Mary Quant was the fashion designer and entrepreneur responsible for the “London Look” of the 60’s. She was the inventor of the min-skirt and hot pants. She proclaimed “good taste is death, vulgarity is life” and summarized the fashion of the 60’s as “arrogant, aggressive and sexy.” Although she is still designing today, she is largely known for her 60’s creations. Mary Quant was born in London, England on February 11th, 1934. From 1950-1953 she attended Goldsmith’s College of Art in London. After graduating, she worked for Erik, a London milliner. Meanwhile , Alexander Plunket-Greene and Quant had paired up with a friend named Archie McNair. When Greene, who later became her husband, inherited 5,000 pounds on his 21st birthday, the three decided to go into business together. They rented Markham House, a three-story building on King’s Road in London’s artist district, Chelsea. In Markham House, they opened a boutique on the first floor and a restaurant in the basement. They called the boutique Bazaar in 1955. Here she sold inexpensive, brightly coloured simple clothes which were immediate hits with young girls and boys. These included skinny rib jumpers, ready-to-wear short skirts and dresses, coloured tights, hipster belts, PVC garments and sleeveless crochet tops and hats. In 1957 she opened a second boutique. In 1961 Mary Quant showed her first fur collection and launched her first wholesale company. In 1962 she presented her first collection for the American market. She also started to design for J.C. PENNEY of New York. Regardless of whether she invented these items, Quant was one of their major popularisers, largely thanks to the fact that Bazaar was a popular haunt for the fashionable “Chelsea Set” of “Swinging London”. By 1961, Quant had opened a second Bazaar in Knightsbridge and by 1965 she was exporting to the U.S.. To keep up with demand, Quant went into mass-production, setting up the Ginger Group in 1963. Struggling to make ends meet and suffering ridicule from the press and some passers-by, Quant persevered. In less than ten years, her clothing designs was world famous, selling in 150 shops in Britain, 320 stores in the United States, and throughout the world: France, Italy, Switzerland, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and more. From 1964-68 she designed for Butterick patterns. In 1965 she launched the mini-skirt in London. A fashion show was held aboard the royal yacht Queen Elizabeth and was a great hit. The same year, she took 30 outfits to the USA and the models in their thigh-high dresses stopped traffic on Broadway and in Times Square in New York. They were seen on American TV. She visited l2 cities in 14 days showing clothes to a non-stop dance routine with pop music accompaniment. She soon had built up a million pound industry, selling to nearly all the countries in the Western world and Japan, designing 28 collections a year. In 1966 Mary Quant received the O.B.E. for her services to the fashion industry, and went to receive this honour from the Queen dressed in a mini-skirt. She published a book “Quant by Quant” in 1966. The same year, she introduced her famous and highly successful cosmetics line, with it’s striking daisy logo. She also launched a footwear line. In 1967 she opened another boutique. In 1970 she introduced hot pants, tight figure-revealing short shorts, made of knit or soft materials, worn with floor length maxi-coats allowed to swing open and knee high boots. These were an instant success. During the 70’s and 80’s Mary Quant continued to add to her product line, putting her Daisy logo on household furnishings, towels and sheets, knitwear, men’s ties, eyewear, hats and even a mod version of the Barbie doll. In 1994 she opened the Mary Quant colour shop for cosmetics and beauty products. In 1996 along with many other designers and celebrities, she joined a product making individual masks which were sold for charity and raised quite a good amount. Her clothes have continued to sell well, even today, but she never again achieved the popularity and volume of sales that she did in the 60’s. Her cosmetic line however, sells very well today. Mary Quant is now the CEO of the London house of Fraser. She also continues to work as a free-lance designer for various companies. At an age when most designers have put down their sketch pads, Mary still oversees all the creative aspects of her atelier just off London’s King’s Road. As part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, various fashion celebrities were alloted a year of the Queen’s Reign. Mary Quant has been named Woman of the Year 1955. In 2000, she resigned as director of Mary Quant Ltd., her cosmetics company, after a Japanese buy-out. There are over 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan, where Quant fashions continue to enjoy more popularity. Mary became a grandmother for the first time in August 2002, when her son Orlando Plunket-Greene had a son which they have called Lucas Alexander. All the fashion shows of leading designers in New York, London, Paris and Milan – for both Summer and Fall – have been copying Quant designs. She is not at all angry about it but says she thinks it is great. She was a wonderful advertisement for her own designs, her short dark Vidal Sassoon hair style with it’s fringe and her easy-fitting young-looking blazer jackets, brief swinging skirts and pinafore dresses.
Quant designs were slightly influenced by beat dressing but interpreted in a more considered sharper, varied style. Her concept was uncompromisingly young – ten years younger than the high fashion ideal. She designed for a girlish, less developed figure. Her dresses had simple, boat necklines or childlike, round or pointed collars and narrow shoulders and sleeves.
Summer and evening dresses were frequently sleeveless and body shaping was very understated, shadowing the breasts and waist to giver a long-torsoed, slightly 20’s silhouette and hip-level belts and seaming. The long-waisted look made her flared and pleated skirts look even shorter. They were in fact the shortest on record, and were worn with simple strap over shoes or long boots.
Mary’s designs spoke for themselves, models enjoyed wearing her clothes at fashion shows. Her publicity and success made traditionally cautious designers alter their attitudes and want their own designs to appeal to the newly important, big spending 16 to 25 year old market.
Get 10% off your next order on Shop Bellable plus deals, news and fun stuff.