Dame Mary Quant, the legendary fashion designer, has sadly died at the age of 93, passing away peacefully at her home in Surrey, her family announced earlier today (13 April). In their statement they went on to say that Dame Mary was “one of the most internationally recognised designers of the 20th Century and an outstanding innovator.”
She was probably best known for the way she popularised the mini skirt, as well as the hot pants, plastic raincoats, and patterned tights; together with her cosmetic range and her influence in the development of the mod style, during the swinging sixties.
No longer were extraordinary styles only seen on catwalks, suddenly her vibrant designs became accessible and affordable to the ordinary members of the public and completely altered mindsets.
A retrospective exhibition of her work opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2019 and has since been on tour to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan.
Fashion was her destiny
Mary Quant was born in February 1930 in Blackheath,South East London, the daughter of two Welsh school teachers. She recalled disliking the clothes she had as a young child and making her own by cutting up bedspreads and alike. Fashion was her calling and she won a scholarship to the prestigious Goldsmith’s College where she met her husband Alexander Plunket Greene, who was a photographer at the time, and who would later go on to help to establish her brand.
Pioneering starts in Chelsea boutique
She opened her first shop Bazaar in the King’s Road, Chelsea in 1955 and her creative talents quickly began to strike a chord and she progressed to become a pioneer in high street fashion. Indeed it was Ms Quant who paved the way for the modern clothing chains that have become a familiar sight in every shopping centre, the length and breadth of the country.
Recognising the needs of the sixties woman
The self-taught designer attended evening classes on cutting and adjusting mass-market printed patterns to achieve the creations she craved for. Along with her husband, they were very much part of what became known as the “Chelsea Set”, who were a group of designers, photographers and artists who strongly influenced the 1960’s London look.
She recognised the needs of a new generation of women, who also had access to disposable income to create a more fashionable wardrobe.
Collection like nothing seen before
It was the miniskirt more than any of her other styles, which she would long be associated with. She brought them to the mass market although she always said it was the young girls of the King’s Road who invented the mini, she just gave them what they wanted. Other famous looks in her clothing range included the PVC wet-look and the hot pants, both creating quite a stir at their launch.
The must have fashion name for millions of women
In 1966 she was awarded an OBE for her contribution to fashion, and by the end of the decade she was regarded as the UK’s most high-profile designer. Indeed, at that time it was believed that as many as seven million women had at least one of her products as part of the outfits.
This was followed by the release of her equally famous “Daisy” cosmetics range.
Well deserved Dame title
In recognition of her “outstanding contribution to British fashion” the British Fashion Council, presented her with the prestigious Hall of Fame Award in 1990 and in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list, she became a Dame.
On hearing the sad news, former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman tweeted: “RIP Dame Mary Quant. A leader of fashion, but also in female entrepreneurship; a visionary who was much more than a great haircut.”
The V&A Museum who showcased a retrospective exhibition of her life’s work also put out a touching message: “It is impossible to overstate Mary Quant’s contribution to fashion. She represented the joyful freedom of 1960’s fashion, and provided a new role model for young women; fashion today owes so much to her trailblazing vision.”
Vanessa Friedman, director of the International New York Times, was brief but to the point in her tweeted tribute: “RIP Mary Quant, who freed the female leg; we owe you.”
Hard work but exciting times
When asked to reflect on her career, Dame Mary made a point of concentrating on the first 20 years, calling it: “wonderfully exciting and despite the frenetic, hard work, we had enormous fun. We didn’t necessarily realise that what we were creating was pioneering, we were simply too busy relishing all the opportunities and embracing the results before rushing on to the next challenge.”
Great life and terrific fun
In an interview that she gave in 2012 she was asked whether she was ever surprised by how successful she had been. In a typically honest and open response she showed just how much she appreciated all that the fashion world had given her: “I mostly felt, my God, what a marvellous life you have had, you are very fortunate. I think to myself, you lucky woman; how did you have all this fun?”