Seeing the pieces designed by Azza Fahmy for the Fall/Winter 2010 collection of British label PREEN was a chance privilege granted to me last March during a visit of the Azza Fahmy factory. On a velvet board I looked at pieces whose polished duplicates were worn by models during the New York Fashion Week in January when PREEN debuted their Fall/Winter 2010 collection.
Even though the pieces were still in the polishing process, it was easy to psot how dramatic they would look once finished.
Bold in their angular sides and irregular shaping, each piece screamed power while maintaining to be self-contained within themselves. A sense of delicacy was enforced with the curlicues of flowers and swirls of Arabic calligraphy, so much a trademark of Azza Fahmy as the design details.
Recently, a launch party at La Maison Blanche introduced the collection to Egypt’s socialites and jewelry aficionados. Mannequins paired Fahmy’s jewelry with the dresses by PREEN — for which they were intended to compliment.
The bracelets, cuffs, chockers, rings and belt were also displayed in clear plexi glass set in the center of the space.
Speaking to Justin Thorton and Thea Bregazzi of PREEN along with Fahmy the next day one thing was clear: the most surprising of combinations often yield the most exciting of results.
“I think that it’s just quite different,” says Bregazzi when questioned about the collection’s success at the New York Fashion Week. Suzy Menkes, famed Fashion Editor of the International Herald Tribune, wrote one of her most favorable reviews of the season on PREEN’s collection.
“I think when you take two things that are opposing and you put them together, you come up with something fantastic and new. And I think that’s what happened here, because we work together so easily, so well. And I think in a lot of ways we’re the same in how we design the parts or themes rather than following. We’re not slave to trends; we’re more perceptive designers I think,” she explains on their collaboration with Fahmy.
Thornton and Bregazzi have been a hot duo for quite a while with a cult following that includes London It Girls and celebrities, but their brand does away with impractical trends. Their label has for seasons been one for women who require fashion that is practical without compromising on femininity and style. No complicated shapes or impractically short hemlines. Both parents and partners, the duo has been juggling their family and business whilst creating designs so compellingly sexy and subtle in their dramatic whimsy.
“We talk all the time, and experience things together,” says Thornton. “We travel a lot and we’re seeing the same things at the same time, which is great so we can open up and we start sketching. I don’t think any piece in the collection is just me or just her, we have an opinion … so everything has both of us in it,” says Thornton.
“I feel the same debating with Amina,” says Fahmy whose daughter Amina works and designs alongside her. “When she came from [studying jewelry design in] Europe she polished my eyes, showing me contemporary jewelry designs and Italian designers and all of a sudden I saw it from another angle. And when we had the collaboration with Thea and Justine, we started debating this futuristic theme and we [considered] the architecture of Zaha Hadid … It’s actually when two persons debate on something it creates a spark,” says Fahmy.
“What was really interesting for us was that we talked about how great it would be to have jewelry for the catwalk show, and we had kind of looked into it. And when Azza came to us it was meant to be. Perfect timing, because it was something we had been looking at,” says Thornton.
The collection’s inception came about last August, and samples and sketches by Fahmy were shown to Bergazzi and Thornton in December.
“When we knew we were going to work together we had the idea of having this high neck, and these chockers that were really long that came out of it. And we had very minimal sleeves that had the cuffs on top. So, we really thought about it like some of the dresses were designed to have the belts,” says Thornton.
“We had said we had wanted something around the neck, a chocker, because we wanted something almost tribal but not … The idea is that jewelry is [often] against skin so we just like the idea of melding it together with clothing,” continues Thornton.
Direction, says Fahmy, was given to her when Bregazzi and Thornton showed her the materials they were planning on using for their designs. “Actually seeing the metal on clothes, it was the element of sparkle of metal against cloth I wanted to see. But the details are mine,” Fahmy explains. “You want the metal to add to the clothing.”
PREEN’s mix of fabrics and textures are executed so seamlessly in this collection, so much so that it does not appear strange to see morning fabrics for eveningwear or floral silks for winter. Wool, lace, silks, jerseys and fur can be seen in combinations together.
“We had showed Azza this French lace and it was very intricate and I think it inspired Azza, and this mixing with the traditional,” says Bregazzi. “[Azza’s] work of using the gold and silver is amazing, and you don’t often see that, and mixing the different mediums in Azza Fahmy’s work is what attracted us.”
“It was more the form and the boldness that came from her. It was the 3D space age we often say, not in a silly way but in a minimal futuristic, way,” clarifies Thornton.
Reaction in New York was surprisingly favorable considering the city’s austere attitude to fashion and particularly jewelry. “I think people were really excited about it, and the models were very excited and all wanted to keep the jewelry which is always a good sign,” says Bregazzi.
The ripple effect of both the clothes and jewelry collection have already influenced pre-season collections recently debuted by other designers. Chockers, cuffs and high necks were spotted on the runways of some of the industry’s biggest names including Celine.
Taking it all in humble stride, PREEN seemed quite thrilled about the collaboration as Fahmy proudly looks on as we concluded our interview in the Azza Fahmy boutique in the First Mall. Thornton and Bregazzi traveled back to London right after interviews with press to get back to family and work.
File image of Azza Fahmy with Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi of PREEN at New York Fashion Week.