Mary Quant

Mary Quant
Mary Quant OBE
Born 11 February 1934 (1934-02-11) (age 77)
Blackheath, London, England
Nationality Welsh
Education Goldsmith's College
Occupation Fashion designer
Awards OBE, FCSD
Labels Mary Quant

Mary Quant OBE FCSD (born 11 February 1934) is a Welsh fashion designer and British fashion icon, who was instrumental in the mod fashion movement.[1] She was one of the designers who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants. Born in Blackheath, London, to Welsh parents, Quant brought fun and fantasy to fashion in the 1960s. As creator of the mini skirt and hot pants, she showed a generation how to dress to please themselves. Her instant success made traditionally cautious designers change their attitudes and make their designs appeal to the newly important youth market.

Ernestine Carter, one of the most authoritative and influential fashion writers of the twentieth century, 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'. The 1960s were the right time for Quant. The decade was characterized by the rise of youth culture in Britain. Young people of all classes had independence, employment and disposable incomes. Style and image were everything, visible on television, purchasable in shops, available to all. Glamour was no longer an elusive quality epitomized by heroes and heroines on the cinema screen: 1960s' role models were pop singers, models, sporting figures, television stars. If the 1960s was the right time, 'Swinging London' was the right place. Pop culture influenced what people wore as well as what they listened to.

Quant was not afraid of novelty and experimentation. Some of her most popular designs were sweater dresses with plastic collars, balloon-style dresses, and knickerbockers and stretch stockings in all colours and patterns. Other typical designs included knee-length white plastic lace-up boots, tight sweaters in bold striped or check patterns and plastic raincoats. These clothes became part of the 'London Look' and 'Mary Quant' became synonymous with trendiness: and famous for her work on pop art in fashion.


Early life

Quant was born in Blackheath, southeast London, on 11 February 1934, the daughter of Welsh teachers.[2] 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.[3] 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 as a couture milliner.[3][4]

She met her future husband and business partner, Alexander Plunkett-Green, at Goldsmiths. They were married from 1957 until his death in 1990 and had a son, Orlando.

In November 1955, she teamed up with Plunkett-Green and a former solicitor, Archie McNair, to open a clothes shop on the King's Road in London called Bazaar, where the best-sellers were small white plastic collars to brighten up a black dress or t-shirt and black stretch stockings. In 1957, they opened the second branch of Bazaar.[3][5]

Following the positive reaction to a pair of "mad house pyjamas" designed for the opening and dissatisfied with the variety of clothes available to her, Quant decided to make her own range of clothing. Initially working solo, she was soon employing a handful of machinists, and by 1966 she was working with eighteen manufacturers concurrently.


Skirts had been getting shorter since about 1958 – a development Mary Quant considered to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus. The miniskirt, which she is arguably most famous for, became one of the defining fashions of the 1960s.[6] The miniskirt was developed separately by André Courrèges and John Bates,[7] and there is disagreement as to who came up with the idea first. Like most fashion, the short- and ever-shorter skirt was evolving already among individual fashion-minded young women: The designers who adapted it just helped spread the style and, in Quant's case, gave it a name. Quant 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.'" [3] Quant named the miniskirt after her favorite make of car, the Mini.[8] She loved the car so much, she had one designed especially for her.

Of all Mary's designs, the mini skirt is by far the most widely recognized and the one for which she is still famed. Although André Courrèges had modelled above-the-knee couture designs in the early 1960s, Mary's designs were revolutionary: it was suddenly acceptable and even mandatory to show a lot of leg - such was the power of affordable fashion.

In addition to the miniskirt, Mary Quant is often credited with inventing the coloured and patterned tights that tended to accompany the garment, although these are also attributed to Cristobal Balenciaga or John Bates.

Later career

In the late 1960s, Quant popularised hot pants, becoming a British fashion icon.[1] Through the 1970s and 1980s she concentrated on household goods and make-up, rather than just her clothing lines. At a talk at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2007 she claimed to have invented duvet covers.

In 1988, Mary Quant designed the interior of the Mini (1000) Designer (Originally dubbed the Mini Quant, this name was switched 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. There are over 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan, where Quant fashions continue to enjoy more popularity.


In 1966 Mary was appointed OBE for her outstanding contribution to the fashion industry. She accepted the award in her inimitable style, arriving at Buckingham Palace in a micro-mini skirt and black cut-out gloves.

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

Books by Quant

  • 1966: Quant by Quant. Her autobiography.
  • 1984: Colour by Quant.
  • 1986: Quant on Make-up.
  • 1999 Classic Make-up and Beauty Book.

See also

Daisy doll by Mary Quant


  1. ^ a b Dermody, Nick (18 February 2003). "Welsh beauty is in the genes". BBC News website (BBC). Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Kent, Jacqueline C. (2003). Business Builders in Fashion. Minneapolis, MN: The Oliver Press, Inc. pp. 96–99. ISBN 1-881508-80-3. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Polan, Brenda; Tredre, Roger (2009). The Great Fashion Designers. New York: Berg. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-1-84788-228-8. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Mary Quant". Victoria and Albert Museum website. Victoria and Albert Museum. 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  5. ^ "Mary Quant Official Web Site: About Mary Quant". Mary Quant (Japan) official website. Mary Quant Cosmetics Japan Ltd. 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Ros Horton, Sally Simmons, 2007. Women Who Changed the World
  7. ^ Lester, Richard, John Bates: Fashion Designer, London, 2008
  8. ^ Barry Miles, 2009. The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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