Mary Quant, who celebrates her 80th Birthday today, has been making her own clothes since the late 50’s. Before her breakthrough mini skirt took the world by storm, she was studying illustration at Goldsmiths College. Quant was a contemporary of her clients, rather than of an older generation and embraced youth culture in a way previously untapped. Convinced that fashion needed to be affordable to be accessible to the young, she opened her first retail boutique, “Bazaar”, on the Kings Road in 1955.
Her ‘mod’ era and the ‘Chelsea Look.’ were developed over the next decade. In her desire to showcase the new and interesting at Bazaar”, she decided that it would have to be stocked with clothes made to her designs. Knee-high, white, patent plastic, lace up boots, and tight, skinny rib sweaters in stripes and bold checks, became the zeitgeist “London Look” and were the result of her vision.
Along with cutting edge fashion shows and unusual window displays, she secured her reputation through the production of new and exciting clothing, sold in affordable trendy boutiques, for the new youth market. England was swinging like a pendulum; it was all Twiggy and The Beatles; the dawn of a bright new mad, mod world. A second Bazaar opened in Knightsbridge in 1961 and by 1963 Quant was exporting to the USA, mass-producing clothes to keep up with the demand. This is how the Mary Quant worldwide brand was born.The mid sixties was the height of her fame, when she created the micro-mini and the ‘paint box’ make-up of 1966, she added shiny, plastic raincoats and small grey pinafore dresses that summed up the 60’s fashion era.
Quant expanded her brand further into a range of original patterned tights, a range of cosmetics and other fashion accessories. She was awarded an OBE for her contribution to fashion in 1966. At 80 on Tuesday 11 February she has been considered the most important British fashion designer for decades and should be made a Dame in the future to honour her importance to the industry.