Mary Quant - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British designer

Born: Kent, 11 February 1934. Education: Studied art and design at Goldsmith's College of Art, London University, 1952-55. Family: Married Alexander Plunket Greene, 1957 (died, 1990); children: Orlando. Career: Fashion designer, from 1955; established Bazaar boutique and Alexander's restaurant, London, 1955; founder/director, Mary Quant Ginger Group wholesale design and manufacturing firm, 1963, and Mary Quant, Ltd., 1963; cosmetics line introduced, 1966; launched hot pants, 1969; member, Design Council, London, from 1971; Mary Quant Japan franchise shops established, 1983; has designed for J.C. Penney, Puritan Fashions, Alligator Rainwear, Kangol, Dupont Europe, Staffordshire Potteries, and many more; authored several books; opened Mary Quant Colour Shops, 1990s; stepped down from firm bearing her name, 2000. Exhibitions: Mary Quant's London, Museum of London, 1973. Awards: Woman of the Year award, London, 1963; the Sunday Times International Fashion award, London, 1963; Bath Museum of Costume Dress of the Year award, 1963; Maison Blanche Rex award, New Orleans, 1964; Piavola d'Oro award, 1966; Chartered Society of Designers medal, 1966; Officer, Order of the British Empire, 1966; Fellow, Chartered Society of Designers, 1967; Royal Designer for Industry, Royal Society of Arts, 1969; British Fashion Council Hall of Fame award, 1990; Senior Fellow, Royal College of Art, London, 1991. Address: 3 Ives St., London SW3 2NE, England. Website: www.maryquant.com .

Publications

By QUANT:

Books

Quant by Quant, Bath, 1966, 1974; New York, 1967.

Mary Quant's Daisy Chain of Things to Do, Glasgow, 1975.

Colour by Quant, with Felicity Greene, London, 1984; New York,1985.

Quant on Makeup, with Vicci Bentley, London, 1986; New York,1987.

The Ultimate Beauty Book, Ontario, 1996.

Classic Makeup & Beauty Book, with Maureen Barrymore and Dave King, London, 1998.

Articles

"A Personal Design for Living," in the Listener (London), 19-26December 1974.

"Things I Wish I'd Known at 19," in the Sunday Express Magazine (London), 21 June 1982.

On QUANT:

Books

Halliday, Leonard, The Fashion Makers, London, 1966.

Bender, Marylin, The Beautiful People, New York, 1967.

Morris, Brian, and Ernestine Carter, An Introduction to Mary Quant's London, [exhibition catalogue], London 1973.

Bernard, Barbara, Fashion in the Sixties, London, 1978.

Carter, Ernestine, Magic Names of Fashion, Englewood Cliffs, NJ,1980.

Mary Quant, 1965 collection: "Catamaran" (left), "Raleigh" (center), and "Centre-half" (right). © AP/Wide World Photos.
Mary Quant, 1965 collection: "Catamaran" (left), "Raleigh" (center), and "Centre-half" (right).
© AP/Wide World Photos.

Mary Quant (right) with three of her designs, 1968. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Mary Quant (right) with three of her designs, 1968.
© AP/Wide World Photos.

MacCarthy, Fiona, and Patrick Nugent, Eye for Industry: Royal Designers for Industry 1936-1986 [exhibition catalogue], London, 1986.

Whiteley, Nigel, Pop Design: Modernism to Mod [exhibition catalogue], Design Council, London, 1987.

Lobenthal, Joel, Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties, New York,1990.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.

Cawthorne, Nigel, Key Moments in Fashion, London, 1998.

Strodder, Chris, Swingin' Chicks of the Sixties, New York, 2000.

Articles

"British Couple Kooky Styles," in Life (New York), 5 December 1960.

"Brash New Breed of British Designers," in Life, 8 October 1963.

Davis, John, "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Money Grow?" in the Observer (London), 19 August 1973.

De'Ath, Wilfred, "The Middle Age of Mary Quant," in the Illustrated London News, February 1974.

Kingsley, H., "How Does Her Empire Grow?," in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine (London), 29 March 1981.

Jackson, Jan, "Interview with Mary Quant," in the Leicester Mercury (England), 12 November 1984.

Lowe, Shirley, "Mary's Quantum Leap into the 1980," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 10 August 1986.

Savage, Percy, "Mary Quant," in Art & Design (London), September 1986.

Orr, Deborah, "Minis to the Masses," in the New Statesman & Society (London), 19 October 1990.

Kay, Helen, "Uppers and Downers: British Entrepreneurs of the Past 25 Years," in Management Today (London), 9 October 1991.

Gandee, Charles, "Mod Mary," in Vogue, July 1995.

Terry, Elizabeth, "Beauty Black Book—Proud Mary," in In Style, 1March 1996.

"All Revolutions Start Somewhere," in Management, September 1997.

Gillan, Audrey, "Mary Quant Quits Fashion Empire," in The Guardian, 2 December 2000.

Holmes, Lee, "A to Z of Fashion—Q is for Quant," in the Independent on Sunday, 7 October 2001.

***

The name Mary Quant is synonymous with 1960s fashion. Quant's designs initiated a look for the newly emerging teen-and-twenties market enabling young women to establish their own identity and put Britain on the international fashion map.

Quant did not study fashion; following parental advice she enrolled in an Art Teacher's Diploma course at Goldsmith's College, London University, but she was not committed to teaching. In the evenings she went to pattern cutting classes. Her fashion career began in 1955, in the workrooms of the London milliner, Erik, the same year she opened her boutique, Bazaar in King's Road, Chelsea, in partnership with her future husband, Alexander Plunket-Greene. The idea was to give the so-called Chelsea Set "a bouillabaisse of clothes and accessories." Quant was the buyer, but she soon found the kinds of clothes she wanted were not available. The solution was obvious, but not easy—21 years old, with little fashion experience, Quant started manufacturing from her home. Using revamped Butterick patterns and fabrics bought retail at Harrods, she created a look for the Chelsea girl. Her customers were hardly younger than herself and she knew what they wanted; her ideas took off in a big way, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Americans loved the London Look, so much so that in 1957 Quant signed a contract with J.C. Penney to create clothes and underwear for the wholesale market. American coordinates convinced her that separates were versatile and ideal for the young. To reach more of the British market in 1958 she launched the Ginger Group, a mass-produced version of the look, with U.S. manufacturer Steinberg's. In the same year she was nominated as Woman of the Year in Britain and the Sunday Times in London gave her its International Fashion award.

Quant created a total look based on simple shapes and bold fashion statements. She hijacked the beatnik style of the late 1950s: dark stockings, flat shoes, and polo necks became obligatory for the girl in the street. The pinafore dress, based on the traditional British school tunic, was transformed as one of the most useful garments of the early 1960s. Hemlines rose higher and higher; Quant's miniskirts reached thigh level, in 1965, and everyone followed. Courréges confirmed that the time was right by launching his couture version in Paris but Quant needed no confirmation—1965 was the year of her whistlestop tour to the United States. With 30 outfits and her own models, she showed in 12 cities in 14 days. Sporting miniskirts and Vidal Sassoon's five-point geometric haircuts, the models ran and danced down the catwalk. It was the epitome of Swinging London and it took America by storm.

Quant's talents did not go unnoticed in higher places. In 1966 she was awarded the OBE for services to fashion and went to Buckingham Palace wearing a miniskirt. Her cosmetics line was also launched this year, and recognizable by the familiar daisy logo, Quant cosmetics were an international success. Later taken over by Max Factor, they were retailed in 90 countries. Additionally, she experimented with new materials including PVC and nylon, to create outerwear, shoes, tights, and swimwear.

In the early 1970s Quant moved out of mass market and began to work for a wider age group, chiefly for export to the U.S. and Europe. Her range of merchandise expanded to include household goods, toys, and furnishings. Mary Quant at Home, launched in the U.S. market in 1983, included franchised home furnishings and even wine. By the end of the 1980s her designs were again reaching the British mass market, through the pages of the Great Universal Stores/Kays mail order catalogues.

Mary Quant remained a genuine fashion innovator well into the 1990s and into the 2000s. She adjusted to change—the 1960s designer for the youth explosion became a creator for the 1980s and beyond lifestyle boom. Her market had grown up with her and she was able to anticipate its demands. Along the way she began publishing books, autobiographical to start, and later on beauty and cosmetics. It wasn't until she was in her 60s that Mary Quant stepped down as director of Mary Quant Ltd., in 2000. She did, however, remain a consultant for the myriad of products she pioneered over the last four decades.

—Hazel Clark;

updated by Owen James

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