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Written by Brian James @brianjamesstyling and Leigh Maynard @leighmaynard

Mark Fast examined the past to move forward this season, taking time over the last few months to reflect on what’s important, celebrating key styles and cultural references that fired his imagination as a child and a young designer. The result was ‘Future Fusion’ a collection with optimistic palettes and logos, a nod to the ’80s and ’90s when stonewash ruled, and Britney did it again. Integrating these tongue-in-cheek styles with his signature bodycon knitwear and his enduring love of neon and graffiti, the collection evoked late night parties and all the fun of the past with an optimistic look to the future.

It takes courage to take significant strides forward when the future holds uncertainty. Still, with an enduring and optimistic spirit, Mark continued with his plans to open his flagship store in Asia. We took the time to chat with him about the future of the industry, bringing his brand to the next level and seeing his name in lights! 

This season you took time to reflect on your core inspirations, tell us more about them and what lies at the heart of your designs.

It’s taking me back to the time when I arrived in London, from being a grown teenager to a young adult. The time when I was in high school and aspiring to move to London and see that fashion melting pot that it provides, so in a way, it took me back to the high school days to the late ’90s and early childhood of the ’80s.

I’m kind of an 80s kid who graduated in the 90s and saw London at the beginning of the millennium. It’s now with the perspective of the last 20 years looking back and able to see its naivety on the one hand and the ironic eye whether it’s through exaggerated colours and silhouette that I find very playful. During this time, this playfulness and exploration provided me with great escapism with a reflection of positive vibes.

This collection was created during the lockdown, did you find this a beneficial time creatively to reconnect with those influences?

Look, I have to be honest with you, lockdown or not, the work of a fashion designer is actually a very solemn experience. The fun, the happening, the show, the models and the excitement with its buzz are a rare occasion during fashion week, during our show. You will typically find me in my studio to the very late of the night by myself constructing new pieces, reworking it and planning the range. So, in a way, isolation or not, the work of a designer stays the same. With one exception, travelling and being exposed to new scenery, different cities, exchanging ideas face to face with people is what I miss from the past.

You are a master of knitwear design; how did your love of knitwear evolve?

I love crafts, making things, and I like to explore materials, whether it is knitting or knotting, it is something that I do with my hands. I create my own textiles over the body. I love being in control and the challenge of engineering the knitwear. Which might sound very technical and boring for some, but it holds aesthetic and mathematical patterns which create some controlled and some accidental. 

At the early stages of studying design formally, I was always attracted to 3D structure and materials, and this naturally drew me to explore creating those textiles with the construction of knitwear. My first love is knitwear and from the love and texture of construction. However, over the years and primarily through my MA degree, I realised the importance of constructing the material but in recent years to find the right balance.

I see myself as a menswear, womenswear designer with a special soft spot in my heart for knitwear. But for me its the full wardrobe for men and women and bringing in the excitement of knitwear.

‘Future Fusion’ also saw a return to logo’s, a prominent feature in the 80’s design. That was also a time of social change and upheaval. Do you think these uncertain times call for bold fashion statements?

I would love to say yes or no to your question; however, I think my true answer is much simpler than that. Evolving from being a new generation winner designer to successful independent designer and now in front of my eyes, my company becoming a global brand encouraged us to take practical measures, such as creating our own monogram and logo to be featured on our packaging instore and online. I think it was the pride and joy of having such an attractive logo, and I went mad that I wanted to put it on everything. And yes, it is a very much a 90’s high school rebel thing to do. I wanted to say maybe and a part of me, yes.

You’re about to open your first flagship store in Asia in November, tell us more about how this came about? 

Well, I am not going to lie. I always wanted to see my name in the lights. And I still believe I have a voice and a vision that needs to be heard while reaching a global audience. It’s been over a decade since I won the new generation award. Personally, I can’t believe how long it took, but it is the right time for Mark Fast as a brand to expand globally. I believe that in order to share my design philosophy and artistic vision, I have to provide an entire retail microcosmos to reflect it. The only way of doing so is by creating your own retail experience. Mark Fast Beijing independent store is first of many to be opened in the region.

You’ve worked with people like Christian Louboutin and Crazy Horse Paris, is there anyone else that you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

When it comes to collaboration, it’s not something I’m planning. It’s something I’m just doing when it comes my way. My main focus and challenge are to continue and create signature Mark Fast creations and to expand the Mark Fast Brand globally. And for me, the collaboration between the part of my creative side and the business aspiration side is the most challenging and exciting at the moment. Of course, if the right interesting collaboration would come along, I most probably won’t say no.

When it comes to fashion collaboration at the moment, I love collaborating with artists such as Rihanna, Nicki Minaj And Beyonce. It’s always cool to see how they translate my work with their world. Creating the dresses to complement their over the top personality, I have always loved and always will.

What are your hopes for the future of the industry, and what do you think it could improve upon? 

These are very challenging times for everyone everywhere in every industry. On a personal level, I hope that I will be able to continue to create, my craft my vision and that there will be audiences that will appreciate it, love wearing it and collecting my pieces. At the same time, I strongly believe that we need to do less and better and while doing so also consider raw materials that we are using and the impact that we leave behind.

While we watch the fashion industry in flux, it’s heartening to see a designer progressing optimistically onto the next level with consideration for his craft and the environment. Let’s hope the dancefloor is lit again soon because, like Britney, we can’t wait to do it again and what better way than in this vibrant collection. With Mark Fast in your wardrobe, the future is always bright! 

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