Dispatches from London: Preen, Topshop Unique, Marios Schwab and more

The latest report from the catwalks

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Preen has become the go-to brand for grown-ups who want ultra-wearable
clothes with a bit of bite, and there were plenty of editors who will
have quietly been making shopping lists this morning. For spring, Justin
and Thea delivered luxe fabrics and elegant shapes with lashings of
sporty details, along with some Masai elements thrown in for good
measure. Colourfully printed handkerchief dresses with thick, striped
elastic waistbands; stretch backless polo necks, high-waisted,
loose-fitted trousers with plastic clips in place of buckles; wrap
halterneck dresses that dripped colourful strings of beads; clean-lined
coats with technicolor chunky zips dotted all over them; and even a Preen
take on the cricket jumper ­ the hits just kept on coming. Watching it
more than made up for getting up early on a Sunday morning.

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There were printed handkerchief dresses over at Marios Schwab, too.
Reading his press release pre-show you could be forgiven for thinking
that what was to come would be a touch abstract and conceptual. In fact,
they were really great clothes. There was some nifty pattern-cutting in
the skirt and jacket that at first glance appeared to be a trench coat,
the sleeveless jacket and stepped skirt and those dresses, printed with
blown-up images of Roman statues and colourful, graphic stripes. And
there were elevated basics too: stiff luxury T-shirts in teal and cream,
tailored trousers with wraparound pleats, and a brilliant navy blue
jumpsuit. It was elegant, sophisticated and easy to imagine wearing.

Over at Topshop Unique amid the usual front-row frenzy (yes, Alexa and
Pixie were there; no, Kate didn¹t show) and the big-name model line-up
(yes, Cara opened and closed with her mum cheerleading from the front
row), the design team took us on a trip to the seaside. The vibe was more
Brighton mod than Breton. Polo-shirt details kept reappearing on skinny
tops and mini dresses, an oversized burgundy leather jacket looked like
it had been borrowed from a boyfriend, and there was a retro feel to the
high-waisted, super-skinny trousers. The block-coloured sweaters, flippy
mini skirts and slip dresses are sure to fly, while the glitter-printed
sheer dresses that closed the show will almost certainly find their way
on to Topshop's famous fans.

Down at the other end of the Topshop show space, Ashley Wiliams, the
latest breakout star from the Fashion East stable, struck out on her own
for the first time today. She loves a pop-culture reference, and her
east-meets-west mash-up was inspired by the influx of Western culture
into Asia in the 1960s. Coke logos kept cropping up: a grey sweater with
a coke can wearing headphones on the front had sell-out written all over
it. Tea dresses printed with roses or black and white cartoons were
styled over long-sleeved T-shirts and slogans saying 'no hassle', 'kick
ass' and 'zuburbz' were splashed across bra-tops, slip dresses and
miniskirts, all with the tongue-in-cheek, DGAF attitude that Williams has
fast made her signature. As for the kitten heels and court shoes, they
were the result of a two-season collaboration with Red Or Dead.

How do you push a brand forward without losing sight of its heritage?
That's the question that Massimo Nicosia has been asking over at Pringle
of Scotland. His answer? Mine its archives - this season, that meant
looking at the label's beginnings as a lingerie manufacturer 200 years
ago and conjuring the finest of knits; reinterpreting its signature
Argyll knit, here in small Perspex tringles tacked onto the front of knit
dresses and leather mini skirts; and finally, embracing technology. His
love affair with 3D printing continues, and this time he used it to make
whole pieces rather than for edging and trimming. It's an interesting mix
of ideas, but it worked.

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