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This article was published 22/8/2011 (3108 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
To the international fashion world Mark Fast is an iconoclast with a talent to be reckoned with.
To his family and friends in Winnipeg, he is the dreamer who gets inspiration from Manitoba highways and horizons.
The 30-year-old fashion designer grew up outside Selkirk, later moving closer to the city, where he attended Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute and from where he says, "I imagined my way to London."
Fast moved to England to attend the prestigious Central St. Martin's School, whose graduates include designer Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. He completed his undergraduate degree and in 2008 earned his master's as well. Fast is one of a select group of students to pass the rigours of the New Generation selection committee, paving the way for him to have his work on display during London Fashion week. His clothes have been worn by celebrities including Kylie Minogue, Leighton Meester and Beyoncé.
Fast's rise to international fashion darling was quick. He won praise for his urbane, spiderweb hand-knit dresses and drew a lot of press for the so-called size-zero debacle in which he used size 12 models to show his tight-fitting knit mini-dresses during one of his 2009 London shows. In a culture where stick figures are the standard, it was a bold move, especially for an emerging brand.
Fast's designs are sold at retail locations such as Barney's in New York, and The Room at The Bay and Carte Blanche in Toronto. The designer has also been thinking of launching an online shop. In the meantime, if his collections — even his diffusion line, Faster by Mark Fast — are out of reach for most Winnipeg fashion lovers geographically, not to mention price-wise, there will soon be a way for Fast fans to get their hands, or rather their feet, on one of his designs.
Fast is creating a collection in collaboration with Montreal-based footwear company Aldo. The pieces will be previewed at New York fashion week next month where Fast will be showing his lower price line, Faster, for the first time.
While they are still in the production phase, early reports say that some shoes in the collection will be inspired by African designs and will incorporate some of Fast's trademark sexy knits. A fringe sandal, for example, is made with a textile and leather-trimmed wedge heel while the top has raffia detailing and knit straps.
"It's the combination of traditional and contemporary references. I like the dichotomy of something severe and serene," says Fast in an email. "This collaboration has given me the opportunity to work with new shoe technology and resources. The Aldo team have been quite inspiring in their innovations."
Aldo returns the love.
"Mark is a fellow Canadian whose talent we have always admired," Douglas Bensadoun, Aldo creative director told the Free Press in an email. "Aldo feels strongly about supporting Canadian fashion whether at home or abroad and we know our customers will be as excited as we are about this collaboration."
An as-yet-undetermined number of Mark Fast/Aldo shoes will be at Aldo stores for spring 2012. But those interested can get a preview from the catwalk photos of his September Faster show in New York.
Fast has already collaborated with the likes of British retailer Topshop and French shoe guru Christian Louboutin.
The designer/High Street collaborations have been making news since Karl Lagerfeld first did a collection for the Swedish retailer H&M in 2004. It's a way for the designer to make quick cash, something their own lines don't easily do for them, and for the mass market brand to gain some star power.
The Fast/Aldo deal is arguably one of the more exciting Canadian retail collaborations to date. It's also one more step closer to Fast's Canadian roots, which he seems to be embracing of late. He worked with Toronto-based Danier leathers on his autumn/winter 2011/12 collection and is selling a capsule collection under Danier. This past summer he had an installation at Toronto's Luminato cultural festival.
Do his Canadian projects suggest his star is fading in London? Unlikely, as British shopaholics seem as eager for the Aldo collections as anyone, if the style bloggers are any measure.
Online site CatwalkQueen got a preview of a first sketch and concluded, "It seems like it'll be a pretty stellar collaboration," while British lifestyle magazine Grazia cooed, "In a brilliant move by High Street shoe giant Aldo, Mr. Fast will now be delivering his sexy knits and flashy fringing to a whole new area of the body — and we reckon they're going to be super hot."