Dame Mary Quant (b.1934) British Fashion Designer

Circa 1965: Fashion guru and dress designer Mary Quant at her home.
Circa 1965: Fashion guru and dress designer Mary Quant at her home. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Mary Quant, a pivotal figure in British fashion design, studied art and design at Goldsmiths College of Art from 1952 to 1955 while also taking evening classes in clothing construction and cutting. In 1955, in Knightsbridge, London, she established her first shop Bazaar on King’s Road, followed by the second shop Terence Conran designed in Knightsbridge.

In 1963, she co-founded the Mary Quant Ginger Group (for wholesale clothing design and production) and Mary Quant Limited with her husband, Alexander Plunkett Green. Despite her merchandise being relatively expensive, Mary Quant became almost synonymous with the internationally recognised concept of ‘Swinging London’ during the 1960s, mainly through the popularisation of the miniskirt, a ubiquitous fashion icon of the Pop era and symbol of newfound sexual freedoms.

She also experimented with new materials, such as tights for the Nylon Hosiery Company in 1965, and ventured into cosmetics the following year. In the 1960s, Quant was also successful in the United States, designing a clothing and underwear collection for the J. C. Penney Company in 1962, a dress collection for Puritan Clothing in New York in 1964, and patterns for Butterick Paper Patterns.

6th April 1972: Fashion model Ika posing with Mary Quant's new collection of shoes.
6th April 1972: Fashion model Ika posing with Mary Quant’s new collection of shoes. (Photo by Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images)

Since then, she has designed berets and hats for Kangol (1967), bed linen and curtains for Dorma (1972), sunglasses for Polaroid (1977), Axminster Carpets for Templetons (1978), shoes for K Shoes (1982), and clothing for Great Universal Stores (1987). She opened stores in Paris and New York in the late 1990s. Throughout her career, Quant has received numerous honours, including ‘Woman of the Year in London in 1963, the Order of the British Empire in 1966, and the election as Royal Designer for Industry in 1969. In 1966, she published her autobiography, Quant by Quant. In 1973, she was featured in Mary Quant’s London exhibition at the London Museum.

Sources

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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