It’s not every designer that chooses to focus their attention on a niche technique like knitting. But Mark Fast – Canadian-born, welcomed by England with open arms – has made a lustrous career of it. If knitwear could get any further from being grandma-ish and homely we’re yet to see it happen: Fast’s designs are slim, sexy, shimmering, things.
Speaking to Vogue.co.uk’s Jessica Bumpus at The Industry at SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED this week, Fast shared some insights he’s learned on the road to success. After the break, a round-up of 5 takeaways from the event.
Mark Fast being interviewed by Jessica Bumpus. Photography: Sam Atkinson
Make the most of mentors.
Breaking into the fashion industry comes down to hard work, and often that means interning or landing a position at an already established label. From Mark Fast’s answers it was clear he hasn’t forgotten the value of his early mentors – from Bora Aksu to Stuart Vevers – learning everything he could from them and keeping that knowledge safe.
And just as who you work for can prove important, so too is who works for you. Choose carefully. “You have to have someone who really connects with your art but also knows how to move it forwards into the world,” says Fast. The right people are key to the success of your own development, as well as your business.
Working with one niche may seem limited, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s all about taking that one thing and experimenting with it to give it a new spirit – much like Fast does with knitwear. “Be a chameleon in the industry,” advises Fast. Even if you’re working with a limited technique, “each collection needs a different story, something different to say.”
If you develop a signature, make sure it works for and not against you.
When asked if having a signature style is a benefit or a burden, Fast admitted that it can be a double-edged sword. A clear signature can sometimes be too easily copied, rendering it meaningless. But Fast knows how to make a signature style work in his favour: “Put so much love into it, no one can take it away.”
Don’t pay too much attention to show reviews.
How important are show reviews to Mark Fast? “Not really important,” he laughed while on stage at The Industry event. Absorb them, but don’t let them discourage you from doing what you love. And speaking of doing what you love, the best advice Fast was ever given was to “keep the cocoon of creativity safe.” A studio space is sacred, whether it’s criticism or other people’s opinions, don’t let anything poison your space for creativity.
Don’t underestimate the power of collaborations.
Working with other brands not only helps expand your horizons, it also helps expand your customer base. Fast advises that you should just make sure it’s something that connects with your brand. The challenge is in mixing the visions of the different parties involved: you have to “respect their vision” while also respecting your own, and then a collaboration will be a success.
Thanks for The Industry London for putting the event together. To find out what other events are coming up or to become a member of The Industry, visit theindustrylondon.com.