If you know fashion, you know the name Mary Quant. But even if you don’t have the foggiest about the history of post-war style, you will recognise the influence of designer and icon Mary Quant, who has died aged 93.
Remember that bit in The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly lectured to Andy about her cerulean blue sweater being chosen for her unbeknownst to her by the other people in that room? I always think of the enduring trends of the 60s and 70s like mini skirts and flares during that scene, when people who we would now call influencers would beaver away behind the scenes to create the look of the day.
Like another recently departed scion of the fashion world, Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant became a trendsetter by creating an alluring world around her, emanating from her boutique, Bazaar. She had no qualms about tapping into the zeitgeist, listening to what her customers wanted; when questioned about her role in the “invention” of the mini-skirt, she said:
“It was the girls on the King’s Road [during the “Swinging London” scene] who invented the miniskirt. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter.”
Her influence was unparalleled; she is said to have named the skirt after her favourite car – the Mini, another iconic presence of the day – a description for a tiny, short skirt that is the unquestioned, accepted parlance to this day.
Her hairstyle, created by her friend Vidal Sassoon, was The Rachel of its day, and is still the bob to end all bobs. Her daring use of PVC, of popularising bright and colourful tights to work with her mini-skirts and dresses, of setting up London as the place to be in the Swinging Sixties all contribute to her legacy, and all of which continue to pass the test of time.
Mary Quant will be remembered as one of the most important British designers ever, who proudly disrupted the status quo, built her own business brand – she was one of the first to roll out a hugely successful makup-up line – and championed young women, including women of colour. A champion of fashion to the end, may she rest in peace.