IN MEMORY OF MARY... AND HER MINIS: Mary Quant (1930-2023)
Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Mary Quant
Mary QUant getting her iconic haircut by Vidal Sassoon
Mary Quant shows off her OBE
Mary Quant at a fitting
Mary Quant opening her shop at Rome's Via Margutta
Mary Quant with her husband and business partner Alexander Plunket-Greene
Bazaar's shop window display
Some of Mary Quant's most progressive designs from the 1950s and 1960s

Before the young It girls of today attempted their own brand of capsule collections based on reputation and a hot streak on social media, a Mary Quant in her 20s was arguably the first to figure it out without the Internet and with just an art diploma from Goldsmiths earned at the age of 19. It was at this educational institution that she met her future husband and biz partner Alexander Plunket-Greene. The couple – together with the financial backing of solicitor Archie McNair whom they had a contentious partnership with – opened Bazaar in 1955, her fashion boutique at 138a on King’s Road in Chelsea, an address which also consisted of Plunket-Greene’s restaurant venture Alexander’s. Bazaar and Alexander’s didn’t take long to bring in the crowd, a youth-centric and creative bunch that would go on to contribute to the Swinging London culture of the ’60s. Big names often met here as they were assured of privacy. The likes of the Rolling Stones, Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly were noted to be frequent visitors. Quant’s store didn’t start out stocking original designs; it was filled with what she curated from wholesale markets, outfits and accessories that she felt youths should be exploring. But this way of working felt limited and the choices she had weren’t up to par with what she considered to be progressive. Soon enough, she took matters into her own hands by going to cutting and sewing classes so she was able to create her originals. At this time, Quant was still operating from a small one-room unit nearby, tirelessly producing all of her clothes and her eccentric window displays. She would use the money she earned from clothing sales to buy new fabrics to produce her next collection. What started to give Bazaar that clout was the way the premises offered an experience. Loud music and free drinks and a goodlooking crowd made shopping at Bazaar less of a chore and more of where the cool kids want to be seen. In terms of her bread and butter, Quant’s original designs contributed to outfitting an entire generation of women who didn’t know they actually wanted fun and sexy, not stiff and snooty. Many will tell you that she popularised the miniskirt – she didn’t invent it – creating a hemline that was well above the knee which if compared to today’s standards of booty shorts and thong bikinis won’t seem all that outrageous. Quant’s preferences for garments were made to be easy to slip on and off, perfect for those flirty dance moves, and eschewed the complexities and restrictions of any corset-like construction. Bright colours ruled, daisy motifs popped, patterned and colourful tights became a thing, and her loungewear such as hot pants and jersey tops gave women fashionable options in bed too. Her outputs became an unofficial uniform for women’s liberation. But most importantly, Quant didn’t create designs based on some alter-ego; she gladly wore her own pieces in public together with her era-defining Vidal Sassoon bob haircut. She was only 32 – and 11 years into the business – when she received an OBE for her contributions to the fashion industry having helped to lay the foundations for British fashion in America. And although the 93-year-old Quant left us this April, her legacy will forever live on. Because without her unsung effort to pitch for a shorter hemline, the world might have been a darker, less exciting place to live in.


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