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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

London Fashion Week S/S 2012 Catwalk Review: Mark Fast

Mark Fast showed off his vision for this season to an eager crowd including Elisa Doolittle, Tallulah Harlech and Liberty Ross at the BFC Tent on Monday 19th September 2011. S/S 2012 was inspired by the force and movement of a sandstorm.

Written by Alia Gargum

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Marcus Reed
Mark Fast S/S 2012 by Marcus Reed

Mark Fast is a designer that sticks in peoples minds for a multitude of reasons. For some it’s his way of turning knitwear into an art form, for others it’s how he creates some of the most recognisable figure-hugging yet conceptual dresses out there or his revolutionary steps in technique. Amelia herself is a massive knitwear fan, and raved about his work with merino wool in her review of Mark Fast‘s A/W 2011 collection at London Fashion Week. For me, it all started when I met a very funny and gently spoken fashion student who was creating knitwear for womenswear designer Bora Aksu back in 2006.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by CharlotteHoyle
Mark Fast S/S 2012 by Charlotte Hoyle

Since then, Mark has rocked some headlines with his catwalk shows; causing a fashion stir for his use of plus-sized and curvier models such as Crystal Renn and Hayley Morley consistently each season (his first use of plus-sized models allegedly causing members of his team to walk out). At the time, I remember a sudden explosion of people talking about Fast, even friends who never ‘got’ fashion week before knew his name. There are countless designers who create figure-hugging sartorial magic on the catwalk, but a distance is created when you realise that normal women come in all different shapes and sizes, which stops me from seeing a fantastically chic friend or myself in the clothes. I can always appreciate the raw beauty and skill involved in a good catwalk show, as you’d admire a work of art; but don’t always see it as something accessible for this reason. Mark blew all of this out of the water by proving that his knitted dresses could also hug the curve of real hips and flatter the roundness of a fuller bust.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer by Amelia Gregory
Mark Fast S/S 2012, all photography by Amelia Gregory

I lined up for the show with endless other fashion editors and buyers for what looked like was going to be a very packed event. Fashion editor and style magpie Anna Dello Russo fluttered by in a shimmer of current season Prada oversized paillette dress and snakeskin boots, which have an incredible curved heel to them, catching my eye despite of my aversion to real snakeskin. Model Liberty Ross, Tallulah Harlech (daughter of modelling legend Lady Amanda Harlech) and modelling pop songstress Eliza Doolittle were in the front row, with Eliza catching a lot of attention from the paparazzi in a very short (presumably Mark Fast) black dress. I had to smile when she pretended to ignore them but continued posing as she caught up with a friend.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Kristina Vasiljeva
Mark Fast S/S 2012 by Kristina Vasiljeva

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

As I was shown to my seat, there were a lot of people running around including a production or show manager yelling ‘showing in 5 MINUTES!’ in my ear as I scurried past. There definitely was something in the air before this show, a palpable heated excitement radiating from every person in the presentation space. Suddenly, the press release I was reading through seemed incredibly apt. The collection was inspired by ‘desert mirages and tropical exoticism’ with colours taken from a desert landscape and the movement of a sandstorm providing a starting point for the clothes. I began to feel hotter, as if all the anticipation had brought the desert heat into the show, making me forget all about the blustery autumn weather outside. I was then asked to shuffle over to make room for a lady who turned out to be a very nice Condé Nast street style photographer. She spotted my pens and sketchbook, poised for drawing, and chatted to me about how enchanting it is to watch Vogue creative director extraordinaire Grace Coddington (who I loved in The September Issue) sketch live at catwalk shows. As we talked illustration and photography, the lights began to dim and a sultry summer track mixed with electro beats began to play.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

Orange-tinged lights especially set up for this show around the catwalk began to shine and fade in time with the sharp metallic-sounding music, and then settled to glow intermittently as the first model made her way onto the catwalk. An off the shoulder knitted top and skirt in the lightest possible shade of sand with equally light detailing and undone strands that trailed along the arms of the model as she moved made it out along the catwalk. The photographer next to me sighed a little breath of relief and delight along with most of the room. The pale gold colours made me reminisce over the sunlight you get in the summer, while the 1920s finger-waved and bobbed hair gave the clothes a bit of vintage glamour. The shoes, thanks to Mr Christian Louboutin, brought the look back around to the modern day. T-bar wedges and heels with incredibly huge platforms in gold, pink, black and orange to match the clothes also had little details like spiked studs and rubber straps, which reminded me of jelly shoes.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

More dresses in the same colours but with a variety of shapes you would normally associate with formal wear such as a fishtail gown (which the model almost fell over in) and a practically see-through floor-length number came along. Cleverly re-worked in a luxe version of macramé-style knotting, the silhouettes held their structure but had a light, summery softness to them. Sheer finer-knit dresses were placed over golden knitted bikinis, subtly showing off their delicate intricacy.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

Although the audience was already clearly wowed by the pale gold creations, several pieces came out that made me hold my breath in amazement. The first was a dress with a structured top and then a signature Mark Fast bottom half completely made out of golden loose strands, which moved like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. Movement on this scale is hard enough to capture in a garment, let alone getting it to a point where it’s flattering. But the weight and lengths of the string-like strands moved perfectly in harmony with the model, never losing her shape but seemingly dancing around her. It was like Mark had actually gone out and captured a little sandstorm of gold, and then attached it to a dress in the most flattering way possible. The model and the others that followed her with similar garments couldn’t help having a little something extra in the way they walked. I began to fantasize about how it must feel to wear something quite so incredible, and luckily was snapped out of it by what came next.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

After some acid-yellow and Lucozade-orange dresses with a similar lightness but no less ‘feminine with an edge’ fabulousness, I got a shock that made me want to elbow the photographer next to me in eagerness (luckily I held back, realising that almost knocking the poor girl off the bench in a rush of excitement wouldn’t be the best thing to do).

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins
Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins
Mark Fast S/S 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

At first, I thought I was imagining it, but then I remembered the painterly pattern on my show invite and realised that I was indeed seeing the first bit of print in a Mark Fast show. Printed on neoprene, that wetsuit fabric that fashion houses have been using for a while and love for summer, the pattern circled necklines, sleeves and hemlines, gradually fading out. It was completely unexpected and I love the way Mark just gave print a little try, modestly put it on a few dresses but was obviously proud enough to use it for the invitation.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Marcus Reed
Mark Fast S/S 2012 by Marcus Reed

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

All in all, the show was very relaxed, sultry, modern and seductive while sporadically a little bit younger than before with the cute baby doll type dresses alongside the dramatic-but-comfortable grown-up gowns. There were some black dresses and two-pieces expertly styled with Linda Farrow sunglasses and jewellery from both Pebble and Renee Lindell (stacks of thick bangles looked perfect for summer) as was the rest of the collection. Quite a few garments were like summer versions of his previous winter collections made from heavier wool. It was almost like someone said ‘well I bet that body-con knitted dress business wouldn’t work in summer’ and Mark replied ‘oh yeah?’ by finding an entirely new and light-as-air way of knitting.

Mark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia GregoryMark Fast Spring/Summer 2012 by Amelia Gregory

On the way out of the show, the cynic in me thought that were was actually a lot of repetition from previous seasons in the necklines, silhouettes and structured knits. However as hot-footed it to another show, I thought about why I expected there to be something so completely different this time around. I admittedly had high expectations of the show, but it was such a standout collection, and little details like structure and shape created by embroidering shimmering petals of sequins into the knitwear didn’t disappoint. I suddenly thought, what is so wrong with sticking with what you’re good at? Mark has now built up a signature style where so much can be developed from, why should he change drastically each season? The promise of prints and ever-developing strides in knitwear are keeping me interested, and if Mark continues to keep his fans I can see his brand following in the steps of Azzedine Alaïa, who practically invented sexy dressing with a twist through his figure-hugging cut-out womenswear in the 1980s and is still going strong. I was genuinely surprised by what this clever designer delivered, and no doubt will be panting in anticipation for the next season with everyone else.


Play the video and watch the show.

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