Constant innovation is key -Mark Fast
Canadian Winnipeg boy Mark Fast is today a world-renowned, luxury knitwear designer with multiple collaborations and several lines to his name.
Mark Fast started his training at Toronto’s Seneca College of Applied Arts before moving to London where he completed an MA at Central Saint Martins in February 2008. That same year he launched his eponymous label.
Each season Mark Fast shows at London Fashion Week and exhibits his designs biannually in Paris. He has collaborated with Turkish designer Bora Aksu and accessory designer Stuart Vevers (currently Loewe artistic director). He recently launched a diffusion line Faster by Mark Fast.
When it comes to design Mark Fast is rather wilful: he intends to create one of a kind knitwear, garments that are empowering. To achieve his aim, he challenges traditional techniques and use of fibres and each season he tries to push the boundaries of modern knitwear. Despite the use of knitting machines, his innovative and intricate designs often require a number of delicate manual operations; for Mark Fast making clothes is a craft.
The press release for his latest collection BROKE explains: “Hot and Parisian nights, broken hearts and boisterous thumping hip hop beats inspire Mark Fast for Spring/Summer 2013.” Here fabric and fibres are mixed with gusto, merino wool with metallic lace, metallic yarn (a rayon core coated with a metallic and nylon film) and Lycra, woven fabrics with sheer mesh. Here MA pastel palette of vibrant ‘raspberry, lilac and mint’ underlined by bold gold jewellery confers to the collection a “Parisian disco chic” … with shoes for the show designed by Christian Louboutin.
Modeconnect was keen to interview Mark Fast for its Canadian issue because of these shared beliefs. Mark Fast is open to collaborations and partnerships; his fashion is not only innovative, empowering and open to diversity; it is also highly technical.
For SS13 Mark Fast collaborated with The Woolmark Company to showcase the unique and incredibly light Cool Wool. Wool is often forgotten by designers, especially for women’s Spring / Summer. Mark Fast innovative approach however, found value in the fibre and showed it can comfortably be worn all year round. The Cool Wool brand, first launched in the 1980s describes very fine Merino wool (wool produced by Merino sheeps, the finest and softest sheep wool) that weighs less than 190g per square metre. The particular type of Cool Wool used by Mark Fast for SS13 is known as Cashwool, Merino Cool Wool that is likened to cashmere (the hair of a goat subspecies called Capra aegagrus hircus) due to its very soft touch.
Mark Fast was kind enough to give some of his time to answer our questions.
Mark can you explain your creative process?
I am quite an emotional person and I am sensitive to what is going on around me. Finding ways to express emotions through clothes is important for me; there is a deeper meaning in everything I design. I cannot just make clothes; my garments are vessels, expressions of my point of view on the world.
At the moment, music seems to be one of the most connecting forms of inspiration for me. The way a song may move me and bring me to a different place is something I want to translate into my knitwear.
Initially I sample the yarns I have collected and in an organic process, drape them over the body. To an extent it is still a mystery to me how this may result into a garment, but it keeps life interesting and the creative process full of anticipation.
I look for textures, colours and shapes that will enhance the viewer’s experience.
Sometimes I spend weeks making one dress; so much intricate detailing and handwork may go into it! The more time I spend creating a garment, the more it becomes something special, something I cherish and I want to offer the world to see.
There are finishing touches, a few fittings with my models; eventually the piece is done, ready to be unveiled into the spotlight.
On the technical side, for SS13 you chose to work with merino wool. How did that work?
Merino wool is such a great yarn to knit with. It is as smooth to knit with as it is to the touch.
The garments are so light and soft. Another great quality of merino is the vibrancy of the colours achieved in the dying of the wool. This was important for my SS13 collection; these vibrant colours convey the fresh exotic tropical season.
What special techniques did you use in your SS13 collection?
I used quite a few fringing techniques where I hand-looped metallic fringes into pre- pintucked points on the base of the dress.
I also used an embossed fishnet stitch where the merino wool pieces had a rich texture that gave the garment depth and glamour.
I wanted to give the illusion of fishnet but lift it with a sophisticated soft cool texture of the Cool Wool.
I also worked on plating the merino wool with the metallic yarn, which gave the best of both worlds; shimmering glamour mixed with a soft breathable cool touch of the merino.
How important do you think fibre knowledge is for a designer? In what way does it help you create your collections?
It is important to know what fibres work with the techniques and technology you intend to use. There are some fibres for example that don’t work with my machines. The fibre I use must also suit my brand identity.
You get to know your market. At the luxury end, customers stay away from some fibres but run to others. It is very important to know and understand what your customers love.
What advice would you give to textiles students looking to enter the industry?
Work hard and push yourself to innovate. Know what has been done before you, so you do not repeat history but challenge it.
One issue in the industry is the difficulty to enforce copyright. Be aware that your designs, no matter how special they are to you, can be copied by someone who has no appreciation of your craft. Be confident and keep your head up; unlike those who can only copy, you have the skills to experiment and innovate. You are able to constantly evolve and hopefully keep ahead of the game.
For more information on Merino Cool Wool
Composition of yarns used by Mark Fast for his Spring / Summer 2013 Collection
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 2
Striped Lycra and Metallic Dress with Cut-Out Detail
Lycra and Metallic Yarn (rayon core coated with a metallic and nylon film)
Metallic Yarn (rayon core coated with a metallic and nylon film)
The fringed pieces are the “show pieces”. A lot of time goes into these pieces, since all the fringes have to be attached individually by hand.
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 6
Fishnet Pin-Tuck T-Shirt Dress
100% Cashwool (a soft to the touch type of Cool Wool)
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 7
Fringed Mini Dress with Cut-Out Detail
Lycra and Metallic Yarn
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 12
Part Plated Metallic T-Shirt Dress with Lace Hole Detail
78% Metallic Yarn, 22% Cashwool (a soft to the touch type of Cool Wool)
The dress is transparent where there is no plating with the Cashwool.
Jersey mini skirt with a Lycra waistband
100% Cashwool (a soft to the touch type of Cool Wool)
100% nylon ‘cut and saw’ piece
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 13
Sheer Metallic T-Shirt Dress with a striped body underneath
The T-Shirt Dress is 100% Metallic Yarn
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 17
Plated Cardigan with Lace Hole Panel and Lace Hole Pockets
65% Metallic Yarn and 35% Cashwool (a soft to the touch type of Cool Wool)
Plated Mini Skirt with Lace Hole Detail
68% Metallic Yarn, 29% Cashwool, Waistband 5% Lycra
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 18
100% Metallic Yarn
Striped Bra Top and Striped Pants
Metallic Yarn and Lycra
Mark Fast SS13 – Look 21 – Finale Dress
Metallic Fringed Mini Dress with Long Sleeves
100% Metallic Yarn