There were rumblings before the Mark Fast show that something 'new' would be shown. However in a London season light on ideas - even lighter on new ones at that - this was taken with the proverbial pinch of salt, especially considering Fast's track record. He is, after all, a designer who is less consistent, more persistent in his pushing of a singular (read: single) vision. Short, bright, tight, lots of holes - Fast lives up to his name when it comes to a summary of his aesthetic.
Enough with the mud-slinging. For A/W 2011 Fast did indeed show something new. He showed a coat. Actually, he show about a dozen of them, in leather and wool, wrapped and strapped around the body in all shapes and forms. There was a black leather 'Matrix' trench scissored out under the storm flap, a concertina-knit number in deep maroon, and the opener, a rather marvellous wrap-around wool confection with Montana-Mugler-Alaia quarterback shoulders composed of fluffed skeins of wool.
So why the sea-change? Fast's programme notes spouted something about 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' - not even a touch of irony in stating that about a collection crafted from merino wool, I hasten to add. But this season, Fast's central idea did synch with that concept - a harshness contradicted by a certain softness. Check that opening look, for one, and the addition of tufted ruffles of wool to Fast's signature body-con dresses. Those leather experiments presumably constituted the 'wolf', via a few more clumsy homages to Montana which nonetheless still managed to have a certain strength, particularly when cut loose and wide around the body and contrasted with Fast's support-hose tight party frocks. There were still plenty of those, but as part of a collection rather than its sole content, they felt somewhat desirable again.
Of course, it wasn't all great - Fast doesn't have the surest eye when it comes to taste, but no-one should need to tell a professional fashion designer that a marabou powder-puff of a hat teamed with a sweater-dress that looked like a mid-eighties YSL Variation reject is a bad idea, unless you're acting as costume consultant for a remake of Clueless, that is. In fact, I probably wouldn't call any of this collection great. But it was definitely better. For Fast that's high praise indeed.