Mark Fast graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2008, having studied both BA and MA Fashion. Specializing in Knitwear, his work uses innovative knitting techniques to sculpt areas of tension and areas of volume over the body. We spoke to him from his London studio.
Tell us about your time and experience at Central Saint Martins
I started by doing a foundation course at London College of Fashion and then moved to Central Saint Martins and my tutor recommended I did knitwear as my work and research was very textural, so I just started experimenting and using a knitting machine.
And what did Central Saint Martins mean to you?
It was predominately a quest of why I wanted to be in the fashion world, I didn’t really know. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t know how I’d fit, so I started exploring costume, dramatic knit pieces and just try and create a signature that was a sign of my spirit which I wanted to get out to the world.
During your time studying here, did you have to teach yourself a lot and was it very self motivated?
Yer, because I had a knitting machine and no one really knew how to use it, so I was cutting out swatches from a jumble sale and I had to just experiment on my own. I think it’s that sense of self and independence which makes Central Saint Martin’s students strong, in the real art world that’s how it works. You have to prove yourself. It’s about saying this is what I’m about, take it or leave it.
And what about your time on the MA?
As soon as I went to he MA that’s when I learnt more in one minute with Louise Wilson than I did in the whole 3 years of the BA. The good thing about the BA is it’s about experimenting and working things out for yourself.
What do you think about the college’s latest move to Kings Cross, and in comparison to Charing Cross Road?
I was there just the other day. It’s a bit sad. It looks a bit like an airport. But I would say that formulas are changing in fashion. We need to break the formulas that we’re used to. It’s become about doing foundation, doing the BA, doing the MA, become a designer. There has to be a different way of working. Designers at Saint Martins have to create a new rebellion, a new revolution in design. There’s no sense of starting artists or no more Gallianos sleeping on the floor of his friends house just so he can be in college. So I think it’s actually an advantage, that smart people can create fashion and decide what they want the fashion rebellion to be.
When you were studying did it feel like quite an exclusive place to be?
Yer it was right in Soho, full of artists.
And did other departments like fine art have an affect on your work?
Not really, it felt quite disconnected. It was even disconnected from womenswear; we were up on the sixth floor in our own section. It all sounds very negative but it was ultimately about creating independence. It was the streets that were your canvas.
Was working with Knit quite an organic process, did you always want to work in that particular field?
With knitwear my work is very textural, and the way the knit machine works is such a creative object, you don’t know what to expect, it’s a very unknown craftsmanship. It’s the way that I work; bringing drama into clothes, bringing texture into clothes.
On another subject, you obviously got quite a lot of press for using plus size models on the catwalk. What was your thought process behind doing that?
Well I just wanted to create statements of beauty, these women that I met, I wanted to celebrate their beauty. It wasn’t intended to be a story; it was just to enhance women who are plus sizes as well.
And in your work, what’s your design process, do you have a starting point, or places of reference?
Usually it’s the films that I watch and also the landscapes that I’m around and how I’m feeling. It will bring up a mood. It’s all very emotional; I’m an emotional designer.
Have you considered branching out into menswear?
Yer definitely. It would be fantastic. You will see! I’ve had a lot of interest expressed in menswear and its something we’re developing. You will soon see!
What makes London a unique place to work in fashion?
I love that all the art galleries are free. It says something about the way the city is run and what it means. It nurtures experimentation and that attracts a lot of interesting people to the city. They just have ambition to create something new and just express their feelings. Even in the architecture and the streets. That’s why buildings such as Charing Cross Road were so important. It had a real substance to it. That’s why if you move to a new structure like Kings Cross you kind of have to live within your mind. But it’s hopeful. They just need to throw some paint on the wall!
Can you just briefly describe your design process?
Everything is done in my studio, by hand; it’s a highly crafted collection, which a lot of people don’t seem to see. We have loads of different machines and different processes. We have quite a few in our team.
Your work is very focused on the body and how your clothes fit. Do you keep that as a key focus when designing?
Yer. Its about bringing out the character of the woman that wears that dress and one way to do that is showing their true identity, which is the body she lives in. Ultimately its just about enhancing the body.
Mark shows at London Fashion week in February 2012
Interview and writing by Greg French