Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mary Quant - Chelsea Girl

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Mary Quant (1939-     ) Welsh

Model Jean Shrimpton in Quant.

In 1955, Mary Quant  and her husband Alexander Plunket-Greene, opened the boutique Bazaar in the King’s Road when she was in her early twenties. She began selling clothing, eventually creating her own handmade fashions. Ten years later, her miniskirts and pop music-accompanied  fashion shows would bring her style of fashion to the young people of “Swinging London.” As she said, “the young were tired of wearing essentially the same thing as their mothers.”

Natural Hessian, acrylic pinafore, 1965.

She focused on designing for teenagers and young adults, offering them inexpensive and youthful garments. She was a leading figure in the 1950s and 60s for helping create the Youthquake look of low-slung tight trousers, mock-turtlenecks, opaque colored tights, flat shoes or short boots, and most importantly, the mini-skirt. These looks were different from the Teddy Boy or Mod looks popular before and around that time.

Fashions photographed by John French, 1962.

She also dressed some of the top models of her day; Twiggy, Jean “the Shrimp” Shrimpton and Verushka in brightly colored opaque or patterned stockings, slim pantsuits, hot pants, and low-slung plastic hip belts. She embraced non-traditional materials such as PVC and plastic for use in clothing and accessories. One of her  innovations were white plastic collars that were detachable from her dresses and sweaters in order to create new looks from the same pieces.

Wool "Peachy" dress, 1960.

In 1962, her lower-priced mass produced line, Ginger Group, was successfully exported to America while her black daisy logo could be found adorning all her products from clothing, accessories, cosmetics, textiles, and even housewares. At one point she was contracted by retailer J.C. Penney to produce four collections a year in America.

Her daisy logo.

She created a convenient “paint-box” like makeup set that held all the colors in a single palette. Clothing-wise, she created a hand-knitted collection named Viva-Viva in 1967 that was constructed of synthetic fibers, a novelty at the time. She also had a separate lingerie line called Youthlines that was one of the first to involve Lycra in the production of underwear.

Wool pinafore, 1961. Butterick 3287
Home Sewing Connection: Quant licensed some designs for Butterick Patterns in the 1960s.

Yellow molded plastic boots, 1965.

Her style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:

PVC "Christopher Robin" raincoat, 1963.
  • First designer known to use plastic and PVC for coats and footwear, especially for her “Wet Collection” of 1963.
  • Quant was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1966 for her outstanding contribution to the fashion industry.
  • Vidal Sassoon created some of his first short geometric haircuts on her and her models.
  • She also designed airline hostess uniforms for Court Line Aviation in 1972.
  • Wrote an early autobiography Quant by Quant in 1966.
Sources: The Great Fashion Designers (2009) Roger Tredre and Brenda Polan; The World’s Most Influential Fashion Designers (2010) Noel Palomo-Lovinski; Women of Fashion (1991) Valerie Steele; Swinging Sixties (2006) Christopher Breward; Quant by Quant (1966) Mary Quant.

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