Heron Preston unintentionally predicted 2020 with his fall 2020 collection title — “It’s All Good, It’s All F–ked” — which comes from “That Winter the Wolf Came,” a book by Juliana Spahr.
But the San Francisco-born designer, who is residing in Brooklyn, is adaptable, much like the fashion industry. Prior to debuting his spring 2021 collection, he joined e-sports organization Gen.G as a creative adviser, was a featured DJ on Ntwrk’s Transfer Festival and he partnered with Levi’s on another collection titled “Mistakes Are OK,” which he referenced for his spring 2021 lineup.
“When it all hit, we thought how are we going to pull this off,” he said over a Zoom call. “We had to redesign our process. This entire collection was done over WhatsApp and Zoom calls. We had no choice but to push through.”
The spring 2021 collection is a reflection of Preston’s maturation as a designer, but also how one is adapting to the current climate.
The brand is now owned by Farfetch, which acquired Heron Preston parent company New Guards Group in 2019. He continues his work with construction company Caterpillar, designing more breathable, lighter weight uniforms for the company’s workers, and is working toward their certification.
With Gen.G, Preston creates jerseys for a pro sports team, but as a designer, he is focusing his work on graphics for the organization, while the spring 2021 collection, which is almost free of graphics, heads in a different direction.
For instance, a pair of brown worker pants paired with a vest with 3-D pockets features the Heron Preston logo graphic on the knee, the Caterpillar logo and touches of orange details. A taupe nylon bomber jacket also has extensive graphic work, but the collection as a whole is more focused on the piece’s silhouette and not what it says.
“I go hard with my graphics and we were going so heavy,” Preston explained about incorporating graphics in past collections. “I have to somehow put the fire out because it’ll explode and get too much, but I didn’t want to step back totally from what I’ve established.”
Preston this season wanted to slow down and focus on building brand staples and franchises. He said he was previously so focused on introducing new ideas that some of his pieces that fell to the side are the most emblematic of his brand. The result for next season is a more focused offering touching on key pillars of the brand, like sustainability and workwear, with favorites like his Toolbox Bag and open-back blazer, new propositions like his three-quarter zip polo shirt — “This is what I would personally wear every day,” he said about the polo — and collaborations with Caterpillar and Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster.
The workwear is represented by the popular Toolbox Bag, carpenter pant details on worker pants and track pants, which are all best sellers for the brand, as well oversize jackets and a women’s life preserver vest both in a washed purple hue (a key color for the season that Preston was wearing personally during the collection’s development in lockdown) and cargo pants with 3-D pockets.
Preston arguably is most identified with the color orange, which appears in the collection more subtly through a logo patch or stitching on a buttonhole, and he leaned toward purple as a way to offer workwear in colors other than the traditional brown and dark green.
The collaboration with Gentle Monster also has a workwear influence. The thick-framed sunglasses feature the brand logo side and a functional spirit level on the other side so the wearer knows when their head is level. He also introduced the Level Heel, a new high-heeled style for women that also has a functional spirit level and can be connected to the glasses.
Preston referenced past seasons with the nylon open back blazer in purple and black, and denim from past collections was reused for a denim jacket and jeans. In addition, a key raw denim jacket and jeans tell a story about water usage and bears a front pocket that was first seen in the Levi’s collaboration, and hoodies feature a graphic of the periodic table in reference to natural elements like oxygen.
“I was doing too much, but I wanted to narrow the collection down and focus,” Preston said. “I think over time I’m starting to get into my groove and learn more about my brand through my consumers and my process of elevating workwear.”
He added, “We’re part of a bigger machine now [in Farfetch], but we take steps to continue to move forward and continue to do what we’ve done great. We’re going through a big hiring right now, which is great but there are no real hiccups in my design process. The web site is taking a bigger priority so we’re looking to integrate all of these platforms, web sites, sales, etc.”