Mary Quant

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Mary Quant
Mary Quant (1966).jpg
Mary Quant (1966)
Barbara Mary Quant

(1930-02-11) 11 February 1930 (age 89)
Other namesBarbara Mary Plunket Greene [1]
Education Goldsmith's College
Mary Quant
Spouse(s)Alexander Plunket Greene (1957–1990; his death); 1 son
Website Official website

Dame Barbara Mary Quant, Mrs Plunket Greene, DBE, FCSD, RDI (born 11 February 1930) is an English fashion designer and fashion icon, who is of Welsh heritage. [2] [3]

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), is the professional body for designers. It is the world's only Royal Chartered body of professional designers. It is unique in that it is multi-disciplinary – representing designers in all design disciplines including Interior Design, Product Design, Graphic Design, Fashion and Textile Design.

Royal Designer for Industry is a distinction established by the British Royal Society of Arts in 1936, to encourage a high standard of industrial design and enhance the status of designers. It is awarded to people who have achieved "sustained excellence in aesthetic and efficient design for industry". Those who are British citizens take the letters RDI after their names, while those who are not become Honorary RDIs (HonRDI). Everyone who holds the distinction is a Member of The Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry.


She became an instrumental figure in the 1960s London-based Mod and youth fashion movements. [2] [4] She was one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and hotpants, and by promoting these and other fun fashions she encouraged young people to dress to please themselves and to treat fashion as a game. [5] [6] Ernestine Carter, an authoritative and influential fashion journalist of the 1950s and 1960s, [7] 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." [8]

Mod (subculture) Subculture in England

Mod is a subculture that began in London in 1958 and spread throughout Great Britain and elsewhere, eventually influencing fashions and trends in other countries, and continues today on a smaller scale. Focused on music and fashion, the subculture has its roots in a small group of stylish London-based young men in the late 1950s who were termed modernists because they listened to modern jazz. Elements of the mod subculture include fashion ; music ; and motor scooters. The original mod scene was associated with amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at clubs.

Miniskirt very short skirt that usually extends to mid-thigh

A miniskirt is a skirt with a hemline well above the knees, generally at mid-thigh level, normally no longer than 10 cm (4 in) below the buttocks; and a dress with such a hemline is called a minidress or a miniskirt dress. A micro-miniskirt or microskirt is a miniskirt with its hemline at the upper thigh.

Hotpants Very brief, tight shorts mainly worn by women and girls, popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s

Hotpants, hot pants, or booty shorts describe extremely short shorts, which may be worn by women or to a lesser extent, by men. The term was first used by Women's Wear Daily in 1970 to describe shorts made in luxury fabrics such as velvet and satin for fashionable wear, rather than their more practical equivalents that had been worn for sports or leisure since the 1930s. The term has since become a generic term for any pair of extremely short shorts. While hotpants were briefly a very popular element of mainstream fashion in the early 1970s, by the mid-1970s, they had become associated with the sex industry, which contributed to their fall from fashion. However, hotpants continue to be popular as clubwear well into the 2010s and are often worn within the entertainment industry, particularly as part of cheerleader costumes or for dancers. Performers such as Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue have famously worn hotpants as part of their public performances and presentation.

Early life

Quant was born on 11 February 1930 in Blackheath, London, the daughter of Welsh teachers. [9] Her parents, Jack and Mildred Quant (John H. Quant married Mildred G. Jones, 1925), [10] were both from mining families; however, they had been awarded scholarships to grammar school and had both attained first-class degrees at Cardiff University before they moved to London to work as school teachers. [11]

Blackheath, London inner suburban area of South East London, England

Blackheath is a district of south east London, England, within the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the London Borough of Lewisham. It is located east of Lewisham, and south of Greenwich. Blackheath is within the historic boundaries of Kent.

Cardiff University public research university in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

Cardiff University is a public research university in Cardiff, Wales. Founded in 1883 as the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, it became one of the founding colleges of the University of Wales in 1893, and in 1997 received its own degree-awarding powers. It merged with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) in 1988. The college adopted the public name of Cardiff University in 1999, and in 2005 this became its legal name, when it became an independent university awarding its own degrees. The third oldest university institution in Wales, it is composed of three colleges: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Biomedical and Life Sciences; and Physical Sciences and Engineering.

She 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 Claridge's hotel. [11] [12] [13]

Blackheath High School school for girls in Blackheath Village, London

Blackheath High School is an independent day school for girls in Blackheath Village in southeast London, England. It was founded in 1880 as part of the Girls' Day School Trust; the Senior School occupied a purpose built site in Wemyss Road for over 110 years.

Illustration depiction made by an artist

An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process, designed for integration in published media, such as posters, flyers, magazines, books, teaching materials, animations, video games and films. Illustration also means providing an example; either in writing or in picture form.

Goldsmiths, University of London public research university in London, UK

Goldsmiths, University of London, is a public research university in London, England, specialising in the arts, design, humanities, and social sciences. It is a constituent college of the University of London. It was founded in 1891 as Goldsmiths' Technical and Recreative Institute by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in New Cross, London. It was acquired by the University of London in 1904 and was renamed Goldsmiths' College. The word College was dropped from its branding in 2006, but Goldsmiths' College, with the apostrophe, remains the institution's formal legal name.

