The life and work of Mary Quant
‘‘ Fashion is a tool.. to complete in life outside the home. People like you better, without knowing why, because people always react well to a person they like the looks of. ’’ – Mary Quant.
On February 11th, 1934 in Blackheath, London, was born the soon to be designer that would contribute to what Fashion is today.
I think that is accurate to say that Mary Quant left a mark in the history of fashion with her piece of clothing that revolutionised the costumes, the mini-skirt. Her creation was once seen as an offence against public morality. Outrage and disgusting were the words used by some people to describe their dissatisfaction and rage.
Mary Quant in an interview for Mail Online in 2012 detailed that when she opened her first store Bazaar 1955, people were still carrying tightly furled umbrellas and using bowler hats. She also tells a story of a man that was passing by the store and his reaction to what he saw (leggy white mannequins wearing the skirts) was to beat furiously against the window glass, a reaction that soon became a daily occurrence. But those reactions didn’t stop Mary of introducing the ‘‘mod ’’ era and the ” Chelsea look” to the world.
Mary Quant went to Blackheath High School before studying illustration at Goldsmiths College. After college she took a job assisting a couture milliner, at which point she began designing and manufacturing clothes. It was during her college years that she met her future husband Alexander Plunket Greene (1932- 1990), an eccentric and bohemian man that liked hanging around in Soho jazz bars. In 1955 Mary opened her first store Bazaar on King’s Road, in the Chelsea neighbourhood of London, and at the same time Alexander opened a restaurant in the basement.
Mary Quant was a contemporary of her clients and the first designer to make fashion for young people. She was convinced that fashion needed to be affordable to be accessible to the young. Her husband’s restaurant was also the first to do the same with food, becoming this way a hang-out for Chelsea boys and girls. It was the start of the ‘‘Chelsea Look’’.
Quant’s designs were based on the demands of her young clients and that was how the polemic mini-skirt came to an existence. With the mini-skirt came the coloured tights and the knee-high white plastic boots.
Following the success of the first store, a second Bazaar opened in Knightsbridge in 1961 and by 1963, Mary Quant was exporting to the United States, transforming her brand into a worldwide one.
Famed Fashion Designer
Quant sold about her life and work as a well of inspiring the new generations, she won numerous awards and decorations, among which the honour of Dame Commander of the most excellent Order of the British Empire, she received this award directly from the hands of the Queen Elizabeth II in 1996.
The mini version of the skirt today deserves to stay in the fashion scene as an emblem of sensuality but without ever being outclassed, an irreplaceable piece of clothing.