costumes alluded to the diving uniform. Fishnet nodded to… you get the point. They weren’t particularly imaginative interpretations but they distilled an esoteric message for a broad audience.
The more poetic examples were lovely, typically Preen. They added wispy green faux-fur accents to jackets which were, albeit redolent of Prada, reminiscent of moss or other verdant discoveries in the deep blue sea.
The strongest pieces emerged in the show's denouement. A patterned sweater was spliced together with a block of forest green, flowery shifts were ruched and tied haphazardly, paillettes and sequins decorated lace slips, and occasionally panels of dresses were disembowelled, as if the conditions of the ocean had taken control.