Focus On Fashion: Mary Quant

by Raymond


If there is one name that comes to mind when thinking about 1960’s fashion and the British invasion, it has to be Mary Quant. Mary Quant typifies all things British and what was happening in 1960s swinging London.

Mary Quant was born February 11, 1934 in Kent, England. She went to Blackheath High School and then studied illustration at Goldsmiths College before taking a career with a couture milliner. She went on to be instrumental in the mod fashion movement and one of the many designers who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants. She is also famed for her work on pop art in fashion.


In November 1955, she teamed up with her husband, Alexander Plunkett-Grene, and friend, Archie Mcnair, to open a clothing shop on the Kings Road in London called Bazaar. Bazaar's best sellers were small white plastic collars to brighten up black dresses or t-shirts. Black stretch stockings were also popular.

Following the positive reaction to a pair of pajamas 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 seamstresses, and by 1966 she was working with 18 different 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. The miniskirt was developed separately by André Courrèges and John Bates; 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. Mary Quant named the miniskirt after her favorite make of car, the Mini. In addition to the miniskirt, Mary Quant is often credited with inventing the colored and patterned tights that tended to accompany the garment, though these are also attributed to Cristobal Balenciaga or John Bates.

Irrespective of whether she invented these items, Quant was one of their major popularisers, largely thanks to the fact that Bazaar was a popular haunt for the fashionable "Chelsea Set" of "Swinging London." By 1961, Quant had opened a second Bazaar in Knightsbridge, and by 1963 she was exporting to the USA. To keep up with demand, Quant went into mass-production, setting up the Ginger Group.

Quant's popularity was at its peak in the mid 1960s, during which time she produced the dangerously short micro-mini skirt, "paint-box" make-up, and plastic raincoats. She was described as being the leading fashion force outside Paris.

In 1966 Quant was appointed an OBE for services to the fashion industry.
In the late 1960s, Quant launched hot pants, which was her last big fashion development. Through the 1970s and 1980s she concentrated on household goods and make-up.

In 1988, Mary Quant designed the interior of the Mini (1000) Designer. 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.

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 Color shops in Japan, where Quant fashions continue to enjoy more popularity.