Her younger brother John Antony "Tony" Quant became a high-ranking Dental Officer in the Royal Air Force. [14]

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.


She met her future husband and business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene, in 1953. [13] They were married from 1957 until his death in 1990, and had a son, Orlando (b. 1970).

Fashion career

Mary Quant dress chosen as the Dress of the Year, 1963 Mary Quant 'Rex Harrison' cardigan dress chosen as Dress of the Year, 1963.jpg
Mary Quant dress chosen as the Dress of the Year, 1963

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 corner of Markham Square and King's Road in Chelsea, London, called Bazaar, above "Alexander's", a basement restaurant run by Plunket Green. [13] [15] In 1957, they opened the second branch of Bazaar, which was designed by Terence Conran. [11] [15]

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. [15] Following this, Quant decided to design and make more of the clothes she stocked, instead of buying-in stock. [15] Initially working solo, she was soon employing a handful of machinists, and by 1966 she was working with 18 manufacturers concurrently.

For a while in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Quant was one of only two London-based high-end designers consistently offering youthful clothes for young people. [16] [17] The other was Kiki Byrne, who opened her boutique on the King's Road in direct competition with Quant. [18]

Quant and the miniskirt

Jersey minidress by Mary Quant, late 1960s 1960s Mary Quant minidress, green, purple and white jersey.jpg
Jersey minidress by Mary Quant, late 1960s

The miniskirt, described as one of the defining fashions of the 1960s, [19] is one of the garments most widely associated with Quant. While 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 another British fashion designer, John Bates, rather than Quant or André Courrèges, was the original creator of the miniskirt. [20] Others credit Courrèges with the invention of the style. [21] However, skirts had been getting shorter since the 1950s—a development Quant considered practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus. [22]

Quant later said: "It was the girls on the King's Road [during the "Swinging London" scene] 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.'" [11] She gave the miniskirt its name, after her favourite make of car, the Mini, [23] and said of its wearers: "they are curiously feminine, but their femininity lies in their attitude rather than in their appearance ... She enjoys being noticed, but wittily. She is lively—positive—opinionated." [24]

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, [21] [25] or to John Bates. [26]

Later career

In the late 1960s, Quant popularised hot pants and became a British fashion icon. [27] [28] 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. [13]

In 1988, 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.

In 2000, she resigned as director of Mary Quant Ltd, her cosmetics company, after a Japanese buy-out. [29] There are more than 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan. [29]


In 1963 Quant was the first winner of the Dress of the Year award. In 1966 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (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. [30] In 1990 she won the Hall of Fame Award of the British Fashion Council. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to British fashion. [31] [32]

Quant received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2006. [33] In 2012, she was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life. [34]

Quant is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, and winner of the Minerva Medal, the Society's highest award. [35]

Books by Quant

In the 1966 Donovan song "Sunny South Kensington", Quant and Jean-Paul Belmondo's drug use/abuse is immortalized in the lyric: "Jean-Paul Belmondo and-a Mary Quant got stoned, to say the least". [37] [38]

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. Quant profile,; accessed 7 May 2015.
  2. 1 2 Ho, Karen (3 July 2012). "The Brit List: Five Great British Fashion Designers". BBC America website. BBC . Retrieved 16 October 2012.
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  5. McKinnell, Joyce (1964). Beauty. Harper Collins. p. 93. ISBN   9780007295586.
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  14. London Gazette Supplement, various editions including 27 August 1957, p. 5045, and 14 January 1985, p. 511.
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  19. Horton, Ros; Simmons, Sally (2007). Women Who Changed the World. p. 170.
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  21. 1 2 Cartner-Morley, Jess (2 December 2000). "Chelsea girl who instigated a new era". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  22. Miles, Barry (2009). The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 194.
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  24. Seebohm, Caroline (19 July 1971). "English Girls in New York: They Don't Go Home Again". New York. p. 34. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
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  27. "Mary Quant profile". BBC website. BBC. November 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2011. Quant was responsible for hot pants, the Lolita look, the slip dress, PVC raincoats, smoky eyes and sleek bob haircuts, but it was make-up that eventually made her company the most money.
  28. Hillary Alexander (9 January 2009). "Fashion designer Mary Quant to have design included on Royal Mail stamps". The Daily Telegraph . London, UK. Retrieved 9 January 2011. Apart from the mini, Quant is 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.
  29. 1 2 Gillan, Audrey (2 December 2000). "Mary Quant quits fashion empire". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
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  33. "Annual Review 2006 : People, Honours and Awards". Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  34. "New faces on Sgt Pepper album cover for artist Peter Blake's 80th birthday". The Guardian. 2016.
  35. "These were the days that shook the world". The Guardian. 5 October 2016.
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  37. "Sunny South Kensington", The Little Black Songbook Of Donovan, Wise Publications, 2013, ISBN   978-1-78305-101-4, p. 136.
  38. EPIC 5-10098, "Mellow Yellow/Sunny South Kensington" 45 rpm single, 1966.

Further reading