Words: Abbie Lyall

“The whole point of fashion is to make fashionable clothes available to everyone” – Mary Quant

Mary Quant is without a doubt a pioneer in the fashion industry, her brand is renowned all over the world and her exhibition at the V&A in London is one to be celebrated. The exhibition focuses on the years from 1955 to 1975, when Mary Quant injected a new style into the British fashion industry and freed the younger generation from rules they had to adhere to before. She has without a doubt; revolutionised fashion and her exhibition is a celebration of her passion for change. It also contains an array of original designs and fashion photography that have never been seen before now.

Her exhibition contains garments from the V&A’s extensive archive and pieces that have been retrieved from women all over the UK, who were happy to lend their original Mary Quant garments for the public to see. Overall, it has over 200 items on show, from iconic mini dresses and skirts, to accessories and makeup – many being displayed to the public for the first time.

The Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A showcases Mary Quant’s unique designs, and how they were very much influenced by Beatnik and Mod subcultures. Her designs totally changed British pop culture in the 1960s and have continued to do so since, her daisy logo has become instantly recognisable and is featured on many of her colourful, one-off pieces. The V&A have various products available to buy that showcase her famous logo, from pencils and notebooks to earrings and scarfs.

Mary Quant first established her brand in 1955, when she opened her first boutique called “Bazaar” on Kings Road in London. She is most famous for the birth of the mini skirt in the 1960s and her designs, were very much tailored to the youth of the time. She broke down barriers and changed fashion for young people in a way that had never been done before. Mary Quant believed that young people should not need to follow society’s rules and that you should be able to express yourself however you see fit, which in turn, started a whole new trend and teenagers started to rebel.

Her boutique “Bazaar” was wildly different to other stores at the time. There would often be extended opening hours with an almost party like atmosphere, Mary Quant would supply free alcohol and loud music, whilst her customers shopped and celebrated late into the night. This made her brand extremely popular with the younger generation and helped promote a sense of freedom, which is exactly the message she wanted to spread across London.

Mary Quant designs started to become instantly recognisable shortly after she opened “Bazaar”. She introduced a whole new spectrum of designs that had never been done before, and tailored them to the youth of the time, a group that were expected to follow the rules society had set for them. She is mostly known for the creation of the mini skirt and this style was made famous by one of the era’s most iconic models, Twiggy. Short hemlines quickly became Mary Quant’s trademark and she would pair them with her brightly coloured tights and jumpers, which in turn created an extremely bold look that all the young people wanted.

Mary Quant continued to blossom throughout the 60s and 70s. She received an OBE in 1966 and also released her autobiography, “Quant by Quant” the same year. She was the most famous designer in the United Kingdom at the time and it is estimated that at least 7 million women owned at least one her designs, with plenty more owning items from her popular cosmetics range. The Mary Quant brand brings in most of its revenue today from cosmetics and it is extremely popular in Japan, where there is a high demand for the iconic daisy printed products.

‘Mary Quant’ at the V&A in London is open from 6th April 2019 – 16th February 2020, an adult ticket for the exhibition is £12 or £14.50 when a donation is made to the V&A (www.vam.ac.uk).