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Mary Quant

Mary Quant, OBE
Mary Quant (1966)
Born (1934-02-11) 11 February 1934
Blackheath, London, England
Education Goldsmith's College
Occupation Fashion designer
Awards OBE, FCSD
Labels Mary Quant

Mary Quant OBE, FCSD, RDI (born 11 February 1934) is a fashion designer and British fashion icon.[1][2] She became an instrumental figure in the 1960s London-based Mod and youth fashion movements.[1][2] She was one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and hot pants, and by promoting these and other fun fashions she encouraged young people to dress to please themselves and to treat fashion as a game.[3][4] Ernestine Carter, an authoritative and influential fashion journalist of the 1950s and '60s,[5] wrote: "It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant."[6]


  • Early life 1
  • Fashion career 2
    • Early career 2.1
    • Quant and the miniskirt 2.2
    • Later career 2.3
    • Awards 2.4
  • Books by Quant 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Quant was born in Blackheath, southeast London, on 11 February 1934, the daughter of Welsh teachers.[7] Her parents, Jack and Mary Quant, were both from mining families. They had been awarded scholarships to grammar school and had both attained first-class degrees at Cardiff University, before moving to London to work as schoolteachers.[8] Quant went to Blackheath High School, then studied illustration at Goldsmiths College. After gaining a Diploma in Art Education from Goldsmiths, Quant began an apprenticeship at Erik, a high-end Mayfair milliner on Brook Street next door to the Claridge's hotel.[8][9][10]

She met her future husband and business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene in 1953.[10] They were married from 1957 until his death in 1990, and had a son, Orlando (b. 1970).

Fashion career

A 1960 Mary Quant dress, on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Early career

In November 1955, Quant and Plunket Greene teamed up with a photographer and former solicitor, Archie McNair, to open Quant's first shop on the King's Road in London called Bazaar, above "Alexander's", a basement restaurant run by Plunket Green.[10][11] In 1957, they opened the second branch of Bazaar, which was designed by Terence Conran.[8][11]

Successful designs from this early period included small white plastic collars to brighten up sweaters and dresses, bright stockings in colours matched to her knitwear, men's cardigans made long enough to be worn as dresses, and a pair of "mad" lounging pyjamas made by Quant herself which were featured in Harper's Bazaar and purchased by an American manufacturer to copy.[11] Following this, Quant decided to design and make more of the clothes she stocked, instead of buying in stock.[11] Initially working solo, she was soon employing a handful of machinists, and by 1966 she was working with eighteen manufacturers concurrently.

For a while in the late 1950s and very early 1960s, Quant was one of only two London-based high-end designers consistently offering youthful clothes for young people.[12][13] The other was Kiki Byrne, a former Bazaar employee who opened her boutique on the King's Road in direct competition with her former employer.[14]

Quant and the miniskirt

The miniskirt, described as one of the defining fashions of the 1960s,[15] is one of the garments most widely associated with Quant. Whilst she is often cited as the inventor of the style, this claim has been challenged by others. Marit Allen, a contemporary fashion journalist and editor of the influential "Young Ideas" pages for UK Vogue, firmly stated that John Bates, rather than Quant or André Courrèges, was the original creator of the miniskirt.[16] Others credit Courrèges with the invention of the style.[17] However, skirts had been getting shorter since the 1950s — a development Mary Quant considered practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus.[18]

Quant later said "It was the girls on the King's Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, 'Shorter, shorter.'" [8] She gave the miniskirt its name, naming it after her favorite make of car, the Mini.[19]

In addition to the miniskirt, Quant is often credited with inventing the coloured and patterned tights that tended to accompany the garment, although their creation is also attributed to the Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga who offered harlequin-patterned tights in 1962[17][20] or to John Bates.[21]

Later career

In the late 1960s, Quant popularised hot pants, becoming a British fashion icon.[22][23] Through the 1970s and 1980s she concentrated on household goods and make-up, rather than just her clothing lines, including the duvet which she claims to have invented.[10]

In 1988, Mary Quant designed the interior of the Mini (1000) Designer (originally dubbed the Mini Quant, the name was changed when popularity charts were set against having Quant's name on the car). It featured black and white striped seats with red trimming. The seatbelts were red, and the driving and passenger seats had Quant's signature on the upper left quadrant. The steering wheel had Quant's signature daisy and the bonnet badge had "Mary Quant" written over the signature name. The headlight housings, wheel arches, door handles and bumpers were all nimbus grey, rather than the more common chrome or black finishes. Two thousand were released in the U.K. on 15 June 1988, and a number were also released on to foreign markets; however, the numbers for these are hard to come by. The special edition Mini came in two body colours, jet black and diamond white.

She is also a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, and winner of the Minerva Medal, the Society's highest award.

In 2000, she resigned as director of Mary Quant Ltd., her cosmetics company, after a Japanese buy-out.[24] There are over 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan, where Quant fashions continue to enjoy popularity.


In 1963 Quant was the first winner of the Dress of the Year award.

In 1966 she was appointed OBE for her outstanding contribution to the fashion industry. She arrived at Buckingham Palace to accept the award in a cream wool jersey minidress with blue facings.[25]

In 1990 she won the Hall of Fame Award of the British Fashion Council.

Books by Quant

  • 1966: Quant by Quant — her first autobiography
  • 1984: Colour by Quant
  • 1986: Quant on Make-up
  • 1999 Classic Make-up and Beauty Book
  • 2011 Mary Quant: Autobiography — her second autobiography.

See also

  • Daisy, doll designed by Quant


  1. ^ a b Ho, Karen (3 July 2012). "The Brit List: Five Great British Fashion Designers".  
  2. ^ a b Do Je-Hae (10 October 2012). "Mary Quant, British Fashion Icon".  
  3. ^ McKinnell, Joyce (1964 (reprinted April 2009)). Beauty. Harper Collins. p. 93.  
  4. ^ "1966 (remade 1973) trouser suit by Mary Quant.". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  5. ^ , Oxford University Press, 2004.Oxford Dictionary of National Biographyaccessed 12 July 2012 Barbara Burman, "Carter, Ernestine Marie (1906–1983)",
  6. ^ Connikie, Yvonne (2006). Fashion of a Decade. Infobase Publishing. p. 17.  
  7. ^ Kent, Jacqueline C. (2003). Business Builders in Fashion. Minneapolis, MN: The Oliver Press, Inc. pp. 96–99.  
  8. ^ a b c d Polan, Brenda; Tredre, Roger (2009). The Great Fashion Designers. New York: Berg. pp. 103–104.  
  9. ^ "Mary Quant".  
  10. ^ a b c d Armstrong, Lisa (17 February 2012). "'"Mary Quant: 'You have to work at staying slim - but it's worth it. The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d de la Haye, Amy (2010). Steele, Valerie, ed. The Berg Companion to Fashion. Oxford: Berg. pp. 586–588.  
  12. ^ Denza, Vanessa. "Interview with Vanessa Denza MBE". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  13. ^ Waddell, Gavin (2004). How fashion works : couture, ready-to-wear, and mass production (Online-Ausg. ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science. p. 130.  
  14. ^ O'Byrne, Robert (2009). Style city : how London became a fashion capital. London: Frances Lincoln. p. 14.  
  15. ^ Ros Horton, Sally Simmons, 2007. Women Who Changed the World, p. 170
  16. ^ "Garments worn by Marit Allen". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Cartner-Morley, Jess (2 December 2000). "Chelsea girl who instigated a new era". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Barry Miles, 2009. The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era, page 194, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009
  19. ^ Barry Miles, 2009. The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era, page 203, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009
  20. ^ Carter, Ernestine (1977). The changing world of fashion : 1900 to the present. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 213.  
  21. ^ Lester, Richard, John Bates: Fashion Designer, London, 2008
  22. ^ "Mary Quant".  
  23. ^ Hillary Alexander (9 January 2009). "Fashion designer Mary Quant to have design included on Royal Mail stamps". website. London. Retrieved 9 January 2011. Apart from the mini, Quant is also credited with popularising white "go-go" boots, patterned tights, brightly-coloured "Paintbox" make-up, the micro-mini skirt, plastic raincoats, the "wet look", and hot-pants, which she designed in 1966, the year she received an OBE from the Queen for her services to the fashion industry. 
  24. ^ Gillan, Audrey (2 December 2000). "Mary Quant quits fashion empire". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  25. ^ "O.B.E. Dress by Mary Quant". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 

External links

  • Mary Quant at the Fashion Model Directory
  • film and television credits
  • Mary Quant at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London Accessed June, 3. 2010.
  • Mary Quant - Miniskirt - Icons of England
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