The Mary Quant story

8 Apr

Sometimes it happens; being the right person at the right time in the right place. This is basically what happened to Mary Quant (born february 11, 1934)! Ofcourse she was a very innovative designer with new ideas, but starting her own business in London in the early sixties made her happening and she opened doors for lots of others young talented people. It made her an icon….

Mary Quant wasn’t trained to be a fashion-designer but as an illustrator at Goldsmith’s College. After school she took a job assisting a couture milliner (hatmaker). She would spent three days stitching a hat for one costumer, but expensive clothes and accessories weren’t her idea of fashion, she wanted affordable clothes for young people. Nowadays fashion couldn’t live without this branch anymore, Mary was the precursor of brands as Topshop, H&M, Vera Moda and lots of other high-fashion-for-low-prices fashion-chains.

At Goldsmith’s College she met Alexander Plunket  Greene (1932-1990). He was one of the first old-line Britons who blossomed in the spirit of the sixties. He was quiet eccentric, wandering around in Chelsea in his mothers disused pyjamas and hanging around in Soho jazz bars. Mary fell in love with Alexander, the definitive bohemian. They married and  after he inherited some money in 1955 Mary opened Bazaar on Kings Road, one of the first Boutiques and Alexander opened a jazz bar and a restaurant in the basement.

Getting around to find great items for Bazaar, Mary was disappointed with the range of clothes she found and decided to stock-up the shop with her own designs. She started out with one sewing machine for herself, but pretty soon she had to buy more machines and hire machinists to be able to manufacture enough items for the huge demands at her shop.

Mary’s clothes were all about fun. Her advantage to other designers before her; she was a contemporary of her clients and the first to make fashion for young people at affordable prices. The restaurant downstairs was the first to do the same with food and became a hang-out for the Chelsea boys and girls. This was the start of the ‘Chelsea Look’.

Mary’s designs were a reaction to the demands of her clients and that’s how the mini skirt came to an existence and became one of her greatest ‘inventions’. At the same time the mini skirt was produced by André Courrèges in Paris and it’s not sure who was first. With the mini skirt came the coloured and patterned tights and the knee-high white plastic boots . She also designed small white plastic collars to brighten a back sweater of dress and sleeveless dresses and neat little pinafore dresses that featured unusual colour combinations.

Later Mary designed the micro-mini and the hot pants and expanded with make-up, like the ‘paint box’, a box with bright coloured crayons that came with a manual how to draw flowers on your face.

Mary Quant opened her second boutique at Knightsbridge in 1961 and decided to go wholesale, the only way to keep prices down. By 1963 she exported to the USA  and in the seventies to Japan.

The make-up branch became huge in Japan and 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….

The Mary Quant story is one in which everything fell into place;  her sence of what the young people were longing for, a time that right for big changes in fashion, a brilliant free-spirited, bohemian husband and very smart business decisions…

More Mary Quant dresses

Mary Quant shoes & accessories 

Mary Quant sewing patterns for Butterick

My scrapbook pages about Mary Quant from 1976 

Watch the Mary Quant video’s, taste the feeling of the sixties in ‘Swinging London’ and the ‘Chelsea Look’….                                                                                                                Mary Quant fashion catwalk                                                                                  Mary Quant in her atelier                                                                                                                                                                          Album:Mary Quant featuring Peggi Moffit

The Mary Quant website:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: